I get to hear the word “productivity” at least 10 times a day from the Internet, TV, my friends, and my wife. I’m glad at least my microwave oven doesn’t care. But indeed, productivity nowadays have become some sort of cult. When you apply for a job at a company, your hirer would probably ask you something like, “Are you productive?” As if he or she was really expecting you to say: “Nope, I’m not.”
However, I believe people tend to misunderstand this concept (or is it me who has a different point of view?). It seems productivity is usually seen as an ability to do lots of things in short periods of time. Like write three reports, call 20 customers, arrange five contracts, and walk your boss’ dog–all before lunch. But, how long can an average person last trying to keep up with this pace?
Some people can live years like this before they break down… but I believe productivity is something else. To me, it’s an ability to consistently accomplish the amount of work which matches your inner resources day by day, year after year. Although this sounds a bit similar to what I’ve written above, it’s a slightly different approach. It does not mean “to work less;” it means to be able to work without failures, breaks, or inhumane exertion. Based on this understanding, I have some tips for you which might help you maintain your productivity as a writer.
1. Take breaks. My rule is taking a 10 minute break for each 30 minutes of work (unless I’m on a writing streak!). The trick is our minds are the most focused for the first 15-20 minutes of doing anything; after this, we tend to get distracted. By taking small breaks (during which you shouldn’t think about your work) you will help your mind remain more focused.
2. Meditate. Seriously, it’s easy, and it totally has nothing in common with prayers, religious techniques, or whatever. Meditation is an exercise for your mind, which helps you get rid of flickering thoughts and stress. Meditating regularly, your mind will become clearer, and thus your productivity (apart from other positive effects of meditation) will increase. Also, you don’t have to spend hours in weird positions: 10-20 minutes sitting normally daily is enough.
3. Physical exercises. There has been said enough about the use of physical activity. I’ll just add it works perfectly with point #1 of this list.
4. Eliminate distractions. Clean your working place. Put on your headphones and turn on some calm, unobtrusive music–non-rhythmic is better (well, unless you live in the countryside, and have beautiful sounds of nature around you all day long). Block Facebook, Twitter, 9gag, Viber, news, Reddit, or whatever else you use–there are plenty of applications which can block such websites for the time period you specify. In other words, get rid of anything–except your work tools and your writing–you may feel like drawing your attention to.
5. Try something new regularly. A prose author who has never written a single poem? Do it. Always wondered how Shakespeare managed to write in sonnets? Try it out yourself. Always wanted to write something harsh, violent, and so on? Do it (just don’t show it to other people, unless it’s really good). Getting bored of intellectual dialogues and refined characters? Write a story about a street gang of junkies. Seek for something interesting to broaden your limits.
In the next part of this post, I will provide you with some more tips on how to diversify your daily work as a writer, and remain productive until the day you decide to quit being an author and become a docker (although these two occupations do not contradict each other).
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