If I told you that this one thing could make you a more productive writer, would you believe me? If you could possibly double or triple your words per day (I have) what would you say?
What if I told you that it was free?
Would you commit to trying it for one week?
Seriously, would you?
Listen, I’ve seen it all when it comes to products and programs and general click-bait targeting writers. Sometimes I feel like writers must be a super-ripe market for being parted from their cash and I’m missing out.
But, I’m also a broke-ass writer, so I’ll just continue to miss out and share this tip for free. You know, cause I got it for free.
The Full Story
I’m a big fan of the guys over at Sterling & Stone. Currently, I am alternately reading their book Write. Publish. Repeat. and Brandon Sanderson’s The Way of Kings (picked it up for free!). Between the two I figure I’ll be three steps closer to being a bestseller (let’s not talk about that 1,000-mile journey. I haven’t even completed mile one yet) by the time I’m done reading.
So, I listen to the S&S Self-Publishing Podcast and one episode featured Christine Niles, a productivity and project management expert. She was awesome and funny and talked about time tracking. She may have talked about other stuff, but time tracking stuck with me.
It took me a few weeks after hearing the podcast, but I finally followed through and found the book page for her book Time to Write. I am totally going to buy it when it drops, but the reason I’m linking you there now is that if you scroll to the bottom of the page you can enter your email (trust me, you want this) and they’ll send you their time-tracking worksheets. Go do it now…
Okay, maybe it’s not totally a hack. But, it has changed my writing.
See, there’s a little bit of self-shaming going on with this. I committed to writing down how I spend my day in 15-minute increments. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I didn’t want to write down that I spent an hour scrolling on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or refreshing Pinterest. Or playing games on my iPad.
When I started this I took three days to just do what I normally do and write it down. Ugh. That was eye-opening.
Being that I am home and writing is my only job (besides running the house and managing the kids’ education) I was so tired of feeling like I never have time to actually write. Imagine my shock when I started tracking my time and saw how much waste there was in my day. I would sit down to work and need to look up one little factoid and the next thing I knew I was writing down that I’d spent an hour on Facebook (all roads lead there). I just got distracted and lost track. Net words for that hour? The six I wrote before I went to look something up.
Those three days were embarrassing. Not gonna lie.
So, the next week I was proactive. Every time I was tempted to go click on a time waster website, I asked myself if that was how I wanted to spend my time.
Most of the time, the answer was a resounding NO, so I don’t. I check the clock more often. When I open Scrivener I try not to click out of it unless I’m ready to log that time and move onto something else. This one little thing has helped me be accountable and disciplined in my writing.
I’ve started multi-tasking when I can. I watch TV while I fold laundry or clean the kitchen or tidy the house. I internet surf while I eat lunch. Anytime I can do something productive while I do something that’s a time suck I’ll double up. Otherwise, I am just choosy about how I spend my time. I don’t feel like I’m missing out and I still get my work done. Boundaries and priorities.
The great thing is that I no longer get to the end of the day and wonder what I’ve done all day. I have a written record of where my time has gone. Because I am more aware of where my time is going I am getting more writing done than ever! Best example: In 5 days I have written 20% of my recent first draft. That’s unprecedented. I went from around 500 to 1,000 words per day to a minimum of around 3,000 words per day (I average about an hour and a half a day to write uninterrupted a day). With practice and even more awareness of my time, I think I can even up that without taking too much more time.
I used the worksheets from S&S for two weeks before I decided that I liked my results. That’s when I started tracking in my bullet journal. I track Monday through Friday and while I may write on the weekends I don’t care how I spend that time as much. It’s the weekend after all.
So, for a grand total expenditure of $0 I was able to up my productivity and suddenly the possibility of getting 3-4 books released a year doesn’t seem like a pipe dream! It’s exciting and now I look forward to writing down what I’m doing/have done. I just keep my journal open on my desk and make notes as the day progresses. On Sunday afternoon I take a little time and create my tracking pages for the week. Boom. Ready to track.
It really doesn’t matter what you use to track your time as long as you actually track it. Be honest. Write everything down. Pay attention to the passing minutes. Try it for a week and see if you can squeeze a few more words out of your day too!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click to Amazon and buy, I’ll get a few pennies.