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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

6 Ways to Make the Most of your Workday

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:

Make Lists
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.

Delete Distractions
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.

Take Breaks
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.

Stay Focused
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.

***Like my new blog header? Thanks to Nicole ( for designing it. Get in touch with her if you're looking for an eye-catching design.

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.


  1. Great advice! I do my writing work from home and definitely struggle sometimes with maximizing my time. This is a great list that I will put into practice. Thanks!

  2. Hi Kelly, Great post. I use a kitchen timer. It reminds me to leave the computer and stretch. Otherwise I would end up with pain in neck and back. It also tells me how much time I'm spending on a particular task. I'm appalled at how much time I spend checking email and reading blog posts first thing in the morning. I use my Google reader and just scan the headlines, so to speak, to pick which ones I actually read, but it takes so long. Any rule of thumb for staying connected and not overdoing it?

  3. Thanks, Kristin! Let me know how the tips work for you. :)

  4. Good question, Carol. I usually read the paper at lunch, not breakfast, and then watch a few minutes of CNN in the evening and/or the news. I can't say I know what is happening first thing in the morning, but that's my primary work time so I try not to get bogged down with "real world" stuff then (I wait until lunch.) That's my hot tip, anyway. :)

  5. I know when I'm accountable only to myself I can justify anything. Electronic media, i.e. twitter, forums, etc. can be a big time waster. I believe I learn a great deal, and I probably do, but when it is time to write, it is time to write. Thanks for the great list Kelly. I'm positive I learn from this blog.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Wade. And I like your line, "When it is time to write, it is time to write." :)

  7. I knew all this. And I actually do some of same things. But I hadn't put it together as a method for increasing my productivity. Thank you for the whack on my head. :)

  8. In fact, Wade, I tweeted it (and gave you credit, of course). :)

  9. Kelly,

    I love this post. Thank you. Just as you do here, I often tell my clients to protect their genius time. Mine is early in the morning. Some people write best at midnight. I mark my writing time on the calendar and treat it like a client session. This isn't something I do just for fun, it's my job! Now that the kids are out of school, I am getting up quite early to get in my writing time before they get up. It works! I've written and published 10 books, all since having kids! :-)