5 Tips To Write More In Less Time #MondayBlogs

Original Photo by Freddy Castro on Unsplash

I don’t believe in miracles or luck. I believe in hard graft, grit, a ton of sweat and the 70,000 words of baking time needed to make a book.

So until I either win the lottery or publish and sell enough books I can replace my salary, I’m pretty sure I will live in a constant state of unhinged mania and excessive perspiration.

It also means I constantly seek out new ways to make myself as productive as possible. ‘Efficiency’ is my middle name… mostly, when I’m not, you know, procrastinating in the time swallowing beast that is social media.

Now book 1 is done, released in the big scary world, I thought the burning desire to publish books would wither, or at least simmer down momentarily. But instead, I pressed published and it was like throwing uranium on my already lit book-flamethrower.

The knowledge that I can do it, has only fuelled my insatiable need to do it. In a way, I guess I’m a fifteen-year-old book-boy who just had his first shag and now he can’t get enough of getting his leg over the publish button.

But that provides me with a problem. I don’t have any more time in my day. I’ve given up everything, including my poor neglected wife. Which means I need to find a way to be more productive. I need to find a way to write faster or achieve that euphoric state of ‘flow’ quicker.

I’ve just read a book that blew my mind. And I want to share some of the things I’ve learned about time, productivity and output.

I get asked a lot how I get so much done. Mostly, I shrug moan it’s not enough and ask them how I can be more productive. To date, I’ve received strangled looks and wrinkled noses.

“Umm, just, you know… like write faster. Or don’t watch TV?”

Really?

I gave up TV two years ago. So for the longest time, I’ve continued in my perpetually frustrated vein, producing whatever I could, and looking rather ragged.

Image from AmazonUK

That was until I read DEEP WORK, by Cal Newport.

If you haven’t read it and you’re even remotely pushed for time, get that bad boy in your life. FAST.

AmazonUK, AmazonCOM

See, one little quote explained exactly how I felt about productivity and time.

“They see productivity as a scientific problem to systematically solve-“ Cal Newport, DEEP WORK p.39.

My brain literally exploded into a trillion mind boggled, epiphany-gasmed pieces.

YES. YES. FUCK YES.

So how do you solve it? Well, you have to read the book, obviously. I’m not going to tell you everything, he’s an author after all.

But here are some principles.

TIP 1 – NOTIFICATIONS

Cal Newport hates social media. Actually, perhaps that’s not fair, he doesn’t hate it. He just never created an account. Oh, how I wish that were me. But it’s not, and in some ways, it’s pretty darned useful as an author platform building tool.

However, I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that social media is the crack of the 21st century. It’s as addictive as heroin and about as useful to productivity as a coma.

Now, try not to choke, but this is about to get uncomfortable, it might even hurt…

Switch your notifications on your phones, iPads, and laptops OFF. Cut the sodding ethernet cord and LIVE YOUR LIFE.

I know. I know. BUT THE TWEETY-LIKEY-STATUSY-UPDATES…

Image thanks to blogtrepeneur

Hate to break it to you, but no one cares that you ate left over lasagne for dinner for the 8th night in a row. Miss a few comments? Take 3 hours to reply to someone’s like? SO FREAKING WHAT.

Get over it. Really. It’s okay. If you don’t respond to my comment, you know what? I probably won’t even notice.

In an act of sheer desperation, I’d actually switched off my social media notifications the week before I read Cal’s book. You know what happened?

Fuck all.

No one noticed, no one cared, and I got back a good hour or two of my life EVERYDAY. I’ll admit, It was horrific at first. I did check my phone incessantly, then, after a few days, I just stopped. My phone battery lasted all day and I still responded to people and no one died. My phone didn’t have a stream of alerts telling me about the consistency and frequency of the world and his dog’s latest toilet visits. I felt better, clearer even and my eyes were no longer flashing to my phone every three seconds and I concentrated. HARD. 

Best of all, instead of a blog post taking three hours, it took one.

TIP 2 – SOCIAL MEDIA BREAKS

Go one hour with no social media. Then stretch it to three. Then a whole evening. You’d be surprised how easy it actually is. Remember those people that inhabit your house? Go. Speak to them.

By Twitter, CC BY 4.0, via WikiMedia

Now repeat 7x a week.

TIP 3 – ATTENTION, PRESENCE & FOCUS

I’m terrible at being present. Mostly because of  the constant multi-tasking and ‘loudness’ of my mind. But Newport says attention and focus is the prime way in which you can achieve more. He’s right of course, but I won’t give away all his secrets. Read the book. But one new thing I am doing because of him is scheduling all my time to help with my attention.

