Upping productivity: Is it time?

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

I don’t know about you, but I’m always trying to find ways to be more productive. It seems like each day flies by more quickly than the day before. I have found a few areas where productivity can be increased; maybe it’s time for you to consider changes in these areas too.

 1) Is it time to get a new computer? Thankfully, my four-year-old Mac is still working like a dream, but my computer before this Mac was really holding me back. It would take ages to boot up, and then it needed to run all sorts of updates and started programs throughout the day without my asking for them to open. Each time the computer would try to do something it took FOREVER. It was definitely time for an upgrade. Does your computer or technology hold you back? Is it slowing your writing day significantly? Is it time to make an investment in new equipment to increase your productivity?

2) Is it time to learn how to type? I’ve pondered before how, if writers like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen had computers and could type their books, we might have many more great works from them. You have a computer, and many of you probably know how to type, but if you’ve never taken a typing class, could it be time? Hunting and pecking, even if you’ve come up with a system that works for you, isn’t as efficient, and you could be holding yourself back by not investing a little time in a typing class.

My typing class in high school was the most useful class I have ever taken, and it was a lot of fun, too!

3) Is it time to get an assistant/office space/babysitter?

My new house (we’re in escrow!) is going to have a little office with glass french doors so I can see what is going on in the house without having to be a part of it unless I want to be. I’m SO excited about that room.  When we decided to change homes, one of my criteria for the house hunt is that there would be an office space in our new house. I didn’t need something quite as fancy as what I’m getting, but I wanted an out-of-the-way nook where I could focus on work. Do you need to find your own space for your writing? Might you need to dedicate a room of your house to an office, put up a room divider, or section off a place in your garage?

Some of you might be at a level in your writing that it’s time to invest in an assistant to help with your email, snail mail, and day-to-day tasks. Not everyone is ready for this step, but some of you should consider bringing in help for a few hours each week.

I know that I have to have help with my daughter so I can get work done. Do you need to hire a babysitter to increase your productivity? I’m learning that I can’t do it all. There’s no way to be a full-time parent, wife/husband, housekeeper, writer, breadwinner, etc. without some help. Is it time for you to ask for that help?

4) Is it time to reevaluate your commitments?

In an effort to increase productivity, it might be time to look at what you do each week that drains your resources, energy and time. If you’re so wiped out from your endless church commitments, choir rehearsals, sports games, board meetings, etc. that you can’t even write when you have time, you might need to take a closer look at what you are committing to.

Of course you should still be a part of your church, and your children’s events aren’t to be skipped, but maybe you are over-committing to something. Or maybe an activity you are doing is draining to you because it’s not a gift of yours. For example, I used to do baby care at  church during the services. I love children, but for many reasons I dreaded the days I was scheduled for baby care. Being in charge of so many different children all at once–including some really tough cases–was draining to me. I could do it, and I did for many years, but when I finally accepted that being a baby care worker wasn’t in my God-given talent pool, I felt so much better! I shifted my focus from child care to bringing meals to those who recently had a baby or who suffered a tragedy. I enjoy helping and supporting the church in this way, and I’m energized by it instead of  wiped out.

I think the biggest point here is, if you over-commit and try to do everything, you won’t give your best to anything. Is this something you need to think about for your life? Might you need to pull back in one area or another to help increase your productivity?

In what other ways might you increase your productivity?

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37 Comments

  • Rachel,

    Your new office sounds lovely and so perfect for a mommy agent!

    I am in the process of increasing my productivity with a technology upgrade of sorts. Maybe a year ago I replaced my monitor with a 25 inch flat screen TV. (I once heard an author remark that a larger screen equals more productivity.) It functions as a large monitor, but it was not as expensive as buying something made specifically for a computer. It was a wonderful investment to keep my eyes from tiring so quickly. It also allows me to look at more than one document at a time.

    Ummm. Now I need more. I am finding that I could benefit from having a second screen. So, I have found that I can connect my original monitor to my system, resulting in two screens. I love it!

    As for some office help, I am quickly approaching that consideration. Right now, I have several family members who fill in with various tasks. For example, having someone read a list or a passage while I am double checking a related document on my computer is valuable.

