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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 October 22, 2020

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

2 Transformational Ways to Spark Your Creative Energy

Good things come in twos: Peanut butter and jelly, Day and night, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The same is true for what sparks our creative energy: our thoughts and actions.

Creativity is an inside job as much as it is about a conducive schedule, physical environment, and supportive behaviors. By establishing the right internal and external landscape, creativity can blossom from the abstract to the concrete and we can have fun along the way.

Sparking creativity is all about setting up the right conditions so a spark is ignited and sustained. The sparks don’t fizzle out. They are allowed to grow and ripen.

Think of a garden. Intention alone will not produce the delicious red tomato nor will the readiest seed. That seed needs attention at its nascent stage and as it grows a stalk and produces fruit. If we want to enjoy more than one fruit, we keep at it, cultivating the plant and reaping multiple harvests.

Creativity lives in each of us like seeds in the earth or encapsulated in a nut. Seeds of ideas, concepts, designs, stories, images, and even ways of communicating that surprise and delight await activation.

By sparking our creative energy, we activate these unique seeds. Like snowflakes, they are of a moment and always without a match. The smallest sparks encourage even the smallest, most dormant seeds to sprout.

The good news is that our creative energy wishes to be sparked—to be invited to play. It wants to be our regular playmate.

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1. Be Childlike in Your Thoughts, Attitudes, and Approach

Being childlike in our thoughts, attitudes, and approach is an easy way to internally have our thoughts be gracious prolific gardeners to our creative energy. If we want it to come out and play and hang around as our regular companion, then let’s return to our 5-year-old selves.

Our childhood selves are naturally curious. We still have that curiosity! All we have to do is remind ourselves to get curious. We can do that by simply observing and being with what is in front of us instead of making up a story about what won’t work or why something can’t be done. So, it’s about cultivating curiosity instead of jumping into judgment.

Move Your Inner Judge to the Sidelines

When we get curious, creativity percolates and, ultimately, takes its place in the world. To give a hand in choosing curiosity over judgment, we can move the judge that also lives inside us to the sidelines. The judge squashes our creative urges, even when they are as small as sharing a point of view. It’s that pesky voice that causes us to doubt ourselves or worry about what others will think.

The judge is also risk-averse. The judge likes things to stay the same. Change makes the judge nervous.

Creativity is all about risk and changing things up. It needs risk, even failure, to be its naturally innovative, dynamic, impactful self. The judge likes to convince us failure is something to be avoided at all costs.

To move the judge to the sidelines and let curiosity reign, we can pay attention to who we are in conversation with and who is calling the shots.

Is it the voice of fear, doubt, or anxiety (the inner-critic—the judge’s boss)? Or is it the voice of wisdom, courage, strength, and non-attachment, and of course curiosity (the inner-leader)?

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We can easily tell the difference by how each makes us feel. The inner-critic depletes and slows us down, putting roadblocks in the way. The inner-leader energizes and a natural rhythm develops.

It’s all about who we spend time with. If we wish to exercise, we will seek out our friends who go to the gym or hike. If we want to lose some weight, we will opt to eat dinner with someone who prefers a healthy spot over fast food.

After getting curious, we can honor what our curiosity prompts us to do. The spark can do its job and a fire starts to glow when commitment enters. Our childhood selves were fully committed to being creative. That level of commitment is still something we are very capable of exercising!!

Again, we need to let go of the judge. We can ask ourselves, what do we want to commit to—negativity that depletes our creative energy, depth, and output, or the understanding that our thoughts and attitudes matter and that right thoughts and attitudes are the sparks that really let our creativity come alive?

Learn to Recall Your Childhood Self

To get in touch with that unabashedly committed childhood self, recall your childhood self. If you have a picture, pull one out. Keep it around so you can remember to activate that innate creative nature that was prominent then and wants to be prominent now and always.

Soak in the essence of that being. Commit to their commitment to brave and dogged trial and error because it is yours as well. You are that person.

Remember how tenacious you were when you wanted to build that sandcastle. You kept at it as the waves came in. You built with fury or reconfigured the walls. Also, remember that there was a willingness to fail since you were as invested in the process as well as the outcome—but less with the outcome. You were willing to experiment and start again. There was vitality—the main lifeline of your creative energy—instead of a rigid attachment.

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When you notice you are in conversation with your inner-critic or being held back by it, simply acknowledge, name it, and then switch to your inner-leader by taking a few good deep belly breaths, rubbing two fingertips together, or listening to ambient sounds in the background.

Physical movements shift our negative thoughts over to the positive domain of the inner-leader. As our judge continues to sit on the sidelines, our ability to quiet the inner-critic becomes stronger. We taste freedom. A simple taste emboldens us to say no again to the judge and yes to what makes our hearts and spirits sing—our creativity.

We begin to spark creativity to the point it no longer needs to be invited to play. It becomes our regular playmate—the younger sibling or the kid next door ready to have some fun, maybe even make some mischief by shaking things up.

When we align with our inner-leader and think and act from its promptings, creativity flows up and out with ease, as it needs to!

Letting those initial sparks generate a creativity fire that keeps burning is something we can all do! That’s the inside job.

2. Listen to Your Inner Leaders of Creative Energy

If we listen, our inner-leaders will let us know just what we need to set-up and do in our physical world to maximize that gorgeous, hungry creativity we now have flowing freely in us.

The seed has been unlocked! So, now what?

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To enable our creative energy to take its form and place outside of us, there needs to be spaciousness! Spaciousness in our physical worlds impacts our internal one. It lets the voice of the inner-leader be heard. It lets creativity have room to be sparked and acted upon.

With a little discipline, we can easily create spaciousness in our daily lives—spaciousness that will spark our creativity and let it take shape.

So, no matter who you are and what conditions help your creativity thrive, check-out these easy-to-implement basic suggestions:

  • Reduce or eliminate multi-tasking.
  • Say yes to what matters and what aligns with your big values and goals.
  • Say no to all else.
  • Say no again.
  • Schedule time in your calendar as you do with other things in your life to just be, to ponder, to let ideas percolate, and to create.
  • Spend time doing the things that bring out your creative energy. It could be walking, singing, or simply looking out the window.
  • Meditate.
  • Breathe—long breaths in and long breaths out through the nose.
  • Invite your body and heart into your experiences so your mind is a part of you and not all of you.
  • Try a new thing to spark your creativity. If you spend time running, try a different route. If running feels stale, cruise around a museum, or go for a bike ride.
  • Play a game. Indoors out or outside. Think of what makes you happy that you haven’t done in a while. Is it a physical game like badminton or cards? Maybe it’s storytelling? Play is creative, and it sparks the creative energy, too.
  • Spend time in the places that bring out your creativity. What spot in your home could be your spot for entering into that mode? Do you need to get out? Maybe a park bench is the right spot, with a book of poetry, or even nothing at all.
  • Spend time in nature. Nature brings us to a place of calm and awe and through that our creativity is easily sparked.

Final Thoughts

These are all habits—habits of mind and habits of doing. Experiment with what works for you. Have fun. If you give even 50% to altering your thoughts and actions, then you will begin to spark your creativity. It takes a lot of curiosity and commitment, but it can definitely be done.

Our innate creative energy is a deep source of all that we seek—joy, connection, renewal. It deserves and looks forward to the changes you will make that will let sparks fly and ignite!

More Tips to Spark Your Creative Energy

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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