Monday, January 18, 2016

Peak Productivity (Part 2)

Editor’s Note: Last Monday, January 11th, Writing from the Peak repeated a series given at the 2013 Pikes Peak Writers Conference by J.T. Evans and Cindi Madsen on Time Management and Productivity. The information was so well-received we wanted to share it with members who may not have had an opportunity to attend the conference. 

Part 2 of Peak Productivity

You can find the first part of this series here.

Schedule Time

Stealing moments of time is great, but if you can schedule time, even better. As a writer, you are a small business. Yes, you are also an artist, but remove that “artist hat” for a moment, and put on the “business hat."

As a one-person small business, you have to treat your writing like it’s a job. Sure, it might be a part-time job for some of you and a full-time job for others. Whatever the case may be, jobs come with meetings. We all hate them because we feel horribly unproductive while sitting in a conference room talking about the latest paradigm shift instead of being at our desks doing what we do best.

In this case, putting something down on your calendar can pull you away from your Real Life distractions (the dishes can wait) and put you in a place where you can get some words down on paper.

Make meetings for yourself in your calendar. Stick to those meetings. If something non-essential comes up during your meeting, decline it. Tell people, “Sorry, I have a meeting.” If you want, you can tell them it’s to write, but you don’t have to. If you stick to the line I’ve given you, people will understand and know you are busy at that time.

If you get to the meeting early, or if you stay late after the meeting is over, reward yourself. Maybe you get to go to the movies on Friday night, or have a date night with your spouse. Perhaps you get to buy that book you’ve been eagerly awaiting. Maybe it’s a spa day or just a candy bar from the local corner store. Set up appropriate awards for yourself that reflect how much of a “dedicated employee” you’ve been while working for your small business.

If you are late to a meeting or miss one entirely, then it’s time for punishment. Think about what your boss might do to you. Maybe it’s more work or additional meetings (e.g.: additional writing time). Maybe you don’t get to go to the movie. Maybe you don’t see it at all until it’s out on DVD. Maybe you have to get black coffee at the coffee shop instead of a frappachino. Maybe you call your massage place and cancel your appointment for next week. While you’re not going to the movies or getting a massage, guess what you’ll be doing? That’s right! You’ll be writing! (See how that works out?)

Reduce External Interruptions
When you’ve scheduled that meeting with yourself, get rid of external interruptions. These are (usually) things out of your control that try to steal the time you’ve made for yourself. Some of these are within your control, so grab them by the neck and wrangle them to your will.

Here are my tips for reducing external interruptions:
  • Close the door. (if you have an office or bedroom to use)
  • Put a sign on the door warning people away.
  • Go somewhere else.
o   Coffee Shop
o   Library
                  o   A mostly vacant diner late at night
  • Turn the ringer off on your phone. (Don't even let it vibrate)
  • Turn off the WiFi on your laptop. (The Internet will still be there when you're done with your meeting, I promise.)
Most of these are establishing solitude. However, don’t become a hermit. You still need to have fun with family/friends and socialize. Balance your life.

Reduce Internal Interruptions
Internal interruptions are more destructive to the time you’ve made than anything else. These are things you do to yourself to keep from writing. I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m talking about activities you actively engage in that distract you from your writing.

Again, turn off the Internet. If you need it for research then avoid:

Not vital research
o   Avoid rabbit holes
o   Set a timer to limit research

About the Author: J.T. Evans writes fantasy novels. He also dabbles with science fiction and horror short stories. He is the president of Pikes Peak Writers. When not writing, he keeps computers secure at the Day Job, homebrews great beers, spends time with his family, and plays way too many card/board/role-playing games.


  1. Excellent suggestions. Thank you. It is a business. I keep a spreadsheet of how I spend the time as well, a little something for Uncle Sam if he ever asks. It also helps me be accountable.

  2. good idea to set meetings, I'll have to try that one


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