This blog post originally started as an email about productivity, but then suddenly I was looking at 1,350 words and not entirely sure how I managed to pull it off without watching 7 YouTube videos, posting on Twitter 4 times, reading emails I don’t care about, looking to see what is on Hulu today, and playing a 4-hour round of fetch with my dogs.
But guess what? I mastered productivity.. most days. There are definitely days when I find myself staring at a blank document for 3 hours, not sure where the time went.
Well.. if we’re being honest, I know where it went. I was using my phone at the time, watching YouTube videos that started innocently enough, but somehow got me into the video rabbit hole where I went from a tutorial on making images with Canva, to a dog that knows how to surf.
But I do try. Most days I succeed, even if I have checked Pinterest one too many times that day and don’t finish my writing goals until an hour before I was supposed to be waking up the next day.
That happens too.
So far, I am really selling myself on these tips! But seriously, they DO help. I have been ghostwriting and content writing and whatever-writing for about 10 years, so I have learned through trial and error. I know how to write an article in 6-8 minutes by the methods I have picked up, and I can tell when it is going to be a day where I really need to remind myself of these rules just to get it all done.
These are not rules I live by every single day, but they are more like.. suggestions. Things I try my best to follow as often as I can in order to get everything done.
1. Close the Browser Completely While You Write. I have gone back and forth on this, but I have learned that having any access to the internet is just not helpful. It’s too tempting. “Just checking Facebook real quick” always turns into anywhere between 10 minutes and 7 hours. So, I get all my brainstorming and research done, outline my articles/blog posts/reports, then close the browser completely. I have an old POS computer, so opening up a browser just to check my email is way too much trouble. Sometimes you have to trick yourself.
2. Turn On a Timer For 1-3 Hour Blocks. This isn’t some magical tool or a big mystery. A lot of people do it, especially freelancers and business owners who don’t have a boss walking behind their cubicle every 30 minutes, pretending they are picking up yet another fax (but is probably just a blank piece of paper they faxed to themself), but really are just reminding you to get back to work.
The reason I don’t go over 3 hours at a time is because I need to give my hands a break, and my dogs don’t hold their pee as well as I do.
So i set my timer, and during that block of time, I am not allowed to do anything else but write. There is some kind of weird voodoo witch magic that happens when you know you’re being timed. It is really hard not to work.
3. Take a Break At Least Every 3 Hours. This is how my day goes: I do all my brainstorming, to-do lists, researching, and outlining during the first hour or so of my day. Then when it is “writing time”, I set the timer, close the browser, and write. Every time the timer goes off, I stop working, take the dogs out, and grab a snack. Sure, let’s say it’s a healthy snack and definitely not a pint of ice cream.
4. Time Your Breaks. I have learned this the hard way. I have had many days where my first block of writing went great, I took my break, innocently turned on Netflix, then suddenly I have watched the entire first season of Westworld.
Oops. That was a LONG break. So I now time my breaks as well. I typically turn on a timer on my phone for 10-15 minutes per break. But only after my dog’s potty break. It’s not my fault if they don’t like that grass or that one or that one.
*Fun fact: They rarely choose the grass, but find the sidewalk to be oddly satisfying.
5. I Said No Internet. Turn Off Your Damn Phone. Okay, so I’m not perfect. I know how to trick myself into doing something I know I shouldn’t do, but can still get away with. Sure, my browser is off and I’m totally not checking the internet. But you didn’t say anything about your phone, me. I sometimes have to catch myself and not just turn the phone on vibrate, but put it on silent, and place it face-down inside the washing machine because I have no self control.
6. Write it Down, Then Move On. I have this problem where my brain can’t seem to focus on just one thing. It may look like I am writing a PLR article, but really I am writing a PLR article, deciding what to eat for dinner, thinking about the book I’m currently reading, naming my imaginary first born, decorating every room of the house I don’t own, and practicing the speech for the novel prize I fully intend to win when I turn 112 and finally get around to that novel I’m going to write. But also writing an article. It’s a serious problem, you guys.
So I have a notebook next to me where I jot down whatever I am thinking about, then get back to work.
7. Multi-Tasking Isn’t Helpful. STOP IT. Okay, so here’s the thing. Multi-tasking, when it comes to certain things, is total crap. Stop doing it. Seriously. Yeah, multi-tasking when it comes to cleaning the bathroom while you have a load of laundry in the washer is awesome. You have just done 2 very productive, adult things at one time. But with writing and various other work projects, it doesn’t help.
This is what happens to me. Say I have 4 different writing projects to get done today. I say.. oh, well I’ll just go back and forth, so I get a little done from each one. I won’t get bored, and I’m making a dent in each one. So I write an article for my bundle, and then a blog post for my launch, and then I create an image for my store. I keep going back and forth like this. But usually what this results in is constantly having to shift my focus from one thing to another. That shift in focus breaks up your routine and actually makes everything take a lot longer.
8. No Sleep Until You Get it DONE. This is something I turned into a rule for myself when I kept doing the “I’ll get it done tomorrow” dance. You know the one. It’s 10pm and you’re tired and in bed, and it’s just 5 more articles, so why not just write them in the morning? You add it to tomorrow’s goals, but then that means you have more to do, so you have 10 leftover that night. It keeps going until it is Sunday and suddenly you are 75 pages behind.
So I have a rule (I mostly kinda stick to) where I don’t go to sleep until the writing for that day is done.
9. You Can Have Time Off When You Meet Your Goals. Since I know myself and that I’m not going to stick to rule #8 every time, I made up rule #9. If there are weeks where I have put off a little too much work and have leftover writing to do on Friday, I force myself to work the weekend. It is supposed to encourage me to do more during the week to get things done so I can have days off. Realistically, the last time I had a day off, Donald Trump was still a… (enter your own punchline here).
10. Coffee is Allowed On Your Diet.
So now that you have all my secrets (and excuses), you can get to work. Your break is over.