First of all, I'm a big fan of giving credit where credit is due. I’ll admit to you guys that I stole this idea from Elizabeth Black, who did her own blog on writer’s hacks. I like the idea so much I had to steal it. Thank you so much Elizabeth.
As many of you probably know, hacking as become very popular lately. Hacks are basically shortcuts to make something easier. In this instance, to make your writing easier. Some are hacks to make more time, and some are to improve your focus and concentration, but I think all are very beneficial.
1. Cut down on waste. This means wasted time, wasted energy and wasted focused. Take a good look at your life and see where you can do one step instead of three. If you find yourself spending excess energy getting mad at the guy in traffic behind you or the boss that you can never please no matter how you try, ask yourself if this is energy you need to expend, or if you can channel that energy somewhere more beneficial, like you writing. (This part is definitely still a work in progress for me).
2. Set a deadline for every project. The tighter the better. Deadlines force us to focus and stay on task in order to meet them.
3. Time yourself. It can be really easy to think you are working on a project, but we’re really responding to emails, listening to a conference call and shopping for the kids’ school clothes online. Timing forces us to focus (even if it’s just for ten minutes) instead of on everyone around you. Try for the longest period you can stay focused. If its only ten minutes that's fine. Most experts say twenty or twenty five minutes is ideal.
4. Work on batching. Batching is a skill of bunching together like skills, there by using less time and less mental pivoting to accomplish them. For example, I take cereal to work every morning for breakfast. Instead of pouring out cereal every morning, I open the box once, putting one serving into glade ware containers and then each morning I just grab and go. I save time on pulling out the bowls multiple times, measuring the cereal multiple times, thereby giving me more time to sleep in. Think of all the places you can batching to save you repetitive time or have to change thought patterns (such as planning out your writing and blogging time so you can focus on one or the other but not both in one time period).
5. Stop multitasking. We like to believe that multitasking makes us more efficient, but studies actually prove the opposite. Most people who are multitasking often taken longer, because their attentions are always divided, and the quality of work is usually not as good. For some things, multitasking might work (like cleaning and watching TV, or cleaning and daydreaming, and cleaning and anything that makes it easier) but for writing, which usually requires deep thought and concentration, multitasking is probably not your friend.
6. Stop trying to be perfect (I'm a big violator of this one). Just focus on getting something done and moving the ball forward. You do not have to be perfect at everything you do.
7. Stay organized. There is no argument that staying organized saves you time. If you know how to find the stapler in one minute instead of ten, you just saved nine minutes. But people don’t often talk about how it saves you energy as well. Having an organized workspace leads you to think clearer and focus better. I recommend cleaning up your area after a writing session, when you are still high on your writing endorphins. That is what works for me the best.
8. Prioritize your goals. Most people spend their days chasing after other peoples goals. Tracking down that report for the boss, getting the kids to soccer camp, etc…Make sure you are putting some effort into prioritizing your own goals. Set aside time that is specifically for you, and what you want to accomplish. You’ll feel better and be more productive for it.
9. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. From the book your half way through and you really want to find out how the duke finally admits his love, to the vacuuming that needs to be done or the dishes in the sink. Eliminate as many of those distractions as possible before writing. Get done what you can, remove the other distracts from the room, put those temptress books under the bed and shut off that big distracting screen in your living room. If all else fails, I like to go to a coffee shop to escape all the distractions at home and truly focus. This works even better if you have kids you need to escape, though hiding in the closet can be an option as well.
10. Relax into your energy, don’t fight it. If you feel like writing, even if you should be doing laundry, or if you have a great idea of that blog post but it’s your writing time, go with it. With your motivation and energy on your side you’ll get that work done faster and probably better than if you try to fight against your energy by doing what you are not inspired to do at that moment. Now if you want to be sitting on the couch watching Game of Thrones, that does need to be fought against.
So those are my writer’s hacks. I hope they help you manage your time and writing better. If you have any comments or more tips (I’m always looking for more ways to improve my process) please leave them in the comments below. I can always need more help.