Become a More Productive Writer in Three Easy Steps
By Nishoni Harvey
Do you ever lay there at night staring at the ceiling, wondering where the day has gone and exactly what you’ve done with it?
I’ve had days like that. I still do at times. I mean, I’ll be busy all day long and seemingly make no headway. Do you know the feeling?
I don’t have as many days like that anymore. Not since I’ve discovered these three amazing tips. If you implement these easy steps, you too can become a more productive writer.
Break Your Goals Down into Bite-Size Chunks
If you decide you’re going to write your book in six months, you have a goal. Now, I’m sure you know to break that down into smaller goals.
I’ll write 3,000 words this week.
That’s a more bite-sized goal, but it’s still not bite-sized enough. You want a goal that you can mark off of your daily To-Do List. Try breaking it down smaller yet.
I’ll write 600 words every day.
If you have a goal that you can cross off your To-Do List each day, it makes you feel more productive than if you see it getting fulfilled only once a week.
“What did you do today?”
“Well, I worked toward my weekly goal.”
“How far did you get?”
“I don’t know.”
Set Daily Goals
If you have a daily goal, it helps you see where you are, where you’re going, and where you need to be.
For instance, if I set a deadline for myself and I know that, in order to meet that deadline, I must write 3,000 words a week, then I’ll sit down and figure out how many words I need to write a day. If I hit that daily goal, I know I’ll be okay. If I exceed it, which I do many times, that’s all good and great too, but at least I’ve hit it.
This way, I can look and definitively say, “I know I’m going to meet my deadline because I’m on target to hit my weekly goal.” And how do I know that? Because I’ve hit or exceeded my daily goal.
Set Achievable Goals
This daily goal keeps you on target, giving you an achievable “something” to reach for. Don’t set your goal so high that it’s not reachable or so that it’s only attainable if you push full-force for the entire day and ignore everything else. You’re not going to be able to push yourself like that every day. If you do set your goals too high, you’ll get discouraged.
Setting your expectations too high
is setting yourself up for failure.
Break Your Goals Down into Micro-Goals
You’ve chosen your goal for the day. Now, how are you going to achieve it? This is where micro-goals come in.
Micro-goals, simply put, are the baby steps you take to reach your larger goal.
You might say that your daily goal of writing 600 words is a micro goal of your monthly goal and that your monthly goal is a micro-goal of your six-month goal. We want to break it down further, though.
How Do You Choose Micro-Goals?
Think about your goal. What do you have to do to get there? What are the necessary steps? Sit down in your chair? Turn on the computer? Put your fingers on the keyboard? Okay, okay, not that basic, but pretty close.
Honestly, though, what are your necessary steps?
Your main daily goal is to completely finish with 600 words for the day, right? You have to research your material, write your 600 words, and edit your writing. These are some micro-goals, but they’re not micro enough.
You might start with the micro-goal of researching the climate and weather patterns of your setting if you’re at the beginning of a new chapter. Yes, researching is part of your writing. A good writer will be a good researcher.
For this goal, get specific in your research. Ask yourself questions about the climate and weather like a three- or four-year-old might ask questions about why pencils need to be sharpened.
How does it feel? Why does it feel that way? At what times of the year does the climate change? What is it like during each month this chapter is taking place?
You don’t want Sally Jane to be walking through the dry, smoldering heat if the climate that month is sticky and humid. There’s a difference.
You don’t want her to be flushing from the smothering heat and feel her skin burning from the relentless sun if the weather patterns for that time frame commonly call for a stiff breeze and constantly overcast skies.
A good micro-goal might be to go through your writing for the day, checking for repetitive words. Most writers have words that they lean on, using them all. the. time. You can make a micro-goal of looking for these and finding synonyms to replace them.
The Goal of Micro-Goals
The great thing about micro goals is that they’re “micro.” It doesn’t take long before you can put another checkmark on your To-Do List. Each checkmark motivates you further, speeding up your pace, thus boosting your productivity.
Batch Your Goals Together
Now that you’ve got your goals figured out for the week, the day, and even the minute, learn to group them together.
What do you mean by that?
