Sharon Sarmiento writes over at 901am, 5 ways to work less and get more done online. This is good advice that may help you if you’re having a hard time managing your blogging schedule, whether you work full time at it or not. Particularly useful to me is point #1: restrict your work hours to increase efficiency. Kathy Sierra also talked about this over at the Headrush blog. If you’re trying to learn in limited time, check out hacking knowledge: 77 ways to learn faster, deeper, and better.
Now, I guess I’m bad for this. Since 2005, I’ve been putting in 10-17 hour days blogging. When I first shrank the time spent in late 2005, I found that I got my work done regardless. The trick is that I had to leave my workspace and go do other things. So sometimes I’d shoot off to the local Farmer’s Market or go see a movie or whatever. And I’d still get my scheduled blogging done (this was all my own work then). But when I started getting (ghost)blogging contracts in 2006, I started feeling guilty that I wasn’t spending more time for my clients. Big mistake. So I did, and I allowed all sorts of distractions, getting less done in more time. And so I ended up in the same 10-17 hr/day trap.
Part of the problem in work for yourself is that it’s easy to think you have the whole day to finish work. This is a mistake because your work will expand to fill that void, if you let it. You have to discipline yourself to structure your time – something I struggle with constantly.
Finally, as of two weeks ago, I got sick of blogging 7 days a week. How different was this when I was a workaholic in the “real” world? So I decided to shrink my work week to M-F, and leave Sat/Sundays for my own blogging. I just started this last week and it’s getting better — and I’m actually starting to get more work done than when I spent more time.
I experienced the same phenomenon when I designed and co-wrote a book on web programming in 2002. I was spending 16 hrs a day writing and feeling like I was getting nowhere – sometimes staring at the computer screen. When I told myself it was okay to go shopping, okay to see a movie, visit friends, etc., I found that not only did I get my quota of at least 3000 words/day of technical writing done, but I managed to do it in only 10 hrs per day, as well as fire off some programming and diagrams.
Change of scenery is especially important for creative endeavours such as writing, especially if you’re stagnating in ideas. I managed to produce 900 pages of text, code and diagrams in only 3 months, plus a month of editing. Had I not taken breaks, I doubt I would have produced that much content in that amount of time.
As for the here and now, my next step is to shrink down to an 8 hour/day schedule, then maybe 6 after that, so that I can start doing other activities that I’ve forgotten about. Like having a life outside blogging. I find that I have to try different scheduling and productivity techniques regularly, to see which method fits at the time. I’m great at planning and writing down what “needs to be done today”, as Sharon suggests, but when it comes to getting it all done, I often get distracted by the millions of administrative details that need to be taken care of.
But I am learning and at least trying, which ensure that I keep blogging as a profession. Save for a bit of overlap with Sharon’s tips, here are a few of my own tips:
- Change the medium.
E.g., switch from typing on the computer to planning on paper, or vice versa.
- Change your viewpoint.
If you have a laptop, try working in another room. Some experts suggest you don’t work in your bedrom, else insomnia may set in. But not everyone has the option.
- Change stimulus.
Listen to some music for a while, or the TV. (But do turn the TV off when you start to write again, else the visuals may distract you and reduce productivity.) I find that watching comedy for at least an hour a day helps me loosen up my writing style. If I’m suffering the screaming blue meanies (seasonal depression), I’ll watch two hours or more.
- Change of scenery.
Put down your laptop and go somewhere else, do something else. I’ll sometimes go walk in the forest with the dogs. Watching a movie at a theatre also very often helps me get creative.
- Change your schedule.
If your current schedule isn’t working, try something different. I’m a night bird, but when I can manage it, I like to do most of my reading either late night (after 10 pm) or early in the morning. When I was working solely on my short stories and novellas in 2002, I found that if I wrote at least 500 words before 10 am, I could often write 3000 words that day. But if for whatever reason I put off doing any writing (even just garbage doodling) until after that time, I usually couldn’t get more than 1000 words. Similarly, I tend to be ultra productive on some Saturdays, if I first spend the morning and afternoon in pure reading, with no distractions.
Not all of these tips will work for everyone, so you have to discover it for yourself. What blogging productivity techniques do you use that work for you?