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Top 10 productivity tools for writers: a clickable list

Time management tips


Why I made this list

Here are my top ten productivity tools for writers. Hands up, there’s a selfish motivation here but I am blogging about this because I’m on a journey of discovery for myself. I’m going to have more time to write soon, and the clichés are true: that time is precious and I don’t want to waste it. One important thing I heard blogger Michael Hyatt say recently is that we’ve all got 168 hours a week – you can’t create more time, so managing time is more about managing yourself. Sounds harsh but there’s a lot at stake here.

If I didn’t care a lot about finding more time to do the stuff I love, I wouldn’t be trying to make these discoveries. I’m not starting from scratch here. After all, I wrote a book about time management, and all told, I’ve been involved in learning and teaching writing for twenty five years (scary thought) but then none of us are starting from scratch. Recently I started to look into what’s out there now, so here goes:

  1. Plan. Your Best Year Yet, a book by Jinny Ditzler. I first read this when I was trying to write my first novel The Water’s Edge, which was published in 2003. So this has been in my life a long time. I put this at number one because it really made me think. It still does. Here’s her website, but get the book! Thanks Jinny!
  2. Focus. Pomodoro Technique. At its heart, this is so simple. Set a timer, work for 25 mins without distractions, rest for 5 mins. Such a life changer if you stick to it. If you only look into one of these, make it this one!
  3. Focus #2. Deep Work by Cal Newport. Our world is full of distractions. This is about why you should turn them off, at least while you’re working on your writing. It also gives you some strategies for doing it. The business-speak can be off putting for some people, but the message is sound. Made me think differently about my writing. I love this book.
  4. Productivity advice. Michael Hyatt’s blog. Not specifically for writers, and he does try to sell you stuff, but I think his blog posts on productivity are some of the best around. Good on getting your work / life balance right and looking after yourself.
  5. Work smart. How to be a Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott. I’m reading this now and haven’t finished it yet. Very practical advice so far, especially on managing email. I can tell I’m going to have to read it twice. One of those books you need to go through with a pencil or sticky notes.
  6. Know your One Thing. The One Thing by Gary Keller. What one thing could you do today (right now?) that would make the biggest difference? Possibly one of those books that you don’t have to read to get the central idea, but I found it pretty motivating.
  7. Find time in your day (or week?) when no-one else is around (or up?). Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It helped that a small child had trained me to wake up early in the mornings! It’s possible you don’t need the book to do this – i.e. get up earlier and do your thing. (Personally I found the book a bit too cheerful, but it’s main bit of advice – get up at 5am – works brilliantly for me.) If writing is your thing and you’re in London, UK, Write n Shine could help instead.
  8. Sleep. Night School: The Life-Changing Science of Sleep by Richard Wiseman. Why did I include a book about sleep on my list? Because getting the right amount of sleep makes such a massive difference to your health and vitality. It might actually be the one thing you need to change.
  9. Find out how other people do it. There are quite a few books on writers’ habits. I like Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. Research people who do the thing you love to do.
  10. Take small steps. Have a look at The Small Steps Guide to Goal-Setting and Time Management. I had to mention my book somewhere in the list! Chapter 7 goes over some of the main time management strategies (so you don’t have to). Set goals, take small steps, schedule them, and take regular action to make them happen.

A couple of bonus ones:

  1. Show up. Here’s Oliver Burkeman on why we should forget about waiting for inspiration.
  2. Be mindful. Have a look at Dinty Moore’s book The Mindful Writer. There are too many writing resources, making them hard to navigate. I found this one refreshing – especially the bit about not waiting for inspiration.

June 2017

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