As a writer there is nothing more important to me than productivity. After all, writing is a profession where you’re basically trading your time for money. As such, the more efficient I am at writing, the higher my income. It’s as simple as that.
Here are 7 strategies I’ve discovered that improves my productivity and helps me be a better writer:
1. Focus on one thing at a time
It’s often a stereotype that women are better at multitasking. But, alas, this has never been the case for me! I’ve found that I always worked better when I focused on one thing at a time. If I’m writing an ebook, I need to finish one chapter or section that I’ve researched before moving to the next.
Though some people are great at it, humans generally aren’t designed for multitasking. Multitasking is more taxing on the brain, as you’re switching your focus from one thing to another. In fact, some studies show that multitasking can reduce productivity by as much as 40%.
For me, I find that it wastes my time, I’m more likely to make errors and I experience greater levels of stress during multitasking. It makes me think I have more work than I really have, leading to severe bouts of procrastination.
2. Spice it up (literally)
To pull those all-nighters successfully, you need to know which stimulants work for you. Most people swear by coffee, energy drinks or other caffeinated drinks. However, these have always made me restless rather than alert. With restlessness, not only will you be less productive, but you also waste more energy.
I’ve found that what works for me is to eat something spicy (not so spicy that it burns your stomach though!). Spicy foods have been shown to raise your metabolism temporarily by around 8%. They also trick you into drinking more water, which is great for your body and mind.
So, when I’m feeling a little drowsy in the face of looming deadlines, I often reach for any sriracha snacks or put hot sauce in my meals.
3. Know where to look for inspiration
If I’m stuck on a project and have no idea where to start on the topic, I like to search and read related articles online. This is not to plagiarize or copy, but to nudge myself in the right direction.
For example, if I know nothing about lawn care and have to write on it, I’ll search for blog posts written by existing lawn care companies who are experts at their field. By constantly looking at a stream of ideas, you will be inspired to come up with your own.
4. Know your optimum schedule
This may seem obvious, but you should find out when you are most productive throughout the day. This is more important for writers, because we rely heavily on our creativity, and it is hard to regulate. If you’re a natural night owl like me, you can’t force yourself to be creative in the morning.
5. Get a Good Sitting Chair
I’ve never paid much attention in the past to my chair, and my back and neck has paid for it as a result.
In the article “What is An Ergonomic Chair”, George Chiang laid out the most important things to look for when getting an ergonomic chair for long term sitting. For me, the elements that made the most difference were:
- Armrests that extend out to support my forearms when I’m typing
- A good headrest
- A backrest that both tilts and reclines.
In case you’re wondering, the chair I settled on was the Herman MIller Aeron with optional headrest. It’s by no means cheap, but has dramatically increased my comfort level and allows me to work at my desk without aches for much longer than before.
6. Take mindful breaks
Writing is a very mentally taxing activity that is hard to keep up for several hours a day. Personally, I can’t do more than 3-4 hours of productive, high quality writing in a day. However, recently, I’ve managed to stretch out this threshold by taking the right kind of breaks.
Because writing for an hour can be taxing and boring at the same time, I’ve found that taking mini ‘meditation’ breaks is the perfect way to recharge my mind. For every hour of intense writing I do, I take about 5 minutes to listen to a guided meditation video. It doesn’t even have to be ‘meditation’ per se, a calming podcast would also work.
7. Take coffee naps
As much as I try to stay away from coffee during work, I’ve found that drinking it just before a nap is surprisingly effective. I wake up more alert and focused than taking a nap alone. In fact, some studies show that coffee naps are indeed effective.
Caffeine in coffee and a chemical called adenosine compete for receptors in your brain. Adenosine is what makes you feel sleepy. Even small naps can reduce adenosine, but with coffee competing with it, coffee naps are even more effective than regular naps.
Over To You
If you’re a writer, what tips have you found the most helpful in boosting your productivity and creativity? Please share in the comments below.