Some people equate high levels of productivity with high levels of graft. When it comes to writing, they think burning the midnight oil, doubling down – trying really hard to crack that book, blog or script is the only approach to take. We disagree. Our own research tells us that writing productivity is less about blood, sweat and tears and more about being smarter with the limited time you have – in short, it’s about having a system.
At Prolifiko, we love a good writing system – and that’s because the data collected through our digital coach tells us they work. By logging your writing and reviewing your writing data you’re able to spot patterns and create a system that works for you and your writing personality. When lots people do the same, broad trends can be identified that show what writing processes and techniques work the best.
It’s these techniques and trends that can help you to smash your 2018 writing resolution – and keep you going into 2019 – and beyond. Here’s three of the best:
Technique #1: Approach ambitious writing goals in small steps
When it comes to writing, it’s great to take on a Big Hairy Audacious Goal but you’re best off approaching that goal in small, achievable steps. We find that writers who start off all guns blazing – determined to tackle the whole project in one go without much of a strategy – either burn out mid-way through or never really start.
Our own research, together with established research from neuroscience suggests that we react to a large writing goals like ‘write a book’ in the same way we might react to any threat. Studies have shown that taking on a writing goal that’s too large triggers our ancient flight or fright mechanism – we literally and metaphorically run and hide!
So, when you’re starting out on your new year goal, approach it slowly and incrementally. Rather than over-face yourself, start with a small step – just stay focused on the next small action that you need to take to move your project forwards. Don’t take on too much too soon, start slowly and crank up the effort.
Trend #2: Use time-blocking techniques for writing success
‘Trying to find the time’ to write is a killer. Scrabbling around every day trying to find snippets of time here and there is about the worst possible thing you can do if you want to ace your writing resolution. Not only is it tough to get down to anything meaningful in short snatches of time, the act of squeezing in writing is depleting and demoralising.
Saying that, it’s totally understandable. You’re a busy person and your writing isn’t as important as many of the other things going on in your life. Or is it? People who want to write want to do it for a reason – to help you achieve a goal of some kind or for personal fulfilment. Why shouldn’t you put your writing first – just for once?
Our research suggests that those who block out time in advance (per day, week or month – it doesn’t really matter) are far more productive long term. When you’ve booked in writing time – however long – you’re more committed to that time and you’re ready for it. You’re less likely to be distracted and more likely to stay focused.
Trend #3: Use ‘when-then’ planning to trigger a writing routine
It’s all too easy to make writing promises and plans for new year. More often than not – those targets go unmet and those dreams go un-realised. And that’s because according to our experience and to neuroscientists, you haven’t got an actionable ‘when-then’ plan that attaches your writing goal to an everyday part of your schedule.
When-then plans are super-simple to develop. It could just be: when the alarm clock goes off in the morning, then I’ll spend 45 minutes on my blog. When I get back from the gym, then I’ll write 500 words of my book or when I go out for morning coffee, then I’ll spend 30 minutes editing.
The research shows that one action becomes the trigger for the next and over time, the two events become fused together in your mind. The regular activity acts as a cue and a trigger of your writing commitment and that means you’re more likely to keep going long term.
So, three simple techniques led by neuroscience and observed in our own research and experience: approaching large goals in small steps; blocking out writing time in advance and using ‘when-then’ planning to trigger a routine. Three techniques that are all about helping you to tackle your large writing goal by having a system. We believe that it’s only when you have a system that you stop relying on willpower alone – and stand a far better chance of smashing your 2018 writing resolutions. Good luck!
Chris Smith is co-founder of Prolifiko, an intelligent digital coach helping writers to keep focused, keep motivated – and hit their deadlines. He’s also a blogger and an award-winning scriptwriter. Follow Prolifiko at @beprolifiko.