8 unusual ways to boost your writing efficiency

Meditate, exercise, sleep more—though not all at the same time, because multitasking hampers productivity. Soon you’ll be producing more, all within your specified work period, of course.

Looking to become more prolific as a writer?

I previously wrote “13 ways to improve your writing productivity,” and I’ve come up with eight more—slightly counterintuitive—techniques to give your productivity a jolt.

Together, they give you 21 ways for writing more efficiently and effectively. Here are the new ones:

1. Take plenty of breaks. Doing so might make you feel like a slacker, but time off helps us become more productive in two ways. First, breaks keep us from getting bored and becoming unfocused. (That’s why the pomodoro approach helps.) Second, breaks help us make new connections. Our minds solve challenging problems—including those related to writing—when we aren’t working on anything. We might be walking or driving or taking a shower, and, kaboom, the solution pops into our heads. If you don’t take breaks, that won’t occur.

2. Always start with a mind map. I’m a zealot for mind mapping, because I’ve seen it help so many people defeat writer’s block. It’s a fun, approachable way to get words on the page and figure out the direction you want to take with your writing. People sometimes tell me that “mind mapping just doesn’t work” for them. As soon as I hear those words, I’m pretty sure they’re doing something wrong. If mind mapping hasn’t worked for you, have a look at the no-charge, seven-minute instructional video on my website.

3. Meditate at the beginning of your day. Meditating will help ease your anxiety if you’re fearful of writing. It will teach you to shut out distractions and quiet your inner editor—that nasty internal voice telling you your writing is no good. Meditation will also help you detach and prepare you for insights. Start small—say, five minutes a day—and withhold judgment until you’ve done it for a few months.

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4. Get some exercise. You might ask: What does exercise possibly have to do with writing? If you run, swim, row or cycle, you’re unplugged from everything—email, social media, your phone. Even at the gym, people will give you the fisheye if you spend too much time on your phone. Also, writers tend to sit a lot. Our brains require oxygen, and sitting doesn’t help generate it, but exercising does. If you exercise, your brain will work more effectively.

5. Multitask only with exercising. Multitasking is generally a bad idea for writers—except when it comes to exercising. For example, I write while walking on a working treadmill. I can type quite comfortably while walking, and when I want a break from typing I use voice activation software. Also, while walking around my neighborhood, I listen to podcasts on my headphones.

6. Turn off your phone. I previously suggested turning off your email notifications, but why did I forget to mention turning off your phone? Anytime we are distracted from our writing, it takes us a shocking 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task, and that’s on top of the length of the phone call. Don’t let your phone sabotage your work. Turn it off; catch up on calls later, once you’ve finished writing.

7. Get enough sleep. Everyone’s productivity hinges on being well rested. Arianna Huffington found this out the hard way and broke her cheekbone in the process. Listen to her interview here to find out why she wrote her new book, “The Sleep Revolution.” Most of us need from seven to nine hours of sleep per day. My sweet spot is seven. Don’t drag yourself out of bed early to write; getting enough sleep is more important.

8. Decide, in advance, how much time you’re going to devote to writing. I spent four hours this morning working on a PowerPoint presentation—time I had neither expected nor allocated. Instead of leaving work to the last minute, as I’d done in this case, give yourself shorter, smaller goals. If you start far enough in advance, you can work on the project in short bursts until it is finished. This will make you feel more in control, which will help you be more productive.

There are many benefits to being a productive writer: You’ll be happier, you’ll be healthier, you’ll make more money, and you’ll be better respected by your boss and your peers. The quality of your writing will improve, as well.

This post first appeared on the Publication Coach blog.

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