Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: How Some General Productivity Habits Relate To Writing

12 Habits Of The Most Productive People turned up on my Facebook page last weekend. I've been trying to avoid reading articles with numbers in the title (the subject of a future blog post), but I fell for this one. It was published at a site called Fast Company, which describes itself as the "world's leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design." How is that related to writing? you may well ask.

Of course, it is! Everything in the world is related to writing! In this case, author Gwen Moran says some things about productivity that writers may not usually consider but could find helpful for managing their time.

Don't Try To Do Everything

Moran says productive people believe that only 20% of what they do really matters and that's where they focus their attention. What I think this means is that they don't try to do everything.

This is where writers could find ourselves in trouble. Now that we need to market our work as well as produce it, how can we focus on just 20% of what we have to do? One way is to accept that we can never form one work habit/schedule but have to constantly be monitoring our situation 
and adapting to our present work situations. A book is about to publish, means we're in a situation in which we have to focus on marketing and let other things go for a while. Public appearances coming up? That situation means we have to focus on preparing content instead of doing other things. This is probably why you hear some more established writers talking about blocking out months for writing. They're trying to create a situation in which they can focus on just that 20% of their work life for a while.

The Difference Between Important And Urgent

Many "urgent" issues come up and urgent usually requires attention right away--taking phone calls, answering e-mails, acting on a promotional opportunity that just came out of nowhere. But just because something seems to require immediate attention, it doesn't necessarily follow that it's actually important.

I thought this one was particularly interesting, myself. It's easy to be distracted by a request for a workshop proposal that suddenly turned up in the e-mail. But if the deadline is two months away, it isn't important or really even urgent at that point in time. It just seems that way.

Many writers work out of their homes and are always struggling with the thin, fluctuating boundary between professional and personal time. Family interruptions are not necessarily important. They just seem urgent because they're in our faces.

Salvaging Wasted Time

Productive people have small tasks in mind that they can knock off in odd blocks of time--while waiting for meetings and appointments to start, while traveling, etc. Writers have lots of small tasks they can take care of when bits of time suddenly become available. Project reading/research, professional reading, checking out other writers' blogs, checking Twitter feeds/contacts. Cleaning a desk. The list goes on and on.

Actually, I've come up with a lot of blog post ideas when reading while traveling. In fact, I'm working on this blog post while waiting for someone to turn up and check out a problem I'm having with my word processing program. I can't finish that project, so I shifted to this one that's nearly done.

Strategic Quitting

"Strategic quitting means ditching the things that you shouldn’t or don’t want to be doing because they aren’t worth your time."

This is a huge, huge issue for writers. When do we accept that a writing project just isn't going to work out? How do we accept all the time we've put into it being wasted? When do we decide that we really could be more productive working on something else?

We may need to learn to quit.

Check out the rest of the article to see if any of the other habits Moran describes are ones you want to form for yourself.

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