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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Writers: Take a Day OFF and Be More Productive

The 3rd in a series on organized writing

In the last post, we jumped in and found you an extra hour each day. Hopefully you have already made use of it! Today we’ll use that approach to find you an extra day each week, and then we’ll get right down to laying out a writing regimen you can stick to.

Pop open that calendar program and select the week view. Now you’re ready to move onto step 2.

2.    Pick one day of the week and label it OFF.
Do this the same way you found your extra hour—look at the week and decide which day appeals to you. You’ll want a day you aren’t normally at work, and ideally one that’s free of recurring obligations like Johnny’s soccer games. If you have a rotating or otherwise variable work schedule, you can shift your OFF day as needed or keep it the same each week regardless of your work schedule. More on that in a minute. For many people, the OFF day will be on a weekend, but it doesn’t have to be. My primary OFF day is Wednesday, because I’m off work then and I do work alternating weekends. (I also have progressed to a second OFF day on the weekend, however.)

About that…how can it be an OFF day if you’re at work? For the purpose of this system, I’m defining OFF days as times when you do not write, edit, or promote. (For those of you cringing at this, I’ll explain the logic momentarily.) While OFF days may sometimes happen when you’re at the day job, they are also the days we’ll be adding fun items to later. So at least one OFF day per month should fall on a day you’re not working. More is preferable.

Many pros will tell you writers must absolutely write every day of the week. Some don’t even take holidays off. That’s all well and good for those who can make a go of it over the long term, but they probably aren’t the ones who need this post. For the rest of us, downtime from writing is an essential tool for keeping our sanity intact and our word counts flowing. Even well-oiled machines need to come offline regularly for routine maintenance. So do yourself and your muse a favor by stepping away from that keyboard once a week.

Now that you’ve got your hour a day and day per week, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and take a hard look at writing time.

3.    Decide What Days to Write, Edit, and Promote
A time for each hat you wear!

The reason we’re filling out our writing schedule before adding jobs, classes, or other to-do’s is because writing is a top priority—right behind the need to nurture our health and creativity with downtime. So with that week view still open, consider how you want to divvy up the six remaining days in your week between the writing, editing, and promotion.

There are two ways to tackle this: either have set days for each, or set times each day.

If you don’t have another job, scheduling time slots for each task every day (or most days) may be the ticket to keeping things flowing regularly. If you work a significant number of hours outside the home, however, you may find it best to set up dedicated days for each task. Otherwise you’ll be trying to squeeze in too much, and productivity for each will suffer. If you aren’t sure which way to go, pick one intuitively (or use random.org: 1, do the dedicated plan; 2, go with splitting tasks daily). Experiment with it! If you find one way isn’t flowing right, switch to the other.

If you decide to have dedicated days, I don’t recommend going more than two in a row between writing sessions. Your flow will drop off and it’ll be harder to pick up again.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to divide the time equally between all three. You’ll want more time for writing than editing or promo. But don’t minimize those too much or you won’t get enough done. Here’s a couple sample dedicated day schedules:

M,T,Th,Su: Writing
W: Editing
F: Promo
Sat: OFF
OR
M, W, F: Writing
T, Th: Promo
Sat: Editing
Sun: OFF

And some daily schedules:

M,T,Th,Sat 8 am-12pm: Writing; 1-2pm: Promo
W,F 8-10 am: Promo; 10am-12pm: Editing
Sun OFF
OR
M,W,F 10am-2pm: Writing; 5-6 pm: Promo; 6-9pm:Editing
T, Th, Sun 10am-12pm: Promo; 2-4pm: Editing
Sat OFF

And so on. Getting into a regular rhythm is quite useful, because your brain will start intuitively knowing when it’s Writing vs Editing day and will start firing the proper neurons. That’s a productivity boost by itself! However, you can opt to change up the schedule periodically based on where you are with a project. Increase writing days when you are starting your book. Once it’s finished, push up the editing days. And when the book comes out, bump your promo time to give the new release a good send off. Whichever area you’re focusing on, make sure not to totally neglect the others.

Okay, so your task today is to find your day OFF and add the writing schedule you feel will work best. Tomorrow we’ll get down to business with some of the Must Do’s, but don’t worry! After that I’ve got some more fun things to plug into your schedule.


Happy planning!


Part 1: The writing schedule you need RIGHT NOW
Part 2: How to gain an extra hour every day
Part 3: Take a day OFF and be more productive
Part 4: The Smart Time approach to cleaning and appointment management
Part 5: Find Time for Everything You've Always Wanted to Try
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I'm J. Rose Allister, wife, working mom, and the author of over twenty-five books. Somewhere in between one and the next, I love hanging out here on my blog and over on Twitter. Give me a comment or follow-I love chatting with people! And if you enjoyed this post, consider sharing with friends and subscribing for updates.

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