Productivity Cycles

It’s about time to take a mid-year check in. I’ve been thinking a lot about productivity lately and the never-ending quest to improve it.

Although I don’t necessarily think that a writer must write every day, it seems to me that I’m they type who is far more productive if I’m working than if I’m not. However, working more does not always equal working smarter.

To get a handle on how I actually work,  since the beginning of the year (or thereabouts), I’ve been tracking my word count. It has revealed some interesting things, and I am eternally grateful to Christie Yant for her noble tracking device.

Lesson the first: I do not write when I think I do. I thought that I wrote the most on weekends. Since I’ve begun tracking, I’ve been shocked to find that I actually very seldom write on weekends. I’ve also discovered that often if I leave the task until after my daughter goes to bed, I don’t write nearly as much as when I spend a focused hour on my lunch break at the dayjob. (A fact consistent with productivity research, which suggests we’d better get our most important stuff out of the way by 10am or we’re doomed).

Lesson the second: I had no idea that I wrote cyclically, and that the cycles are predictable, very like a moon phase. To wit, I usually write consecutively for about 3 weeks, and then I need 5-7 days to “think.” I’ve not correlated this directly with moon phases, but it wouldn’t surprise me if somehow I’m right in sync.

Lesson the third: I don’t write as much as I thought. I was fairly certain I wrote 1000 words a day, but the average was something more like 600. 900 on a good day. As previously mentioned, my most productive times, oddly enough, are during the work week, when I’m also doing 40 hours at the dayjob. I write more in a one- hour period on my lunch break than I do over 4 hours in the evenings or on the weekends.

This could be attributed, of course, to the obvious. I have a small child. Or that by 9pm, I’m really quite worthless for anything except TV, reading, or scrolling on Twitter. (I find that reducing time on social media vastly increases my productivity; it’s probably no surprise that I have no access to wi-fi on my lunch break. I’ve been trying to force myself to cut back, but it’s a very hard habit to break. I’ve even considered cutting Internet to the house entirely, but my resident My Little Pony expert might disagree with that).

giphyWord count is a pale kind of metric, since it can’t really ascribe quality or value to the words. Still, it’s a metric of some sort, an acknowledgment that I’m working.

To date, I’ve:

-written 70K words

-finished one draft of a novel

-gotten halfway through a novella (though it may end up being a novelette)

-drafted and submitted several short stories

And so it goes. Though I finished the novel draft by my target in April, we’re now mostly through June and I’m still trying to get novel revisions underway. I took some time off to think and to retreat with one of my writing groups (#Howl2016 represent!). I certainly needed some distance, but I didn’t expect to take so long to get it. A luxury of not having a deadline, I suppose, and also its peril.

What happens when you are not writing is Life. Which is very good, sometimes, but also very frustrating when it comes to visible output. You can’t see it, but I have been working quite steadily again after a long drought. And it is deeply frustrating to me that you can’t see it, that I can’t show it to you, because I know it’s not ready. I must be patient.

A thing I am usually not.

If you’re working on a book or other creative project, it might help to track your progress and figure out how you work best, and then start working on making that better I’m reading 2k to 10k now, hoping to glean some good ideas.

I also use Passion Planner to help me break my goals down into concrete steps.

What are some things you’ve tried in your quest for productivity?



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