Like any creative work, writing requires constant focus and attention. And, like in any other creative activity, distractions often get in the way. Not only social media, email and chats with coworkers and friends are the culprits: writers, having to research and process large amounts of information, face concentration loss and willpower depletion.
Handling this problem wisely involves optimizing workflow, working on attitude, and selecting right tools to use in your daily work routine. This complex approach will help make your writing more productive, improve quality, and see the value of your work grow.
Understanding the roots of low productivity
Researchers say, human ability to focus is not designed for maintaining high concentration levels throughout an 8-hour workday. Attention span, the time that a human can spend working on a task without being distracted, can vary, but the average values range from 20 to 5 minutes. Then, we need to switch off and recharge.
The longer you can stay focused, the more creative and successful you are, right? Not exactly. Being able to switch off for a short time and then get back to work and tackle your task is key. Trying to maintain concentration in longer spans than your brain can handle can lead to fatigue, motivation loss, and eventually burnout.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can indulge yourself in scrolling through social media feed, browsing through Wikipedia articles, or watching fun videos all day. Remember the Instant Gratification Monkey? It only cares about the present, without thinking long-term. The rational decision-maker who remembers of deadlines, appointments, and goals, should be aware of the risk of letting the monkey decide what to do right now, and prevent themselves from being distracted from work tasks.
Optimizing work routine
The straightforward approach to increase productivity is trying to engage willpower and self-control and struggling with distractions throughout the day. However, a wiser approach is creating a schedule of work intervals and pauses to let your brain recharge and refresh. And here’s where time management techniques help.
One of the most popular methods for improving time management and increasing productivity is Pomodoro technique. Originally, it implied using a simple tomato-shaped kitchen timer (“Pomodoro” means “tomato” in Italian, hence the name), but today there are various software solutions available that are based on this technique.
The technique consists in breaking the workday in 25-minute work sprints and pauses between them: 3-5 minute pauses between the first four sprints, and a longer, 20-30 minute pause after four work sprints. Try an application for your Mac that will track work and pause intervals for you, or opt for a Safari extension that will work as a Pomodoro timer.
For some of us, distractions are too tempting even when we know that we’ll have a pause for them soon. To block them out, consider using a distraction-blocker app for your Mac that can block specific websites, applications, or the entire Internet. Sometimes, our willpower needs help and support, and distraction blocker apps can provide it.
A comfortable environment is important for productive writing, so think about creating it on your Mac desktop. Try some of productivity tools for writers that create a calm and distraction-free space with visual and sound effects. They maintain calmness and focus, allowing you to write better.
Staying informed on your results
When you’re working on your performance and efficiency in writing or any other creative work, it’s essential to stay updated on where you are on your way to the ultimate productivity. For that, track in detail where your time goes.
Break down your work process in specific tasks (for example, collecting information, analyzing the data, writing, proofing etc.), and keep track of time you’re spending on them. This will help you figure out what types of activities consume your time and where you can do your work faster. This also helps reveal possible time leaks due to distractions, unproductive approach, or any other reasons.
For tracking your time efficiently, use a time tracker that allows to record your work time and run reports to see your progress. Review tools available for Mac time tracking, and select the app that would work best for your purpose.
Make it a rule to run a report on your writing performance once in a specific time period (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly), and compare current results with the data from the previous period. You can compare time spent on specific work steps, or keep record of words, pages or posts written during your work time.
Working on productivity is a process that requires a mindful and complex approach. Being aware of the reasons of low productivity, adjusting your workflow to natural focusing cycles and keeping track of your progress are the crucial steps of your productivity improvement process. They help you do your work sooner and make your writing more creative and productive.