TIP 4 – SCHEDULING

I know, it sounds crazy bureaucratic, and more inefficient than productive. But it’s not. Just read the sodding book and you’ll understand the psychology of it.

The point is. Work time, going forward will be ‘internet free’. I’ve been trying this for the longest time, and it worked to an extent. But I like to research as I write. And you know where that leads to… A cheeky notification or 800 pops up as soon as I flick the internet back on and 43 minutes later I return to my neglected manuscript.

No more.

The art of scheduling means every minute of your day is blocked. 

But fear not this is not a minute-by-minute schedule. It’s blocks of time.

So, I have ‘morning routine’ ‘8 hrs of work’ ‘3 hours of mum-time’ and then at 7pm the real scheduling begins. Going forward 7pm – 9pm will be internet free. NO excuses, no infractions, period.

Two solid hours, of distraction free writing time.

9pm-12pm is split in half, between blog stuff and marketing.

Now, the only problem is my need to story-research. I’ll do more before I write. But if I’m desperate, then according to Newport, you delay the ‘research’ for a short block of time, this stops the addictive gratification of notifications. 5 minutes is all that’s needed, you put place holder text in, and write on. If you find that you end up back in the flow, stick to your original writing schedule. If you need the research, then take the break after the 5-minute delay is over.

Image from Pixabay

Tip 5- THE FALL OF MULTITASKING

I used to think multitasking was awesome. It’s rare that I’m wrong. But I was well and truly wrong on this one.

“People who multitask all the time can’t filter out irrelevancy. They can’t manage a working memory. They’re chronically distracted. They initiate much larger parts of their brain that are irrelevant to the task at hand… they’re pretty much mental wrecks.” Cal Newport, DEEP WORK p.158

That was me.

As soon as I read that, I took a shotgun to multitasking and blew it’s fucking brains out.

Multitasking is dead. Long Live King FOCUS.

One more lesson. One of the only things I actually did do prior to reading his book…

“One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change – not rest, except in sleep.” Cal Newport, DEEP WORK p.214

YES.YES. FUCK YES.

Attention. Focus. Distraction Free Writing Time. And Task Changing When Tired.

I am all kinds of hot and bothered about DEEP WORK, I’m still fanning myself with its productive pages. It’s  truly been an eye opener and I feel more productive just having read it, let a lone implementing his techniques.

If you want to get more done with your time, you need to read this book.

AmazonUK, AmazonCOM

Do you see productivity as a problem to be solved? What’s your most effective productivity tip? Let me know in the comments.

***

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44 comments

  1. 😂😂😂 I’m still laughing at this line “In a way, I guess I’m a fifteen-year-old book-boy who just had his first shag and now he can’t get enough of getting his leg over the publish button.” 😂😂😂
    But wow! I loved your thoughts and hints! My notifications are all silent so they don’t ping up at me… but I’m always checking if I’m free!
    I need to sort my priorities and productivity out this holiday! You have me the kick up the arse I needed! Off to share now! 😚

    1. Hahaha, yeah I wasn’t sure whether to say that! 😂😂 too late.

      Yes you do ma’am I want to see that book published 💖

      Congrats on making it to the holidays you must feel like a million dollars 😍

      1. I need to get my energy back… then the million dollars Feeling will happen!!!!! Truly exhausted now! I have 3 days In school left then I can relax!!!!! Prep time and tidy up the classroom!!!

          1. We did. On friday. But teachers work is never done lol! Will have a peaceful school for a couple of days to get organised…. tgen can forget about school x

  2. I’m constantly amazed and impressed at how much you achieve, Sacha, with a very full real life on top of the writing and blogging. I think scheduling has to be the answer but, having escaped the 9-to-5, I cherish my flexibility. However, concerned I wasn’t getting the balance right, recently carried out an audit of how I spent the time on the computer:

    A writer’s audit of desk time – annethology
    http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2017/07/a-writers-audit-of-desk-time.html

    Turns out not to be quite as bad as I thought.

    1. Ahh thanks Anne, I do kind of live on the brink of burn out constantly though! oooh a desk audit, now that (if I could do it honestly) would be a great idea! be good to see what I actually do with my time!

  3. Yep – best thing I did was to turn off most of my notifications. You really don’t realize how distracting they can be until you realize what you were able to accomplish with them off.

