I’m frequently asked, “How do you get so much done?” There are several methods I’ve learned over the years to maximize my productivity as a writer, even while working 84+ hour weeks at my “day job.” Here are my top five.
1. Identify your two peak hours and use them.
I’m an early bird. My most productive creative time is early in the morning, when I first awaken. Before I get out of bed, turn on the TV, or read anything, I’ll know what my goal is (see #4), have used my sleep time to process (see #3), and have a Word document ready on my computer with the outlines I’ve prepared. With those in place, I have no blank page to stare at, only ideas and opinions to corral. In a free-flow state, I can type a 700-word article first draft in about 20 minutes. Then I put it aside and move to the next. The keys are to know what topic you’re writing about, what point you’re trying to convey, and have the research done beforehand. That means I can get four to six articles drafted on any given morning.
2. Focus on one goal at a time.
My goal during that peak creative period is new writing. That free flow allows for the easy breezy style I prefer over the tortured writing I sometimes produce when forced to heavily research a topic then try to reduce it to 1/20th of what I’ve learned. My goal during breaks in my workday is to research specific facts or new publications. My goal in the afternoon or evening is to edit and submit articles. Right before I go to sleep, I set up my computer with outlines for articles for the following morning. That provides the questions I know I’ll need answered before I can complete the article.
3. Allow your brain time to process.
Find time to exercise and sleep. Processing time helps me work out problematic issues. I strive to identify questions that need answering before I sleep and before I exercise. Without fail, I have the answer to at least one question when I awaken or get out of the pool. I’ve found it’s also an excellent method to provide distance from a piece so I can edit it later in the afternoon.
4. Prioritize your tasks ahead of time.
I have many writing projects going at any given time. It helps keep me interested and prevents writer’s block. While I may get stuck on how to fix a problem or describe a situation, there’s always something else to work on, so I never get “blocked.” As long as I set up my travel articles, especially by having the facts at hand in a logical way, the night before, I can zip right through the draft. If I’ve set my daily goals in advance, I know how many pages of my screenplay, how many travel articles, and how many other projects need completion. By keeping the list manageable, it prevents discouragement and allows maximum efficiency.
5. Go out and have fun.
Fortunately, as a travel writer, this task serves double duty. It’s important to refill the tank with new experiences and new people. At the same time, it creates new stories to pitch to publications. I’ve recently moved to two new places, in two different countries. By searching out new opportunities, perhaps during one of my afternoon research times, I create the anticipation of a new, fun trip. Exploring is both fun, and keeps me supplied with story ideas to pitch.