As writers, we’re all given the same 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. How you spend that time, however, will determine how productive you are—and how much income you can generate. Learn to maximize your time, and you’ll see a difference in both the amount of work you produce and what you collect from it. Here are six proven ways to get more out of your workday:
OK, I know you creative right-brain types are chafing at this request. But writing down what you need to do will make you more efficient. After you’ve got your list, prioritize your top three tasks for the day (or week, if appropriate.) I usually do this before I knock off work for the day. I figure out what the three biggest priorities for the next day are and then determine which is the "ugliest"--the one I most do not want to do--and do that first. Then I tackle the next two.
In addition to your "must-do" list, maintain a record of your ongoing projects. Some of these may not have firm deadlines, but you don’t want to forget about them because you’re distracted by what must be done today.
Protect your Work Time
Are you a morning person or a night owl? I’ve found that I write more quickly in the morning—in fact, the first few hours in the day are by far my most productive. So I devote my earliest morning hours for hard-core writing and save phone interviews, transcribing notes, researching and other tasks for later. If you know you fire up at night, on the other hand, plan to do your most demanding then.
Let me just say…no one needs to check their email every five minutes. But I'm guilty of doing that much of the time. If I have a deadline, I close my email program and keep it closed. Otherwise, I waste time reading email. Even if I don't reply to them right then, it's still a distraction that impacts my productivity.
Research shows that the average person can only listen for forty-five to fifty minutes before his attention begins to flag. Take frequent breaks throughout your work day, and you’ll get more done. Even five or ten minutes away from the computer will help refresh you. I take a break every hour at the minimum, even if it’s just to toss in a load of laundry or check on my kids and their sitter.
This is my biggest battle—I’m easily distracted. But if you get sidetracked easily, you’ll eat up time without producing any work. Say you’re researching a story, using Google to hunt for potential sources. You look up to discover 20 minutes have disappeared--and you still haven't identified who you need to interview. I’ll set my watch or use a timer and give myself a specific amount of time to research a topic so I don’t wind up spending my morning reading celebrity blogs.
Check your Head
While there are loads of tools out there to help you manage your time, the most important aspect is your mindset. You have to make it your goal to be more focused and accomplish more during your writing time. Once you do so, you’ll become aware of your biggest time traps—and happily, discover that many of them are easily overcome with some practice.
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And special thanks to those of you who are buying my novels, now available as e-books! I received not one, but two fan emails in the past 24 hours, and am remembering why I love writing fiction. If you enjoy contemporary women's fiction (or know someone who does), I hope you'll check out Did you get the Vibe?, and White Bikini Panties--and please let me know what you think.