What is Batching?
Good question! When you take a bunch of goals that are similar and do them at the same time—one after another, this is called batching. You don’t want to be bouncing back and forth from task to task. This actually slows down your productivity, making your brain change gears in between each task.
The Dangers of Bouncing
Let’s think about a real-life scenario for a moment. You’re curled up on your sofa, completely engrossed in a good mystery novel. Suddenly, the phone rings. There’s a telemarketer on the other end. You quickly hang up and try to get back to your book.
Even though you were lost in it moments before, now, you sit there staring at the page, thinking, Where am I?
You have to skim the last two sentences to get caught back up before you can resume.
This is basically the same thing that happens every time you suddenly move onto a different task. You grope and grasp for straws until your brain catches up and gets into gear.
I’m sure you can relate with me when I tell you how I unconsciously go from task to task when I’m cleaning my house. I’m trying to get better.
I’ll be working in the living room, carry my daughter’s pile of clothes to her room, put those away, and see my confiscated hairbrush on her floor.
I’ll pick up my brush to take it to my bathroom. On the way to the bathroom, I’ll notice the hand towel has fallen onto the kitchen floor. I’ll hang that up, see the stove is dirty, go to take the sponge out of the sink to clean it, and remember I was going to put the brush away.
When I’m in the bathroom, I’ll see the counter needs wiped off. I’ll reach under the counter to get the Clorox wipes. They’ll be gone, of course. I’ll travel out to the kitchen to grab one, only to remember that I was going to wash off the stove.
But, Oh! Yeah! I was cleaning the living room! so back to the living room I go.
All in all, I end up working all afternoon without accomplishing one thing. This is how we can get with our writing if we’re not careful. Batching helps us focus on that one task at a time because we’re focusing on all like tasks.
How Do You Batch?
You’re a writer. You write. Maybe you write books. Maybe you write blogs. Maybe you write articles for a living. Perhaps you do all three. Think about what you need to do each week for your writing career. Let’s see how we can batch it.
Do you promote yourself through social media? What days do you do that?
Do you promote on Facebook? Many people do. Did you know you can enter your Facebook post, an article share, or a picture and schedule it for a later date? You could make this part of a batching for a day.
I post on Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. I also have my Facebook page and group to post too.
My daughter and I make Saturdays our “social media batch day.” We spend the afternoon writing up tweets and statuses for each social media platform. We save them each in their own document with their own date, number them in the order they’ll be posted, and file them in a folder titled “Future Posts” in our “Social Media” folder. This way, we can just copy and paste the statuses and tweets into the text boxes on the scheduled day and time without having to put any work into it.
On this batch day, I also write up all my Facebook posts and group posts and schedule those. I make my Pinterest pictures and file them in a folder of their own inside the “Future Posts” folder. They also get titled by the date they’re due to be posted. We complete a lot on Saturday afternoons, and this is because we batch our tasks together.
Do you blog? One day a week? Two? Do you have more than one blog? You might try writing all your blogs up at one time.
But that also depends on how you blog. Some people post about their life. Batching all your blogs together in one day might not work in this case.
I like to get all my research done and out of the way before I write, then I can research more as I go. I batch all my research together in one day.
If you YouTube, you might consider having a few scripts ready to go and recording a few videos all in one day. This way you only have to do your makeup once, you’ve already worked out your pre-camera jitters, and you’re on a role. All you have to do is change your clothes between shoots!
And, yes! You must remember to change your clothes from video to video. You don’t want your viewers to think you wear the same clothes every day. 😊
These three simple steps will make you more productive. In fact, you’ll become more productive with each step. Set your goal. Make your goal bite size. List your micro-goals. Batch your goals and micro-goals together.
Good luck! And I look forward to meeting a more productive you!
Coming second only to God, mothering her four children and “wifing” are Nishoni’s true loves.
Writing pulls up close behind. Having written since she was just a little tyke, she has a file full of stories that she wrote as a first and second grader and beyond, which she hopes to turn into children's books.
As of today, she has authored one novella, one novel, and seven non-fiction books, written chapters in two other books, and published several articles, and blogs.