Productivity is a difficult thing to induce manually. It seems like it’s just something that either happens or doesn’t — one day you’re doubling your usual output without even noticing, the next you’re struggling to come up with even half of what you normally accomplish. So what’s the issue here? Well, there’s a couple possibilities.
You Have No Clear Goal
Attempting to up your productivity with no established goal is like participating in a race with no finish line. Yeah, running is nice enough on its own, but that’s not the point of a race, is it?
To achieve anything at all, the first thing you’ve got to do is define that achievement clearly. You’ve got to pick a metric, and measure your progress against it. The most obvious one is wordcount, but it can be pretty much anything. Write! provides a nice spread of stats for every document you’ve got, as well as overall productivity statistics. You can choose a goal to work toward, and Write! will count down until you reach it.
Check out this post on how to use Write! counters to maximize your productivity.
You’re Not Motivating Yourself
If your reward for a job well done is the nice feeling of having done a job well, that might not be sufficient for productivity. What you really need is to set up a system of rewards for doing well.
This accomplishes two things: it gives you a treat to look forward to when you hit your goal and it eliminates the feeling of guilt when you don’t. Not finishing something on time or not doing the full volume of work that you planned to do simply means that you don’t get the treat, not that you’re a failure.
As for the rewards themselves, establish two tiers: one for small accomplishments, and one for large ones. Give yourself the small reward when you’ve met all your goals for the day, and the larger one for when you hit a weekly goal or finish working on a large project. Easy motivation. Now all that’s left is the self control not to indulge when it’s not appropriate.
You’re not Holding Yourself Accountable
You do a good job, you get a reward — easy enough. But what happens when you miss a deadline or don’t write enough to fill your quota? Any system that includes chance for failure needs accountability measures, and if yours is just “eh, whatever, I’ll do better next time”, that’s a red flag and possibly a large part of your problem.
Same as with the reward system, you need to figure out a system that will help you be accountable for the times you’ve slacked off.
The solution could be as easy as adding the missing number of words/pages to next day’s quota to keep your weekly plan on track. If you want to make things harder on yourself, you can make the penalty more grueling, like minutes you have to spend jogging for every word not written. Let yourself be creative here.
You’re Not Reflecting on Your Process
The most glaring error you can commit when trying to up your writing productivity is building new plans and goals on top of others without taking the time to reflect on your process.
Set up a time at the end of each week when you reflect on your goals and the methods you took to reach them. If you got through the week getting things done on schedule and according to plan, then good, more of the same. If not, course correct. Simple!
Establish reflection as part of your routine, and you’ll find that reaching goals has become easier, since you’re applying rational thinking to the process, displacing the instinct and reflex that leads to procrastination and missed deadlines.
So how does your process match up? Are you guilty of any of the above? If yes, you shouldn’t have any shame in making mistakes, since that’s what makes us better in the first place. And now that you know what the weak points might be, you can target them in making your writing process more productive.