If you write for a living, chances are you find yourself fatigued or burned out from time to time. Although some writers may be able to step away for a few hours or even days, your paycheck depends on your ability to keep pushing through. Do you know how to remain productive even when your brain feels like mush?
The worst thing you can do when you feel burned out is ignore it. This will either result in low-quality work or an emotional breakdown—and possibly both. You have to confront the issue head-on and acknowledge the problem. Try some of the following productivity tips that other talented writers use:
1. Set mini-checkpoints and goals
The human brain thrives when it sees an end in sight. That’s why long distance runners often get fatigued halfway through a race, then get a “second wind” when the race is almost over. It’s much easier to push through when you know the finish line is near.
Bringing the topic back to writing, you can trick your brain into staying focused by dividing your day up into sections. Instead of sitting down at 8 a.m. and planning on writing until 4 p.m., break your day up into hour-long segments. Write for an hour and then take a 10-minute break. Write for another hour and take another short break. When your mind knows that you only have to push through for a 60-minute block of time, you’re much more apt to stay on task.
2. Tune out your surroundings
One problem many writers have is getting distracted. Between the internet and other external factors in your immediate surroundings, staying focused is hard for anyone. How well you’re able to tune these things out will dictate whether you’re capable of staying on task.
“I increase my writing productivity tremendously by turning off social media and sometimes shutting down my Internet access all together,” writer Therese Walsh says. “I’ll then do a set of noise-cancelling headphones, listen to something meditative and without words, and begin writing.”
Depending on what factors distract you, your system may look a little different. The important thing is taking active steps to combat distractions.
3. Get out of the house
If you work from home, then you’re all too familiar with the distractions that tempt you on a daily basis. There’s TV, laundry, cooking, cleaning, video games and your comfy bed. While you may think you’re strong enough to fight off these different siren songs, you can easily slip into doing something you shouldn’t as soon as the first sign of writer’s fatigue sets in.
As soon as you notice yourself getting burned out, grab your laptop and go somewhere else—the local library, a coffee shop, a park or anywhere else that will provide you with a quick change of scenery. As soon as you arrive, get back to work. For most people, the simple act of running away from distractions will provide an immediate productivity boost.
4. Proofread later
Everyone has his or her own preferred method of writing. Some like to write a paragraph and then immediately proofread it. Others prefer to write a full page or chapter before going back over it. But here’s a suggestion: Write first, proofread later.
When you write without proofreading, something incredible happens. Instead of worrying about grammatical mistakes and problems with content structure, you’re free to just let the words flow freely. The act of writing without stopping should enable you to get more done without losing your focus. You’ll be amazed by how well it works.
5. Have someone hold you accountable
You have your own set of goals, but does anyone else know what those goals are? Sharing your goals with someone else will actually help hold you accountable.
Your accountability partner could be a roommate, friend, spouse, or co-worker—it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that you tell him or her your goals and that he or she checks in with you on a regular basis to make sure you’re staying on track. Just knowing someone else is watching will help.
Nobody likes feeling fatigued—especially when you have thousands of words waiting to be written. The good news is that you can overcome burnout and keep pushing through by relying on some of these tips and tricks.
What are you waiting for? Start using them today.
Larry Alton is a freelance writer who has been featured on The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur and Techcrunch.