Procrastination and lack of focus is a common challenge for writers. Procrastination is sometimes based in fear, while lack of focus can be as simple as paying more attention to the bright shiny objects that bring immediate gratification to our day than we pay to our writing and the other things we need to accomplish. Like most of you, I manage my own schedule. When I’m in the middle of meeting a deadline, focus and productivity become all the more real for me. I know that if I don’t focus, my work won’t get done, and there’s a chance my deadline won’t be met. In the last post, I covered Part 1 of my tips to focus and enhance productivity. Today, I wrap up with Part 2 that includes tips 11 through 20.
11. Work with a coach or an accountability partner. It’s hard for me to go it alone at times and be accountable to only myself. That’s why I have been known to reach out to someone and ask them to help me stay on task with my deadlines. You too can do the same. When I work with a coach, and exchange money for her expertise and guidance, my productivity soars. An accountability partner doesn’t have to cost money, though. A trusted friend with whom you share your deadline can accomplish the same end, IF they will hold you accountable to your word and to when you say you will complete a project.
12. Join a writing group. Belonging to a group of writers who meet on a regular basis can also help you stay accountable to your project schedule. It doesn’t have to be an in-person group, but it does need to be one that meets consistently. I recently joined a newly formed group. We are four food writers and we meet once a month on Google Hangouts with a video call. It’s fun to connect, hear about each other’s projects, and give updates on our own progress with recent writing projects. In between calls, we exchange emails if we have questions or feel the need to check in. If you want to form a writing group, now’s the time. Seek out like-minded writers who lift you up and have like-minded goals. Avoid negative or pessimistic, you-can’t-do-that-type-of people. What you need are people who encourage you and support you as you complete your writing projects.
13. Restrict your social media. Go on a social media diet if this is a source of distraction for you. I know for myself, Twitter and other social media sites are beneficial, but it can also be a “rut activity” for me. (Read about “rut activities” in Part 1 of this post). I also turn off notifications on my iPhone and inbox because these notifications distract me when I’m writing. They make me want to jump over to Twitter or my email. I lose my train of thought. Trust me, nothing will happen if you don’t respond right away.
14. Identify your sweet spot of the day. My sweet-spot of time is from 8 am – 11 am. This is the time of day where I am most productive, alert, awake, and focused. I like to use this time to sit at my computer (where I do a lot of my work) and chip away at big projects where more concentration is required. Whenever possible I save my active tasks for the afternoon: such as recipe testing, ingredient shopping, phone calls, and in-person meetings.
15. Take a break to remember why you are doing what you’re doing. During the work day I try to take a walk, eat lunch, call a friend or my Mom, play with my kids (after school) or visit with Maggie the dog. These activities help me refocus and gain perspective on why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m pretty selective about how I use my time on the weekends too. Except for early on Saturday or Sunday mornings, I don’t spend my weekend time writing for work. In addition I try to take a break from email and limit my social media on the weekends. This past weekend we finished planning our daughter’s graduation party and spent time on a lake in a boat with her. She is leaving for college this fall and I know that I will never regret taking a break from my work to spend time with her and our family. Because of these scheduled breaks, I feel rejuvenated when the work week rolls around and as a result of my break, I am more productive and energetic.
16. Create a motivating playlist of music. Some writers like to write in a quiet environment and some like to work with background noise. If you like music, then listen to music, but try to use a playlist that you only listen to when writing. Let it motivate you to work and write, not put you to sleep or make you want to get up and dance.
17. Focus on disciplined, sustained actions, that are task-focused. The only thing I really have control over is my actions. I can’t control others and I can’t control their reaction to my work. I know from writing my first two cookbooks that with a disciplined writing schedule I can be productive and produce the book I wanted to write. It is only action that took my dreams and turned them into a reality. When you set out to write your article, book, or cookbook proposal, try not to focus on what others might think of your book or what others might think of you promoting your ideas. This is where the fear creeps in and a procrastination block might come up. Instead focus on everyday taking action toward to completion of your goal.
18. Believe in what you’re doing and never give up. Imagine your customers or your audience when they hold your cookbook or your finished writing project. If you are in touch with them through your platform, they’ll be thrilled to have something else you’ve produced with them in mind. Believe that what you are doing for them is important and never give up on helping them with your work.
19. Study the actions of someone who you aspire to be. There are prolific writers and bloggers that amaze me. I like their books, I like their blog posts, and I like their newsletters. (Laura Vanderkam is one of my current favorites.) If you have a favorite writer, try to find out what they differently to maintain their focus on big projects.
20. Read my blog posts on Workflowy and Pocket. These are two apps for my iPhone that I habitually turn to for my master to-do list and keep track of internet-based articles I want to read.
This blog post, and last week’s blog post, identifies twenty ways to help you enhance your focus and fight procrastination. If you’d like to read more about common reasons why you might be putting off your writing, check out this blog post on “Eight Reasons Writers Procrastinate”. Good luck with your work and feel free to add any tips you might have in the comments section.
Cookbook author and culinary dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors in the process of writing cookbooks, cookbook proposals, and building their author platform. Download her checklist “Am I Ready to Write A Cookbook?”.