August 29

The one habit you need to write more productively

Every time you sit down to write, decide on your writing project, and get out a stopwatch.

(Okay, actually a stopwatch app, because who in the world has a stopwatch anymore?)

Let me give you a real live example of how the stopwatch habit has completely transformed my own writing productivity. I'll tell you about my own writing morning.

  • I set aside this morning from any other obligations. I have two hours that are designated, sacred writing hours. I have three projects: this blog post, a newsletter, and an important email.
  • I sat down at 10:00 am, with a glass of water, a snack of almonds, my phone, and my laptop.
  • I decided to start my writing time by tackling this blog post. I had a few ideas rolling around in my head.
  • I started my stopwatch app on my iPhone.
  • I sat here and stared at my screen for a bit. Stretched my fingers. Rolled my shoulders. I began a few different types of posts, decided not to pursue those, and saved the half-way started documents for later. I eventually hit my stride with this post, and now I'm off to the races.
  • The goal is to see how long I can write this blog post without clicking away from the screen. No email. No texting. No phone calls. No Facebook. If I feel compelled to google a quick fact – I don't. I leave myself a note in the text to research later. Not a single click away from the typing screen.

I formed this habit as a way to train myself to quit multi-tasking. How many more studies do you really need to read before you believe that multi-tasking is completely unproductive. I don't need to mentally convince that multi-tasking is a waste of your valuable time.

I would rather give you tools to help you quit multi-tasking entirely.

The stopwatch app is the best tool you can use to write quickly, efficiently, and with increased focus.

It's worked for me, anyway. For example, it used to take me two days, on and off, to write one blog post. I would sit down, dilly dally, google potentially interesting subjects, and maybe write a bit here and there. I would “write” for three or four hours one day, and three or four hours the next. For one post? Are you kidding me? What a waste of time.

How long does it take me now, with the stopwatch habit? 45 minutes.

45 minutes, rather than 480 minutes! (Okay, yes, I clicked over to the calculator app). I quite literally write 10x faster when I'm timing myself with a stopwatch.

I don't particularly revel in competition, so competing against myself is plenty motivating for me. However, if you know that you are a competitive person, you could even challenge your friend to a timed writing session. How long can you write, without clicking away from the screen? Loser buys lunch or coffee at break time.

Oh, maybe I should consider that. I would totally win.

That's right, 24 minutes so far, and not a single click away. (Now that I'm re-reading, editing, and re-writing a bit, I'm at 42 minutes. Awesome!) Productivity is the biggest high ever, and now I can't wait to tackle my other writing projects.

Side note: I do give myself a bit of a break between stopwatch sessions. I fully intend to now spend no more than 10 minutes, browsing the Internet aimlessly and refilling my water. Starting the stopwatch now.

What about you? How long can you write without clicking off the screen?

Time yourself, and leave a comment below!


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