Welcome, everyone, to Day 2 of "Organizing the Writing Life."
If you're joining us again, welcome back! If you're new to the series, I want to introduce you to guest blogger Sharon Sarmiento, an Online Business Manager whose work "involves managing the daily operations of online businesses and streamlining processes to maximize personal and business productivity." She also writes an inspiring blog, eSoup, and her passion for helping people thrive in their lives through better organization has landed her in the Boston Globe and more than twenty other newspapers.
In addition to running her own e-business, Sharon is a painter and writer who is familiar with the organizational struggles that creatives face. For today and the following four Tuesdays, Sharon will generously share her knowledge and insight to benefit us all. Today's topic, based on blog-reader questions, is:
Maximize time AND juggle multiple projects
Reader questions: How do I get more out of the time available? And any advice on keeping track of multiple projects?
Sure, I can throw some fun, quick, creativity efficiency hacks your way:
Tip #1: You can circumvent procrastination and perfectionism by using a productivity trick called timeboxing. Basically what you're doing is setting a limited time for yourself to get a task done, and then you just do the best job you can within the time available. I employ this technique when I do my 4-hour workday, and it helps me stay on task and get more done in less time. This technique also works wonderfully when doing creative tasks, like writing. Productivity guru Steve Pavlina talks about how he uses this productivity trick for writing:
I use timeboxing when I have a task or project that I wish to complete, but I don’t really know where to begin, or it seems like it’s going to be a long time before I can finish a meaningful chunk. Or maybe it’s something I find really tedious and would have a tendency to procrastinate on. Then I use timeboxing to simply commit to working on the task for a given period of time to make a dent in it. I normally use a period in the range of 30-120 minutes. I release any concern about reaching a particular milestone within that time I simply commit to putting in the time, regardless of how far I get. An example where I use this approach would be when I’m writing a new article. Finishing a complete article will usually take me 3-8 hours. Sometimes I can complete an article in a single stretch, but most of the time I’ll stretch it over multiple sessions. So I use timeboxing to just put a dent in the article and get started, committing myself to writing for 1-2 hours without worrying about how far I get. Then I just repeat the process until the work is complete. A side effect of this last method is that I’ll often end up working much longer than I originally intended. If I commit to working on a tedious task for just 30 minutes, it’s easy to get started because I’ve given myself permission to stop after only 30 minutes. But once I’ve overcome that inertia and am now focused on the task, 90 minutes may pass before I even feel the desire to stop.
Tip #2: My buddy Andy Wibbels combines positive peer pressure with timeboxing for one rollicking day of group writing fun. For one day, all writers from around the globe are invited to join forces and participate in Andy's legendary "Writing Integrity Day" (a.k.a., Shut Up and Write!).
"Writing Integrity Day" is part positive peer pressure, part writing game, and part tricking yourself into being productive. This is for authors, wanna-be authors or just anyone who has some writing that they need to do but have been putting off. So, basically it's for everyone under the sun, and it's completely free. You can work on anything--articles, blog posts, a novel, your newsletter, journaling--whatever. He hosts these every few months or so.
Here's how it works:
1. We all get on the phone at 10am Eastern/New York time. (Andy provides the teleconference line and every calls into the number.)
2. Everyone takes 10 seconds (no more!) to say what they are going to work on for the next hour.
3. Hang up.
4. Write like hell.
5. Get back on the phone the next hour and do it again.
6. Rinse and repeat until 5pm.
Of course now that you know the game plan, you can organize your own writing integrity day with your own community of writers. When Andy puts these on, people get so psyched about it! Procrastination is a guilt-inducer--we all jump for joy anytime we can band together and conquer procrastination while still having fun and getting some work done. :-)
Tip #3: The Perfect Apostrophe. This is sort of a "What NOT to do" rather than a "HowTo"--I don't know if you're familiar with productivity expert Merlin Mann and his blog 43 Folders, but he has a hilarious story about when he was given (and blew) the book deal of his dreams. Ironically, the book was supposed to be about productivity, but Merlin was so focused on the details that he just couldn't get it together to write the book before the deadline. This podcast episode is about when he became completely obsessed with creating a binder in which to keep his notes for the book. He kept on devoting more and more time to the crafting of the perfect binder with a cover that looked like a book jacket---Oh well, he tells the story much better than I do :-). It's pretty funny and illustrates that there is a thin line between being productive and just plain procrastinating. Also, sometimes our perfectionism is a procrastination technique. For any writer, a must listen!
Any questions or comments for Sharon? We want to hear from you — drop a comment, and let's keep the conversation going.
Next week's topic (April 17th): The BEST organizational systems ever! (Part 1)
See you then!
Bonus link: Take a peek at last week's post, The Maximum-Efficiency Desk. Your desk will never be the same again — in a good way. ;)