May 8, 2011

30 Minute Productivity

With the abundance of information available on the internet, Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, blogs, You Tube, Linked In, books, webinars, television, email... it feels as if there's always something else you have to look at, have to learn. So you spend all day reading and watching and commenting and socializing, and then wonder where the day has gone.

Or you work diligently and hard all day on your writing. You finish a blog post, work on your novel, edit your short story, communicate with a potential client, complete necessary research, AND socialize. But your to-do list only seems to accumulate. You focus on what you HAVEN'T finished yet, and punish yourself for being unproductive.

Your brain is fried. You can't imagine having to sit down and work more. You're exhausted. So you go to bed feeling guilty of what you haven't accomplished. Closing your eyes, you try to feel the comfort of your pillow, allow yourself to rest, but your brain is screaming fragmented thoughts that you need to complete - Clean your room! Email this person! Schedule this appointment! Write the chapter!
This is bad. But it happens. We writers love our work so much that it's hard for us to separate our work and our lives, and end up working all the time, because it's fun, right?
The reality is, you'll never learn everything. You'll never accomplish everything in one day. You'll never have an empty to-do list. So don't try to be Wonder Woman all the time, because you'll burn out.

Often, I'll wake up with a colossal to-do list, and it's so overwhelming I don't even know where to begin. So I procrastinate and nothing is done. But I've learned that focusing on one particular project at a time is the way to accomplish multiple things at once. For the best productivity, you have to focus on each task exclusively.

Set a timer for 30 minutes and attack your task. Whatever you are stressing about the most right now, delegate this time to work on it. It doesn't have to be finished in this 30 minute period, you're just working. Turn off the internet, and your phone, and your email, and Twitter. This is super important so you don't see a notification pop up and become quickly and easily distracted. Close the door on the world and devote your entire conscious and unconscious to this particular task.

When your 30 minutes is up, review what you have completed, and feel proud that you have accomplished this little bit. Take a break. Eat a chocolate chip cookie. Make some coffee. And yes, you may check your internet activities. Reward yourself for what you've completed.

Then devote your time elsewhere for another 30 minutes. You can always come back to working on previous tasks later. As you progress, you may decide to change your time to an hour or two, but don't schedule big slots of time without understanding and appreciating your productivity first.  

Productive Flourishing has quite a few amazing planners for helping productivity. They're simple, yet efficient and make sense. Make sure to take a look to help your productivity!

You can also check out my book, The Wonder of Writing, and the workbook to help you with setting a realistic schedule and accomplishing your overall goals.
With a short and simple approach, you are bound to find more effective results with accomplishing your long to-do list. Focusing on one task for a short time generates extensive concentration and productivity. Try it out. And let me know how it worked for you.


  1. This post is fantastic, and so true. There will always be things to do, so to stress about it doesn't make any difference. And, as you mentioned, you can feel so overwhelmed, procrastination takes over and then nothing is accomplished.

    Because we do have so much to do, just as writers, any forward progress is progress :)

  2. LOL! Good question. I sometimes have to turn off my Internet connection just to get some writing done. I gave myself a blog sabbatical this week and for the first time in months my health has allowed me to catch up with all sorts of non bloggy things. It's been great. I love blogging and I will try to find a balance to suit all my needs in future :O)

  3. I'm getting to the stage where I need to turn off my internet connection to stop myself from 'just checking something'and an hour later, I've done no writing... totally agree with you. Great post.

  4. Carolyn - You're exactly right! I feel the same way! Any forward progress is progress (:

    Madeline - I'm glad you've been able to get so much done this week! Good job! Perhaps in the future try setting yourself a schedule. It could be daily, hourly, weekly etc. Whatever works best for you. I have found this to be extremely helpful when I have a lot to get done - which is ALL the time (:

    Nicole - I'm glad you've had success with the timer! I need to remember to use it more often though. I forget easily.

    tfwalsh - Yes, it happens. And it's hard to turn everything off. It's advice I've heard and read all the time, but rarely follow (maybe because I'm crazy.) But I've been doing it more frequently lately, and it's been quite productive. Try it and let me know how it goes!

    Thank you everyone for responding! Hope you are all having a wonderful day! (: