Over the last several months, my goal has been to focus on a better system for achieving my writing goals. In the past, I basically wrote to finish a novel. There was no strategy, no word counts to hit, just writing.
As someone who is naturally self-motivated (read: stubborn as hell to reach the end of writing my book), I was able to finish these goals… eventually. I was productive, but I wasn’t taking control of my writing system to improve my productivity.
It wasn’t until a couple months ago that I took a hard look at my writing routines and realized that I wasn’t using my full potential. I completely overhauled my old system and started practicing new habits. That led to me publishing six brand new titles (starting at word count 0) and a new, ten book series planned (with two books now written).
These are the three tips that will change your writing system and improve your productivity.
Set your MITs the night before
Your most important tasks (MITs) are the three top priority tasks you need to complete that day. In the past, I used to assign one to a writing project, one to a health project, and one to a work project. Those were the three things I needed to get done that day.
Now that health is built into my morning routine, I can focus my MITs on writing-related tasks. At night, I’ll sit down and determine what three writing tasks I need to accomplish the next day. Those will be the first things that I work on and that I have to complete by the end of the day.
Right now, those three tasks are typically related to a single project since I am only focusing on this new fiction series at the moment. Other times I’d assign one task to writing a Medium article, one to write a chapter on a book, and another to write an outline for another story. It depends on what your writing projects are, but take a look at what needs to hold top priority in your writing life.
The second key to making your priorities work is to make the task something that is small or accomplishable by the end of the day. It doesn’t make sense to assign yourself an entire project as your first MIT of the day. Instead, break it into smaller chunks. If you have to write a book, set your MITs to be writing chapters 1, 2, and 3. Go even deeper and actually outline or keep a note as to what each chapter will contain. You’ll be able to get started on your writing tasks faster and get through them.
Start tracking your time and word counts
I’ve always loved the concept of NaNoWriMo and tracking all of your word counts. You have a monthly goal of 50,000 words, which translates to 1,667 words a day during the month of November. Their updated website has the capability to record the time you were writing, the word count, and a few other fun features like where you were writing. Luckily, you can use that every day of the year and keep track of projects.
That website was great, and I still use it daily, but I found that the Internet was full of distractions. When I was writing on my books and in a particularly tough spot, I’d update my word counts every thirty minutes, check Facebook, scroll through Medium, and just put off my writing. That’s why I switched to the Passion Planner (affiliate link plus 10% discount) so I could track all of my words by hand, without the distraction of the internet.
Using my Passion Planner, I started to practice time blocking. When I started highlighting my productive portions of the day, I realized that I wasn’t taking meaningful breaks throughout my day. I’d work non-stop until lunch, often putting off my meal until 2 PM, and then burning myself out to the point of not wanting to work in the afternoon. Seeing where my struggle was, I started breaking my writing into sprints, blocking off times for mindful breaks. Instead of seeing that as blank space, I saw it as a way to relax and gear up for the next sprint. After making this change, my daily word count increased by an average of 50%.
Refresh your goals
I never had a problem creating goals. My issue was always about creating realistic goals. I would set a list of things I wanted to accomplish during the year and then completely forget about half of that list as my priorities changed throughout the year. I never once went back to look at that list until it was too late or I had already rewritten the goals.
Now, I set monthly goals and 3-month goals. Instead of overwhelming myself with setting yearly goals, I break them apart into smaller, more manageable challenges. Just like breaking my MITs down into doable tasks, I take a large goal and fit it into my monthly schedule. Typically, I have a good idea about what my weeks will look like for the next month, minus a few events, and can realistically determine how much time and effort I’ll be able to give to that goal. Instead of being overwhelmed, I can plan out my days with that monthly goal in mind.
I also have 3-month goals. Often, they are part of the single-month goals, but sometimes I’ll add a new challenge. I create about 5 different goals for myself of varying challenge and importance. Then, I can plan out the next three months and realistically determine where those goals fit into my day. At any point I complete a goal or realize that it might be a bigger project than initially planned, I’ll refresh my monthly goals and take a better look at my schedule.
Going back to constantly update my goals has helped me realize how to set more realistic goals. When I started doing this, I thought I was setting up goals that would challenge me and take the entire month. Well, I was being way too easy on myself so I decided to double those goals… and with careful planning and time-blocking strategies, even that wasn’t challenging enough. I found that I was easily rising to the challenge, even if it took me the entire month to do it.
Having these updated goals and a system that challenged me to work hard and stay focused helped me reach goals in just a few months that I thought would take me an entire year. I even knocked out one of my goals that I thought wouldn’t happen for another three years!
Laura Winter is a self-published author dedicated to helping your authorpreneur journey. She has launched her books on little to no budget to prove you don’t have to invest an exorbitant amount of money to be successful. Find her work on Amazon, Patreon, and join her tribe to get more articles like this.
This post was originally published on Medium.