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Techniques for Productivity

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Philip Overby, Oct 12, 2013.

  1. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I'm always looking for ways to boost my productivity. I'm sure most of us are. I'm lucky if I get about 1,000 words written a day. I typically write something everyday, but it may be spread out between blog posts, articles, novel writing, and short stories. So it's all over the place.

    I went to Google for answers. Because, well that's what everyone does first.

    I found this:

    The Pomodoro Technique: How I Write 5,000 Words Every Day • Ryan Casey

    I can write 5,000 words a day? Whoa, that's like a first draft in under a month! Sounds like a scam, right? Well, I read it over and I couldn't find anything that shot up any red flags.

    It's called The Pomodoro Technique. It's not just used for writing, but for doing anything. Here's how it works:

    1. Set a timer for 25 minutes. Not too long, right?
    2. Write straight for 25 minutes without stopping. (Write or Die is an excellent way to prevent you from stooping)
    3. Stop. Take a 5 minute break.
    4. Repeat the 25 minute working, 5 minute resting for four cycles. (2 hours)
    5. Once you've completed four cycles, take a longer break to eat lunch, watch TV, knit a scarf, whatever.
    6. Repeat.

    For now, I'm not working during the day, I don't have kids, and I have lots of free time. So obviously this won't be hard for me to test out.

    Now if you don't have much time, you surely have at least 2 hours a day to work on stuff in short bursts. I mean, hell, most people spend 25 minutes looking at Facebook or watching videos on Youtube. 25 minutes isn't that long.

    I'm going to try this method out tomorrow for the first time. I'll report back my results and see how it worked for me.

    I know this has maybe been mentioned in other threads before, but do you know of any techniques to boost your writing productivity? And I know "Just sit down and write" is the obvious answer.
     
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  2. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Step 0. Turn off Mythic Scribes so it doesn't distract you.
     
  3. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    Step 7: After two hours the mind turns to mush for the rest of the day...at least for that project.

    (Or is that just me?)
     
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I can handle two hours. Any more than that and it gets a little foggy. I thought the technique I posted above is a good way to spread it out so it doesn't feel like you're working for two hours straight.

    One reason I write mostly at night is because it's fine if my mind is mush if I'm about to go to bed.
     
  5. Helen

    Helen Sage

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    Getting paid.
     
  6. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Totally. And I also make sure Steam isn't on so I'm not tempted to play video games.

    One thing that works for me is I must have something to drink nearby or else I can't write (non-alcoholic or else I can't think). Its weird, but I roll with it. Listening to ambient relaxes me and I stay in the zone longer. The timer is what works best for me. I'll set it to 30 mins and type as fast as I can until the time is up, like a little competition with myself. It works.
     
  7. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Here's the trouble I have with all techniques that involve time. Write for N minutes they say. I can't.

    I can have pen in hand, but I pause. I cannot write *continuously* for any length of time. I have to breathe, at least for a minute or two. Does a five second pause count? How about two minutes? Five minutes? In the Pomodoro, that's twenty percent of total time allocated. How about a ten minute pause? Whatever time is "too much", why? Why is a minute less okay but minute more not?

    And does it count that I write for two hours a scene that ultimately I throw out? Is that the same as the two hours spent on something I keep?

    I dunno, there's just something about the productivity stuff that feels off a bit. Word count makes more sense to me -- my first Camp NaNoWriMo I consider a success. Forty thousand words in a month and so far I've only thrown out about thirty thousand of them! More correctly, those forty thousand gave me enough of the shape of the novel that I've been able to stay motivated to fill it out to proper novel length.

    And that brings up the second reason why I have trouble with productivity measures. The only productivity that means anything to me is finished product. By the time I've completed a story, I have done so many re-starts, re-writes, have written so many dead-ends, I couldn't possibly tell you the total number of words written that made up that 14,000 word novelette. A good many more than fourteen thousand. Where's the productivity measure for editing? For writing character sketches? Don't tell me all words count, because they don't. Sometimes I'm just writing down plot speculations, I'm not even trying to write fiction.

    It's all the work of writing, but I sure don't see any way to measure it. Maybe I'll print everything and measure it by weight!
     
  8. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

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    The one piece of advice from Rachael Aaron's 2k to 10k blog post/book that I actually still keep to is to spend 5 minutes at the start of each session working out what I'm going to write in that session. I generally write a couple of paragraphs on what's going on in the scene I'm writing, and what the characters are thinking or what their motives are, before I start writing the scene. I've found this helps. I don't do detailed outlines of the whole story, but knowing the scene I'm writing now or am about to start writing helps me move forwards.

