The Quest for Productivity

I’m lazy like an old cat on a blanket in the sun.  I’d far rather sit on the beanbag and read ALL the books than do anything that resembles work.  Even work I enjoy doing like writing.  I am also very insecure.  I have a lot of negative talk going in my head all the time and writing doesn’t get a pass there, either.

In fact, if ideas didn’t boil over in my head and basically frog-march me to the computer, I’d probably never get anything done.  Being poor doesn’t hurt, either, as my father loves to say “poor is a good motivator”.  Between the stories in my head writing themselves and begging me to start typing and the fact that my husband and cat like to have the heat on in winter, I manage to get work done despite my nature.

But I’d like to get more work done and I’d like to get it done more quickly so that I can get back to that whole reading thing (or playing videogames, that will do in a pinch).

Stress and depression are my biggest hurdles.  This last year has been a roller-coaster for me between my husband having a little cancer, my grandfather dying, my husband losing his job, Clarion, medical bills, etc.  I try to console myself that I’ve written over 400,000 words and still got a lot done, but it doesn’t ever seem like enough because I can’t manage to do the one thing I really want to do which is write more consistently on a schedule of some sort.  And I know that I’m capable of more than I’ve done, so that bugs me, too.

And I think I might have found a way to do more.  I met another writer at Orycon who insisted that I come hang out at a coffee shop and write-in for NaNoWriMo.  I almost didn’t go.  I don’t like writing in busy spaces, I don’t really enjoy being around strangers and find socializing draining, and I wasn’t sure it would be a useful experience.

I went anyway because, on the other hand, it sounded fun.

Boy am I glad I did.

I wrote 4500 words, the first chapter of a brand new novel.  In 3 hours of actual writing time. Around people.  And thus I discovered an amazing new way to work.

The structure of the write-in was this: 45 minutes of quiet where we all wrote, followed by 15 minutes of break time where we chatted, got more coffee, etc.  Rinse, repeat.

It worked so well for me that I came home and decided to try it here.  I didn’t have an hourglass (I do now!) so I used an online egg timer for my 45 minutes.  Apparently being timed helps me focus, because I write as much in 45 minutes as I used to in an hour to an hour and a half.   That’s right, 1000 to 1500 words in 45 minutes.  Something about knowing that I have to work now but I get a break soon lets me put off the little things I used to let creep into writing time. Want to check my email? It can wait 20 minutes until my time is up.  Want more tea? It can wait until my timer is up. 45 minutes is such a short time, just about anything can wait while I get the work done.  Plus I can use the timer to mentally trick myself into doing more in the same way I use the timer on the treadmill at the gym to get myself moving longer.  Want to finish this chapter? Well, okay, I’ll just set another45 minutes.  It’s less than an hour, I can manage one more session.

And I’m starting to work in little bits of extra writing time.  Before, if I didn’t have a large chunk of time free, I didn’t even bother to start.  Now? All I need is 45 minutes.

It seems so simple, but without the NaNo write-in, I’d never have thought to try this. I probably would have shoved it off as “I can’t get enough done in 45 minutes” or something.

So that’s my new method for getting things done. 45 minute chunks.  It’s almost 7:15pm now, so I’d better go flip the hourglass over and get a little work done.  After all, what’s 45 more minutes?

11 Responses to “The Quest for Productivity”

  1. Shanna Germain

    Happy happy happy that you’re writing more!

  2. James Worrad

    This kind of fits in with what I’ve heard about Neuroscientists are saying- 45 mins being the full length of optimum human concentration. Schools have been talking about implementing it as class length.

    Also, I’ve met lecturers who say students start gazing into the mid-distance after 45 m.

    Hmm… thanks, I may have to implement this!

  3. Sabine A. Reed

    I usually do my writing in 20 minute periods, and then do web surfing. Of course the most I have ever written is 2000 words in one day. I just can’t push myself harder than that.

    • izanobu

      2000 words a day consistently is about 8 books a year. I’d say that is plenty if you do it on a regular basis. Even I would be fairly happy with 8 books a year 🙂

  4. Jeremy Jennings

    That sounds worth trying (except for the coffee shop part, I don’t have perfect pitch and I get really distressed when people are around when I’m writing…)

  5. malinfox

    Hey, that’s awesome! Finding a good method that works for you is so important. Although I do think you were plenty productive before! 🙂 Can’t wait to see what comes from this…

  6. Goals for the New Year (2012) « A Little Imagination

    […] minute session (if you don’t know what I’m talking about with the sessions, see my post on productivity here).  My word count goal for 2012 works out to about 700 hours of work.  Not insignificant, but not […]

  7. John Brown

    That’s the same trick for me. I’m doing 48 minute chunks. It’s a tremendous way to work!

  8. John Brown – the author's official site » Blog Archive » Work hard for 45 minutes, then take a break

    […] doing this. A lot of folks use this method. Author Annie Bellet writes about her use of it in The Quest for Productivity and shares some of the reasons why it helps her. Read what she says there. If you haven’t […]

Comments are closed.