The Writer’s Well Episode 189: How do you optimize your writing productivity?

Rachael revisits a favorite topic this week as she asks J. about the ways in which he makes sure the writing (and work) gets done.

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19 thoughts on “The Writer’s Well Episode 189: How do you optimize your writing productivity?”

  1. Hi there,
    great question as always.
    I know Rachael has seen it, but J I wrote a blog post about this podcast, my way of saying thank you.

    re the forest garden – it is really more like a woodland edge with as many edible plants as possible, mostly perennials. It can be done in a small space. The aim is to have as natural a garden as possible, sustainable, great for wildlife and productive with more giving back to the soil than taking. Check out Martin Crawford on youtube if you are interested.

    I liked your comment J re first drafting, and I feel the same, I think because first drafting is playful and I enjoy it more than editing.

    To the question – my quick answer is I don’t
    I’m scatty and all over the place with my writing. I try to focus and am now getting books published. I do not have admin to do, yet, and I don’t think writing will ever be a full-time job for me so I guess it’s okay to be scatty.
    I do have a list, one I write everything I’d like to do and need to do and then I pick one, I don’t specify time or finishing and will rewrite the task at the bottom of the list if it is not finished, but if there are urgent they are starred and have to be done first.
    It works ‘ish.’

    Thanks and have a good week, I hope the fires stop burning soon.

    1. I, too, am SO intrigued by the idea of a forest garden. I might be relocating in the near future and intend to be “location fluid” after that, but I’m thinking I could care for a bonsai tree and take it with me. Love this concept of investing in something now that won’t provide a payoff until far into the future.

  2. Morning guys, interesting question, looking forward to reading some of the answers.
    My only organisation tool is a rough annual to-do list written in a paper diary (anybody remember them?). I use an A5 Moleskine week-to-a-page diary with a blank lined page opposite each week for notes. The blank notes page is excellent for ideas. I re-evaluate my list every 3 months (almost exactly 90 days) which breaks a calendar year neatly into 4 x three month blocks. On a daily basis I decide what I want to do, versus what I think I need to do.
    An advantage of my lax approach is that if a project is not working, I don’t feel guilty about ditching it because I am not bound by faux timetables. If one is not enjoying writing something, the reader will detect this because one is unknowingly inserting subtext into one’s writing.
    This disorganised approach might not work for everyone and requires some self-discipline but I love creating and writing stories; I’m not so hot on the marketing side yet.
    My approach is based on the idea that if I wanted to tie myself to timetables, meetings, project deadlines and Gannt charts etc. I might as well stick my thumb in my bum, shift my brain into neutral and get a full time job.
    I am a writer because I love writing.
    Great show today.

  3. I get up at 3am and respond to all my day job related emails. My first has a 24 hour email policy. So, I set my email responses to be sent with delayed delivery throughout the day, at times that I’m emotionally ready for a rapid response from a client. I used to do them all at once at 9AM but clients started asking if I used delay delivery! Once my inbox is cleared, I work on my writing. Rachael, I loved seeing your new auto response, sometimes I feel guilty about my delayed delivery trick, but when we set boundaries it gives others permission to do so as well.

  4. I swear I am not an affiliate…yet, but Rocketbook Panda Planner is quite literally the best thing I have purchased to help my productivity.

    The pages are made of a polymer, and the pens (which are cheap) are erasable. I try to be one of those annoying eco-millenials, and I also hate paper planners because I never buy them at the right time, and the blank ones are daunting. I also tried apps, but tablets and phones distract me too much.

    This planner has goal setting sections and also goes over annual, monthly, weekly, and daily logs which are all optimized to help you complete your goals and stick to habits. Everything is scanned and the app sends it off to wherever you want (Email, Trello, Evernote, etc).

    This was a level up to a freeform journal I was using. Who knew that even though I hate structure, I’ve managed to benefit most from structure?

    The goal setting pages help create a path forward that I can tackle daily and see progression weekly and monthly.

    So get yours today:

    “Check’s in the mail right?”

    “Oh no, they can still hear me?”

      1. Panda Planner is a company that makes structured planners. They teamed up with Rocketbook to make this reusable planner.

        Not as fun of a response…perhaps its all a cover-up and I’m actually a secret panda making plans.

        1. I am still mad at Rocketbook – I used it, LOVED it for 2 weeks, and then it got hot here in California and we didn’t have AC, and the writing went away and WOULD NOT COME BACK! (It came back around the edges only when I froze the book.) I wanted to love them! Just too hot here, I guess. 🙁 But I’m loving my iPad now! 🙂 #plannerlyfe

      2. Another great episode and question! I optimize my writing productivity by teaching myself to write almost anywhere–at my desk, in a waiting room, on the train, in line at the post office, on the treadmill at the gym. Those stolen minutes really add up and it keeps me from feeling like I need perfect conditions in order to get the pages done. Also, I use an inexpensive dictation app called Speechnotes that has voice recognition accuracy superior to Dragon, and automatically creates a Word doc I can email to myself. Great for long walks or car rides. Basically, I try to integrate writing into my life instead of scheduling my life around my writing.

      3. the small book model really works for Steve Scott, so well done you guys. I DID hear about them on one of Sacha’s podcast – lol
        I thought I made a comment last week but I must have run off to send myself a message. I think Joanna Penn does four year look-backs like the olympics; that feels like a nicer number. 10 years? yikes.
        What J is talking about was a rec in this book: Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky – these guys MADE Gmail and they know what a time suck it is.
        I am in the Rachael camp, I try to time block and fail.
        I have tried lots of the digital versions and I keep coming back to pen and paper.
        I am into a printable planner at the moment. A4 sheet per day so I have plenty of room for stickers and stamps and comments and lists and… with Todoist for the daily reminders like: what’s for dinner? listen to a podcast, etc.

      4. Most of my time is dictated by the Bread and Butter job and the rest falls under the wife telling me to get out of the house and write. Planners have never worked for me and I never remember to update my calendar. One head scratcher is the way I always find it easier to concentrate on my writing when other pressures are squeezing the time available. I draft on my always with me phone which allows me to get words in at any opportunity. Once I’m in the editing phase it gets trickier because I either need access to my laptop or I must remember to printout the next section and keep it with me.

      5. I have five kids and three dogs and a terrible day job, so I am forever on a quest for the perfect productivity plan. I have tried getting up early in the morning, but it makes me super grumpy. I have tried staying up late and it makes me just slightly less than super grumpy.

        The best plan I’ve found (and it is far from perfect) is to sneak in moments throughout the day. In her old Magic Lessons podcast, Elizabeth Gilbert told one of her student-guests to treat her art as if it were a secret lover, so that is always my goal. I try to get out the door a few minutes early in the morning so that I can get a few minutes of writing done at my day-job desk before the official workday begins. I sneak away to the library on my lunch break and hide in a study room to write. I can even get in some words while I’m cooking supper in the evening.

        My secret lover and I average about 1000 words a day with the occasional weekend tryst of 3,000 or so. Since I am not yet published, I don’t have any marketing to do or any newsletters to create. Hopefully soon, and then I guess I’ll figure out how to juggle two or three secret lovers!

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