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12 Productivity Hacks For Authors

12 Productivity Hacks For Authors

Becoming a productive author takes practice and using certain habits. Today’s author faces demand to write books, create blog posts and other materials to sell books and grow their career. Use these productivity habits to get more work done each day. Let’s get started with these 11 productivity hacks for authors.

1. Set Daily Writing Goals

Writing a book may appear overwhelming at first – there are thousands of words to be written! To get over this anxiety and concern, start by setting daily writing goals. Jeff Goins, a successful blogger and author of several books, encourages aspiring authors to write 500 words every day. Entrepreneur and author Nathan Barry changed his career by writing 1,000 words per day for over 500 days.

Set a writing goal that you will keep for the next month. For the best results, use word count (rather than pages or paragraphs) since it is easier to measure.

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2. Write With Ear Plugs

Background noise is frustrating. If you work in a cubicle or open office, the noise can become overwhelming. Neville Medhora, author of This book will teach you how to write better, recommends wearing ear plugs when you need to focus and get a lot of writing done. There’s also a bonus benefit – people are less likely to distract you when you wear ear plugs.

3. Use A Mindmap to Plan Your Book

Facing a blank sheet of paper (or an blank computer screen) gives some people writer’s block. Rather than sitting there and feeling frustrated, consider using a mindmap instead. Tyler Wagner, author of Conference Crushing and founder of Authors Unite, has long used mind maps to develop ideas.

4. Read Outside Your Field

In order to study the craft and art of writing, you nee to commit to reading books. Best selling author Neil Gaiman observed that becoming a fantasy author means reading in many fields. In a BrainPickings interview, Gaiman commented, “If you like fantasy and you want to be the next Tolkien, don’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies — Tolkien didn’t read big Tolkienesque fantasies, he read books on Finnish philology. Go and read outside of your comfort zone, go and learn stuff.”

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5. Use “Distraction Free” Writing Tools

Writing on a computer makes life easier for authors in many respects. You can cut and paste text. Many common spelling errors are easily detected and corrected. Yet, computers are also full of distractions! If you are struggling to focus, consider using a specialized writing tool. Here are a few suggestions to get you started: OmmWriter, FocusWriter or Write or Die (a great tool for those who want pressure to produce!)

6. Use Writing Templates

Blogger and author Michael Hyatt frequently uses templates to write blog posts faster. You can use templates to help you write a book faster. For example, a template for a chapter in a business book might include: define the problem, present two case studies and finish with suggestions to solve the problem. You can create your own templates by studying the structure of popular books in your field.

7. Tell Stories Not Just Facts

Stories give life and excitement to your writing. Even if you are writing a non-fiction book, look for ways to include stories. For example, include case studies, tell how a person overcame a problem, or share a story from your own life. Even better – the drama of a story often makes for faster, more productive writing. Read Made To Stick for more insight on how to craft stories and make your message memorable.

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8. Carry and Use An Idea Notebook

James Altucher carries a waiter’s notepad with him every day. Why? He finds it is an easy way to quickly note down ideas as they occur to him. You may be coming home from the gym and finally get an idea – use an idea notebook to gather those ideas. Those who prefer digital tools may prefer to use Evernote. You never know when inspiration will strike!

9. Schedule A Set Writing Time Each Day

If you are writing your book and have other demands on your time (e.g. a corporate day job), consider setting a fixed schedule for writing. Author and computer science professor Cal Newport used a fixed schedule to write books, do research and stay productive. If you take a train to work, you could use your commuting time to write parts of your book.

10. Outsource Non-Writing Tasks

Creating a successful book requires more than words. The book needs a cover, layout, marketing and more. If you are struggling with all the non-writing aspects of being an author, look for a way to outsource some of those tasks. For graphic design (e.g. book covers, illustrations or logos), you can use a service like 99 designs.

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11. Write An Outline First

Writing an outline first is a great way to improve your productivity as an author. Start by writing out all of the chapter titles of your book. Next, you can write the headings for the various sections within a chapter. Spending an hour or two to create a rough outline for your book will significantly improve your productivity.

Featured photo credit: Pen and Notebook/condesign via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on July 23, 2019

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life

In the journey of growth, there are times when we grow and excel. We are endlessly driven and hyped up, motivated to get our goals.

Then there are times when we stagnate. We feel uninspired and unmotivated. We keep procrastinating on our plans. More often than not, we get out of a rut, only to get back into another one.

