Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Time Management Tuesday: Minimum Effective Dose And Slow Work

So I'm creating my own slow work program here, folks. Where to begin, where to begin?

How about with this: I don't see how someone can slow down while continuing to do the same amount of work. To slow down, I'm going to have to do less, right? But I don't want to do less. As far as I'm concerned, the whole point of a slow-down program is to do more. Or, if not actually more, to do better. How can I do less without doing less?

Minimum Effective Dose

Last year, I came upon a productivity article on minimum effective dose (MED). "In medicine, the minimum effective dose is the lowest dose of a medicine that gets you the result you need. Taking more than you need either doesn't improve things or has the potential to make your condition worse. In terms of productivity, the theory goes that you can find a minimum effective dose--or the minimum amount of time/effort--needed to get the work result you want or require."

I'm quoting myself there, by the way, and referring to a Lifehacker article.

My thinking with this minimum effective dose business as far as productivity is concerned is that there comes a point where continuing to throw time and effort at a problem/task/issue doesn't provide any benefit. Self-control is strongest first thing in the morning and decreases as we work, for instance. We become less effective as the hours pass. Working more isn't necessarily going to get you more. We'd be better off figuring out how to work more while we're most productive and less while we're not.

MED For Writers

What are some specific examples of minimum effective dose for writers' work?

  • Blogging--How many posts and what kind are necessary to maintain the readership you want? What about narrowing the focus of your blog's content, so that you are spending less time and effort on it, but the work you do do has more significance? I, for instance, will rarely be doing reader responses here for the immediate future. I'll continue to focus on time management and the Connecticut writing scene, but I'd also like to use the blog to at least think about my short form writing. My hope is that since I'll be doing less, I can try to do some more significant work. 
  • Europe First--You have multiple tasks you're working on. Work on whatever happens to be most important to you at that point in your life first thing in the morning, even if it means you aren't going to be able to finish it. Remember, you're going to become less effective as the day progresses. You don't want to wait 'til you're spent to get to work on something major, assuming you're able to get to it at all. This is especially important if you only have a few hours to work. If you can only do a little, slow down and make sure the little you do is on the important task. "Europe first" comes from a Forbes article describing how the strategy for fighting World War II was to win Europe, then turn to the Pacific. The point of the Forbes article being, choose your Europe. It's a strategy that could help you to slow down while remaining, or even becoming more, productive.  (Yes, that's the second analogy I've used in this post. I love them.)
  • Marketing--Marketing time is a huge issue for writers. We're often throwing huge amounts of time and effort into marketing tasks even though it's difficult to tell what pays off. Our own experience, or the experience of other writers, can help cut down on this. I've heard a couple of experienced writers say, for instance, that they question the effectiveness of the blog tours they've done, given the amount of effort they needed to put into them. Spending time and energy creating marketing plans for books that haven't been written yet may be a poor use of time, too. I've seen articles in which agents say that for fiction writers, at least, they're not that concerned about a big social media presence for new writers. They're more interested in the manuscript, itself.  (It's more important for nonfiction writers.) Saving marketing for the right time in the book's life and creating a plan that doesn't involve doing everything is another way a writer can slow down and become more productive with writing, itself.
When trying to work slow in order to improve productivity, looking for the least you can do doesn't make you lazy. It makes you more focused and could mean you could get more real work done.

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