Being busy and productive are not the same. Like most self-employed people, I’ve had my struggles with procrastination and times when I’m not productive. Often I find the things that matter the most get pushed aside by things far less important. Rather than looking for new opportunities to make money, I’m filing phone numbers or having a lengthy conversation with someone I could have emailed. This year I’ve decide to increase productivity and actually plan on working less. So far, it’s working. Here are a few tips that have helped.
- Clean your desk. Like most full-time writers, my office is inundated with books, magazines, scraps of papers, articles, reference manuals, and all the tools of the trade. Disorganization come naturally to me and the thought of cleaning my entire office can cause body spasms. However, having a clean desk encourages me to work and allows me to focus on my next article. The first time I cleaned my desk, I did it by stacking all my papers on the floor behind me. Even if you need to take everything off your desk and put it in a bag or another room, give yourself a clean place to work. Once you’ve done this it’s much easier to focus on what really matters and consider what you really need in your office and on your desk.
- Break things down in small steps. Whether you’re writing a book or sending out your first query letter, it’s easy to get emotionally overwhelmed by a potentially large event or future project. However, books can only be written one word at a time. If you’re sending out a query letter, all your doing is send out a query letter, you don’t need to be thinking about what will happen if or when someone accepts your proposal. Instead, focus on writing the best query letter possible.
- Work in half-hour segments. This tip came from the wonderful book, “Overcoming Procrastination” by Neil Fiore. Dr. Fiore recommends learning to work in short uninterrupted half-hour time segments. You focus on only working one half-hour. During your working half-hour you cannot answer the phone, go to the bathroom, check the mail or get a drink of water. If you do, it doesn’t count. At the end of each half hour work segment, take a break. His belief is that most people can do anything for a half hour. This has helped me increase productive tremendously. When I make a half-hour commitment to something, whether its working on my book, an article or cleaning my house, I accomplish a great deal and usually can keep working for a much longer period. I’m also less frustrated in my life, because I’m able to focus.
- Make lists and use them to keep you on track. Yvonne Perry creates a list of weekly goals. This is an excellent idea to help you keep on track and help you focus on what is important rather than what seems like its important. In addition to maintaining weekly goals, I’ve started keeping a very short daily list on my desk. There is so much in life that can distract us from what we really want to accomplish. Having a short list I can glance at every day helps me refocus whenever I get distracted.
- Network or have an accountability partner. Belonging to a writers group or coop is a wonderful way to grow your business. Ironically, getting to know and helping your “competition” is one of the smartest things you can do for your own business. I love to write about a variety of topics. However, there are topics that do not appeal to me. Knowing another writer who specializes or enjoys that topic is a way I can help my client and another writer. In turn, I’ve received writing jobs when another writer had a request for an article within my areas of expertise. Prior to being a full time freelance writer, my friend Susan (a visual artist) and I became accountability partners. Once a week we would talk on the phone and tell each other our weekly goals. The following week we would report in, and support each other with love, compassion, and an occasional kick in the butt. We both benefited from this experience.
There’s a saying used in 12 step programs…”progress not perfection”. It’s one of my favorite sayings. Keep this in mind as you increase productivity and overcome your procrastination.
Kate Garvey is a member of the Write On Creative Writing Services team of writers. She has also accepted the New Year’s Article Challenge and has a goal of writing 30 articles before March 31, 2007. Read more about Kate at http://www.yvonneperry.net/Meet-the-Writers.htm#Kate_Garvey.