    But I also need conditions to be right. That means headphones on (speakers aren't enough), music playing. Which music depends on the story and the mood I'm trying to capture.
     
  9. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Yeah, I love Rachel Aaron's book. I picked it up quite a while back after someone recommended it. I still do a lot of pre-writing even now after hearing that advice. It sounds weird, but it actually works. It's like doing a warm-up before starting the actual exercise.

    To address what some others have said, I understand that some people don't work well with time limits or even word count goals. Obviously the internet can be a huge distraction (in fact I was going to write just now but I came looking to see if anyone had posted, pretty ironic, right?) So thanks for those who have offered other suggestions. I think the Pomodoro Technique seems like something that could be worth trying for those who have tried everything and have trouble with keeping a structured time to write in order to be productive.
     
  10. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Pomodoro doesn't work for me. 25-and-5 doesn't match my work cycle. I don't need a timed reminder to take 5-minute break because when I write I periodically get up naturally to think, and I end up getting coffee, using the restroom, checking on the kids and so on.

    That said, here's a Pomodoro extension for Chrome which I've been using. It will block a set of websites for a set amount of time (default: 25 minutes). When the bell goes off, click a button to start a "break" time that ends the blocking (default: 5 min). When the bell goes off again, click to resume blocking or don't and you're just done using it.

    I have the extension set for 90/15 min, which is connected to another productivity technique whose name I don't recall. But they took blood samples of people while they work and found energy levels follow a pattern: 90 minutes of high energy with normal fluctuations, followed by a 15 minute dip. So the idea is to stop, and take that dip to rest and recharge, instead of stressing through it. They also found that energy levels fall apart around 3 pm for about half an hour (and again at 7pm, if you're still working). They suggest a nap; I can't nap so I watch a little TV about those times.
     
  11. Motley

    Motley Minstrel

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    I use Write or Die frequently, sometimes exhaustively when I'm feeling blocked.

    I never set it to eat my words though. That's way too scary.

    With all the stuff I do and 2 kids at home, 25 minutes of uninterrupted writing is a pipe dream.
     
  12. deilaitha

    deilaitha Sage

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    This sounds great for those who are currently writing. What about staying motivated for editing? I am currently editing my WIP and so word count isn't exactly the objective--quality is. Granted, there is some additional writing involved. I have stopped looking at the word count, though.

    Setting a timer for 25 mins sounds great and all, but editing requires a lot of pausing and thinking time. It's easy to let the mind wander, and next thing you know your time is up and you have changed five words and written an additional sentence.

    Granted, I haven't tried this with a timer, but I am going to give it a shot. I haven't done this kind of thing since college (it was kind of depressing since in math proof 25 mins was common for solving a single problem, and in lit it involved combing research only to find that you need to look at a something else instead).
     
  13. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

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    This may sound weird and get me chased around with rolled-up manuscripts, but I actually like editing. For me it's getting to spend more time with old friends. I see editing as polishing a quenched sword. Sure, it looks like crap now, but with every pass something wonderful is coming to light, and you can see the finished blade coming to light before your eyes.
     
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  14. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

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    Again, going to sound weird, but writing with Mythic Scribes in my backdrop has caused my productivity to skyrocket, even with the distraction factor. It may have something to do with the fact that I have written with a partner my entire adult life, but who knows? The idea of a "shared" work space as I am writing, and the ability to shoot off questions to other writers who are doing the same thing as me, at the same time, is remarkably comforting.
     
  15. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    (Gets out rolled up manuscript... wait, it's in Word format, I have to print it first. Too much trouble.)

    Seriously, I think looking at it that way might help me hate editing a little bit less.
     
  16. wordwalker

    wordwalker Auror

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    So your bark is worse than your bytes?
     
  17. GeekDavid

    GeekDavid Auror

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    Get thee to a punnery!
     
  18. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    Setting a time is a great strategy. Falling behind defeats the strategy just as much as going over it. I once wrote for two days-without sleep-and only took breaks to microwave my food and go to the bathroom. An occasional netflix movie fell into the writing occasionally if it struck me. But when I reviewed my work the next day, everything I'd written after the first three ours was promptly deleted.
     
  19. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    ^^Which is why its important to let ourselves rest. We deserve it after hours of writing. I like to set my timer to no more than 45 mins at a time. Then I stretch or go for a hike or whatever. Then I come back to another session. Otherwise my brain shuts off and I get resentful of my art itself.
     
  20. Addison

    Addison Auror

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    Exactly. I've found that I can write for two hours without my writing degrading. But I usually write for one, maybe one and a half, before I take a break to stay ready.
     
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