  4. I like the idea to block out a few hours without internet or TV time. For me 6 PM to 8 PM would work best.

    I got rid of my smart phone over a year ago and now spend less than 5 minutes a month on the dumb phone that replaced the so-called smart phone that was like a terminal cancer on your time and also costs more. How did I waste time with the smart phone. Ha! For instance, I programmed it to have an Australian female voice and then wasted time asking the phone questions to hear her speak. “What’s the weather today?”

    I also don’t have a tablet. Well, I do have two but I have no idea where they are. I stopped using them several years ago and I am not interested in looking for them. I have a laptop but that is my backup computer if my desktop gets hijacked again by ransomware. That laptop stays in my weapons’ safe and only comes out every four weeks for enough time to update the software and security.

    I also stopped using my ebook reader tablets and returned to paper books. Those e-readers like Kindle waste time when you have to update the software or charge the battery. Paperbacks don’t have batteries or software. I should feel guilty about this one since most of my book sales are e-books but I don’t.

    1. OMG, I WISH I could get rid of my smartphone, but sadly, it has too many uses. I even do most of my banking on it now. Terrible I know. But I have got rid of notifications so that helps. It’s funny you say that about paperbacks. I’ve actually drifted towards paperback over the last year, I wonder if it’s because of the increased screen time and wanting to get away from it, or something else. I, too, should probably feel bad about that, but meh! Books a book, right?

  5. I hate that whole “just stop watching TV and you’ll find more writing time”. Erm, I’m a film student so I need to watch films for my PhD? Pfft. Anyway. The thing I do is if I want to suddenly check something while I’m writing, I’ll put CHECK THIS CRAP LATER and highlight it in yellow, then keep going as if I already did. Then next time I’m online, I Google it. Hey presto, a teensy bit less distraction for the writer with the attention span of a cat.

    1. yeah. I get that. I was a lot more productive after giving up the daily binge watching though. I do still watch TV though, it’s not like I NEVER watch it. I guess I just changed my habit and daily behaviour so that I don’t spend 4 hours a night watching TV, instead it might only be half hour a night followed by 3.5 of writing!! bahaha, yep, I do the yellow highlight caplocks thing too!

  6. I should get this book, Sacha. I’m in big trouble. This morning I woke up to 405 WP email notifications because I took Sunday off. I’ve been replying, and reciprocating since 4 am, that was 10 hours ago – with no breaks. I’m planning to start writing in September and have no idea how to manage social media. I don’t even use FB or Twitter – it’s beyond my ability. (I just broke out in a sweat thinking about it. I need a drink.)

      1. I didn’t yet, but it’s on my radar. I really don’t have a problem with focus or distractions. I’ve been prioritizing and it’s helping me control my blog time – my only hurdle. I’m visiting daily bloggers a little less and not worrying about missing posts. That alone has made a big difference. 🙂

  7. Okay, this was awesome. I’ve told myself all of these things multiple times, but when I read them here, it was as if I’d never heard them! So I wrote them down and nailed them to my monitor. No more excuses. Kudos on the progress you’ve made, Sacha. I hope to join you soon … 🙂 ♥

  8. Excellent post Sach. Book sounds like a winner. Does it have magic in it to create more hours in a day? Lol. I already manage my time, I just need more of it. I read my emails and replies on Twitter and FB each morning for an hour then spend a few hours writing my book and blogs, as well as intermittent real life chores. Blog reading is done at night only. I have zero notifications turned on my phone, in fact, many days I forget to turn my phone on. When I’m working,. I’m working and don’t allow myself to be sidetracked ok, maybe if it’s an emergency 🙂 But this book does sound worthy of my investigating. 🙂 <3

  9. I am so getting this book. I NEED it. My life is a mess of what you have just described. Thank you, Sacha. This will help with every avenue of my life. I know I have dyspraxia and that makes concentrating as hard as nails but with this book it might be better. xxx

  10. Today I decided not to turn on my phone internet. But…….Just while having breakfast, “I’ll quickly check FB. ”
    Which brought me here 😁
    It’s the truth. Internet steals my time and interferes with my focus. Well not internet as such, but social media. I feel I’m missing an important blog post, or a lesson about writing (like this one). Oh maybe someone commented on my latest blog post!!!
    Yes I need to get it into my head that I don’t need to check ALL DAY!
    Multitasking? No. Can’t do!
    Thanks for a great post. I’ll check out the book.

    1. haha, well I’m glad you ended up on my lil’ ol’ blog, but I guess it is ironic! That fear of missing out is a real phenomenon, they call it FOMO. But I hope you did check out the book it really helped me 😀

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