A lot of the advice you’ll find out there about bringing writing, quality, and productivity together in a wonderful marriage is just rehashed bunk. I wonder how much those doling some of this stuff out actually believe in what their telling you to do?
Here’s 3 tips I can offer to improve your word count and writing quality, which goes against what most writers and productivity experts will tell you:
1. Figure out your most productive time of day
Contrary to what most writers might suggest, this might not be the time of day you PREFER to write most. For me, my most productive time of the day to write is fairly early in the morning and into mid-afternoon. After this time frame, my brain shuts down, literally starts to swell, and that’s “all he wrote”.
I don’t like getting up and writing first thing in the morning, personally. I’d much rather hit the trails on my mountain bike with my trusty dog in tow, or do some Crossfit for a couple of hours.
So if I don’t like to write during this time, why do I?
Waiting til after I’ve done something beside client work for the day is a sure recipe for getting nothing done that day at all. I seem to thrive with a large task load early morning, and work religiously and rather uninterrupted to empty the cue during that time. Come mid afternoon, it just feels like the day’s mostly done and it’s time for “me time” or to work on a passion project after that.
So, learn when you’re most productive and work then; not when you feel it suits you best, or when you’re most in the mood.
2. Caffeine isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
I’d challenge anyone who thinks coffee makes their work better and they can’t work without it, to try and kick the habit for a couple of months. At least can the coffee before you start to work. What I’ve personally found is that regardless of all the studies indicating higher performance from our brains while we work, coffee just up-regulates the nervous system way to much.
Again, contrary to the studies out there, my blood pressure was a whopping 150/100ish after just one hour of work every day. I could definitely feel this too; not a pleasant feeling. When your body is thrust into the artificial stress state coffee induces, it’s really hard to be productive and coherent in your writing.
I believe my writing has improved since kicking coffee to the curb. If you’ve ever dealt with someone who was over the edge on a java trip, you know things that get really intense and hard to understand due to the hyper-speed rambling that so often accompanies too much caffeine.
My personal belief is that this transfers to writing too, and most writers and webmasters drink way too much of it. In fact, anyone who sits at a desk drinks way to much of it!
3. Ditch the 25/5 rule or whatever you use
Have you noticed all the productivity advice out there telling all of us to work in short bursts and then take a 5 – 10 minute break, then resume and so forth and so on? I tried to get on board with this whole load of garbage, which also has plenty of science backing it. Same with the 20-20-20 and the highly touted 52-17.
And I love science and believe in it, but there’s one problem: Taking a break when you’re on a roll is actually counter-productive! Valuable time is either lost when you come back to what you’re doing and have to figure out where you left off and get reorganized. Or it’s lost simply because you’ve told your brain to shutdown when things were flowing — or at least starting to flow.
The 25/5 may work in a number of professions, but 7 years of content creation has taught me that writing isn’t one of those professions!
Finish what you’re doing before taking a break or 9 times out of 10, you’ll regret it (share your thoughts about this in the comments — I’d love to hear what experienced writers think about this). One contradiction to this would be when you’re sourcing topics and/or looking for source material to back up what you’re saying. These tasks don’t require the level of undeterred focus that writing a quality post or a juicy bit of fiction does.
Taking a break is a distraction, and distractions go against what every good writer, fiction or non-fiction, would advise be part of your writing routine.
Jeff Goins, author of You Are a Writer offers this advice which I wholeheartedly agree with:
Writing requires concentration…
And not just short blips of concentration.
If you actually want to get something decent written, you’re going to need to stay focused.
You’ll have to ignore your email and social networks, your cell phone, and the television.
And just write.
So I’ll state it again: Breaks are nothing but distractions. Use them very carefully. Enjoy more actual free time later in the day by taking less breaks throughout your work time…
Main Image Credit: eltpics/Flickr