How do you know if you are stagnating? Here are some tell-tale signs:

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  • If you have been experiencing chronic procrastination on your goals
  • If you don’t ever feel like doing anything
  • If you keep turning to sleep, eating, games, mindless activities and entertainment for comfort
  • If you know you should be doing something, but yet you keep avoiding it
  • If you have not achieved anything new or significant now relative to 1 month, 2 months or 3 months ago
  • If you have a deep sense of feeling that you are living under your potential

When we face stagnation in life, it’s a sign of deeper issues. Stagnation, just like procrastination, is a symptom of a problem. It’s easy to beat ourselves over it, but this approach is not going to help. Here, I will share 5 steps to help you move out of this stagnation. They won’t magically transform your life in 1 night (such changes are never permanent because the foundations are not built), but they will help you get the momentum going and help you get back on track.

1. Realize You’re Not Alone

Everyone stagnates at some point or another. You are not alone in this and more importantly, it’s normal. In fact, it’s amazing how many of my clients actually face the same predicament, even though all of them come from different walks of life, are of different ages, and have never crossed paths. Realizing you are not alone in this will make it much easier to deal with this period. By trying to “fight it”, you’re only fighting yourself. Accept this situation, acknowledge it, and tell yourself it’s okay. That way, you can then focus on the constructive steps that will really help you.

2. Find What Inspires You

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Stagnation comes because there isn’t anything that excites you enough to take action. If you don’t have a habit of setting goals, and instead just leave yourself to daily mundanes, it’s not surprising you are experiencing stagnation. What do you want to do if there are no limitations? If you can have whatever you want, what will it be? The answers to these questions will provide the fuel that will drive you forward.

On the other hand, even if you are an experienced goal setter, there are times when the goals you set in the past lose their appeal now. It’s normal and it happens to me too. Sometimes we lose touch with our goals, since we are in a different emotional state compared to when we first set them. Sometimes our priorities change and we no longer want to work on those goals anymore. However, we don’t consciously realize this, and what happens is we procrastinate on our goals until it compounds into a serious problem. If that’s the case for you, it’s time to relook into your goals. There’s no point in pursuing goals that no longer inspire you. Trash away your old goals (or just put them aside) and ask yourself what you really want now. Then go for them.

3. Give Yourself a Break

When’s the last time you took a real break for yourself? 3 months? 6 months? 1 year? Never? Perhaps it’s time to take a time-out. Prolonged working can cause someone to become disillusioned as they lose sight of who they are and what they want.

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Go take some extended leave from work. A few days at bare minimum; a few weeks or months will be great. Some of my ex-colleagues have quit their jobs and took months out to do some self-reflection. Of course, some of us might not have that luxury, so we can stick to a few weeks of leave. Go on a trip elsewhere and get away from your work and your life. Use this chance to get a renewed perspective of life. Think about your life purpose, what you want and what you want to create for your life in the future. These are big questions that require deep thinking over them. It’s not about finding the answers at one go, but about taking the first step to finding the answers.

4. Shake up Your Routines

Being in the same environment, doing the same things over and over again and meeting the same people can make us stagnant. This is especially if the people you spend the most time with are stagnant themselves.

Change things around. Start with simple things, like taking a different route to work and eating something different for breakfast. Have your lunch with different colleagues, colleagues you never talked much with. Work in a different cubicle if your work has free and easy seating. Do something different than your usual for weekday evenings and weekends. Cultivate different habits, like exercising every day, listening to a new series of podcasts every morning to work, reading a book, etc (here’s 6 Proven Ways To Make New Habits Stick). The different contexts will give you different stimulus, which will trigger off different thoughts and actions in you.

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When I’m in a state of stagnancy, I’ll get a sense of what’s making me stagnate. Sometimes it’s the environment I’m in, sometimes it’s the people I’ve been hanging out with, sometimes it’s my lifestyle. Most of the times it’s a combination of all these. Changing them up helps to stir myself out of the stagnant mode.

5. Start with a Small Step

Stagnation also comes from being frozen in fear. Maybe you do want this certain goal, but you aren’t taking action. Are you overwhelmed by the amount of work needed? Are you afraid you will make mistakes? Is the perfectionist in you taking over and paralyzing you?

Let go of the belief that it has to be perfect. Such a belief is a bane, not a boon. It’s precisely from being open to mistakes and errors that you move forward. Break down what’s before you into very very small steps, then take those small steps, a little step at a time. I had a client who had been stagnating for a long period because he was afraid of failing. He didn’t want to make another move where he would make a mistake. However, not wanting to make a mistake has led him to do absolutely nothing for 2-3 years. On the other hand, by doing just something, you would already be making progress, whether it’s a mistake or not. Even if you make a supposed “mistake”,  you get feedback to do things differently in the next step. That’s something you would never have known if you never made a move.

More to Help You Stay Motivated

Here are some resources that will help you break out of your current phase:

Featured photo credit: Anubhav Saxena via unsplash.com

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