12 Ways to Boost Your Writing Productivity
Do you have enough time to write each day? As a Christian author, how many times have you said, “If only I had more time to write?” But before we can successfully juggle writing, work, and family life, Christian writers need a better understanding of time management. Here are 12 ways you can boost your writing productivity.
Many people believe that being idle is unproductive. So we over-pack our schedules and stress ourselves to the max by constantly doing, doing, doing. And amid our extreme busyness, we can forget that being too busy can decrease our productivity.
We may feel overwhelmed by our lengthy and never-ending to-do lists. Busyness has become a status symbol. Always rushing around from one task to another. Constantly busy 24/7. As Americans, we’re busier than ever, filling our lives with constant motion and tasks to be accomplished. Even we Christians fall into the trap of over-scheduling, over-doing, and over-committing our time and resources.
What God Says About Time
When we think about how we fill our time, we should start with what God says about time.
First, our time is not ours. Just as we should think of our possessions and money as on loan to us from God, so is our time.
Second, our time is limited. We have been given a certain amount of time here on Earth for our lifetime. We have no way of knowing how long or short our lives will be (Psalm 89:47).
Third, there is a time for everything. Paying attention to the season we’re in can help us view time in its proper context (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
When we rightly view time as belonging to God, we can see how we can fill that time in a different light.
Keep a time journal. To improve your time management and productivity, I recommend keeping a time journal to find out how you spend your time. Most time journals should be kept for an entire week, but try it for a day to see where you’re spending your time. Use your phone, a stopwatch or monitor the clock and record what you do in 15-minute increments.
By keeping a time journal, you can see at a glance where your time goes. For those who might say, “I don’t have time to keep such a detailed journal for a day, let alone a week,” you are probably the person who really needs to keep one. Much like we can’t create a budget without knowing to the penny our income and expenses, we can’t re-evaluate our time unless we know where we spend it.
Ultimately, we need to reclaim our time in the sense that it is a precious gift from God and not something to be used up lightly. However, let me stress that I’m not saying we must stuff every minute of our day with things to do, obligations, and responsibilities. What I’m advocating for is to approach our time management with the idea of how best to use it for the purposes God has called us, including our writing.
Boosting Productivity in Life and Writing
Many of us write in addition to either working full time or juggling other responsibilities. (Thought about being a full-time writer? How to Start a Writing Career as a Christian Author can help.) The following time management strategies can free up time you can spend writing.
Beware of the waste zone.
We all have tendencies to waste time, whether it’s Internet surfing, chat-room discussions, social media updates or streaming movies. While these activities aren’t necessarily bad in and of themselves, they can grab great gobs of time often without us noticing. Your time journal should identify your particular time wasters. Once you know what you spend your time on, you’ll be better able to identify things to eliminate or watch.
Plan your week.
On Saturday or Sunday, create a productivity planner by taking a few minutes to think about what you need to accomplish each day of the coming week. Incorporate housework, shopping, children’s activities, appointments, and job-related tasks. But be realistic—if you continually miss your daily goals, you could become more stressed. Don’t forget to schedule downtime to relieve stress and keep you recharged.
When you have a busy week, separate your to-do list into what’s absolutely necessary from what can be put off until another day. Keep your mind focused on the important tasks and temporarily ignore the other things.
Multitask with purpose.
Be wary of trying to do too much at one time. Sometimes we can accomplish more if we only focus on one task at a time. With all the available technology, the ability to multitask all the time is greater than ever—but that doesn’t mean we should constantly do two or more things at one time. It’s okay to turn off the cell phone or log out of your email for a set time.
Ask for help.
Enlist the help of your family or co-workers for extra assistance when you have deadlines looming and need to be extra productive. Giving them specific tasks to do instead of a general “help me” will go a long way to garnering support.
Hunt for shortcuts.
Find ways to do some tasks in less time. Scheduling apps can save time for a myriad of tasks, both work- and home-related.
Readjust your expectations.
We all have expectations of how we should write, but often we take on how others write and think that’s how we should work as well. If we let expectations run over us, we end up busier than ever, doing things that are not fulfilling or maybe even necessary. Realize that you are you with your own set of skills, abilities, talents—and limitations.
Learn to work in increments.
Train yourself to be productive in small amounts of time because sometimes that’s all you get. Being able to start and stop projects quickly is a handy tool to being productive.
Schedule busy work, both job- and home-related.
With any job, there’s “busy work”—those housekeeping tasks like checking and responding to e-mails, returning phone calls, filing, and bookkeeping. Block out specific times to check e-mail or put together a mailing project. Set a timer to help keep you on track, so those tasks don’t become time wasters.
Organize your day the night before.
One of the easiest ways to lower daily stress is to get ready for the next day the evening before. Your day will go much smoother if you avoid the morning harried, rushing about that happens in most households.
Develop a relaxing bed-time routine.
Experts say going to sleep at the same time each night and waking at the same time each morning is the best for your body. Resist the urge to stay up late working or being online. Set aside 20 to 30 minutes of “downtime” before you crawl under the covers.
Batch tasks together to optimize your time and productivity. This time management tool is based on the concept that when we have blocks of time devoted to a single task, we accomplish much more. To effectively batch, you need a master list of tasks you do regularly, as well as a sense of what your usual week looks like. Start by jotting down all your daily tasks. Then jot down things you need to do weekly, such as regular appointments/events and other things on your calendar. Once you have a master list, take an Excel spreadsheet (or Word document—whatever works for you), and start mapping out blocks of time-based on your typical week. Batch tasks in half-hour or more increments. (If you want a free batching Excel template, contact me through my website.) The hardest part of implementing batching is adhering to the task at hand for the time specified without switching over to another task.
By using these productivity and time management techniques, you can reclaim your time—and find more time to write what God has called you to share with the world. (For more on being a writer who loves Jesus, read How to Establish Yourself as a Christian Writer.) Because in the end, even if you write only ten words a day, you have fulfilled your calling as a writer.
About the Author
Sarah Hamaker writes romantic suspense novels, nonfiction books, and stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul volumes. As a coach, her heart is encouraging writers. She’s a member of ACFW; ACFW Virginia Chapter; and Faith, Hope and Love, as well as the president of Capital Christian Writers Fellowship. Her podcast, “The Romantic Side of Suspense,” can be found wherever you listen to podcasts. Connect with Sarah at sarahhamakerfiction.com.