    • Dear Rachel: I find I cannot do everything and really don’t want to. I have to keep focused on what I really want to get accomplished and just stick with that. It is a challenge to not let every day or whatever sneak in and gobble up your time. I often use an egg timer, as silly as that sounds and just set it and block out the rest of the world.
      jacqueline gillam fairchld

  • Three suggestions –

    Put up a chart that marks progress on your WIP. Seeing the word count mount up toward your first-draft target can be a great incentive to do more.

    Get a digital photo frame, load it with with your favorite Scripture (in a quick-to-read format, not script superimposed on pictures), and choose a display interval setting that fits your ‘scan’.

    With winter coming, get a heated footrest for your desk. My wife just got one of these, and she’s delighted. If your workspace is by a window, you can enjoy the open feeling and avoid the frozen-feet syndrome.

  • I agree on the word count … I had a friend say that she committed to a certain number of words daily. That really helps.

    And Rachael, I have an office with glass doors … I ended up buying curtains to hang over them so I can pull them closed when I need to. Sometimes movement distracts me! The kids gravitate to where they can see you! Grin.

  • Norma Horton says:

    The biggest impediment to my writing is that SOMEONE who will remain nameless needs to get a post-retirement job and get out of the house. (I don’t think Ranchman the Superhero reads the B&S blog…)

  • Jeanne T says:

    Rachel this was a great post. The biggest thing I’ve had to do is cut back on most of my activities. I have reduced my commitments at church and my kids’ school.

    I set word goals for each day. I usually like to write a scene at a time, which ends up somewhere around 1500 words for me. I also set aside time most days to write. And I set a timer, especially if I have a lot to do that day. I’m always amazed at how much I can get done when I’m competing against a clock.

    The other thing I did (sorry this is so long!) is I joined a Facebook group called #1K1HR, which is a group that encourages people to aim for 1,000 words in an hour. I’ve been shocked at how much I can get done when I’m on a time limit. :)

    • Jeanne, do you like that FB group? I was just looking at it the other day and wondering if it would help or if I would just embarrass myself if I couldn’t write 1,000 words in an hour. I have before, but I can’t say it’s an everyday occurrence.

      • Jeanne T says:

        Sorry to respond so late, Meghan. For the record, I do like the group. A lot. There have been plenty of times someone hasn’t reached that 1000 word/hour goal, and no one condemns. It’s fun when I know others are writing and cheering me on, or me cheering them on. I’d recommend it. :)

  • Susan Roach says:

    Rachel,

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic lately. I so want to finish my first MS, but it seems like I never have enough time in my days to do it. So, last Thursday, I chose to do an “internet fast.” I work from home, so I only allowed myself online to do what I needed for that. No Facebook. No blogs. No e-mail or Google news reading. The result? I found an unexpected hour in the middle of the day to write and anther one that evening after the kids went to bed. Now, I never surf the net for two hours straight – but I learned that 10 minutes here and 15 there can add up to a lot over the course of the day. I might make that day-long “fast” a regularly-scheduled thing.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I have to find time each day to work as well and it’s rarely the same time each day. Some days I’m up late getting the last of my tasks done. Internet fasts are helpful!

  • Sarah Sundin says:

    I love all these suggestions and find them so true! My productivity skyrocketed when I got my own office three years ago. We had a room that functioned as husband’s computer room/sewing room/guest room. I haven’t sewn since I started writing and we only get guests about twice a year! Double guest bed replaced college boy’s twin in his room – guests can have his room (if he’s home, he can use a sleeping bag on little brother’s floor :) ) And I have MY OWN OFFICE!!

    I also like hiring my teen children to do personal assistant work, especially around book releases – addressing envelopes and post cards, packaging bookmarks for mailing, etc. Very helpful.

    The other thing that helps me most for productivity is long-term goals (broken down by month), monthly goals (posted over my computer), and weekly/daily to-do lists. This helps me meet deadlines and honor all the other commitments.

    • Hi Sarah! I’ve also thought of hiring my almost-14yo daughter to do assistant work, mostly with social media since I don’t have any book releases (yet!). She needs her own computer, though, but that’s coming soon. Just the other day, she drew an illustrated map of my fictional town. It’s terrific and helps so much with visualization!

  • Heather says:

    I’m really looking forward to our new place for my own creative area (writing, knitting, etc.). But it won’t happen for a year until the development goes forward. Until then, I will make due. My problem with getting a new computer, which should happen next year as well, is the learning curve for the software changes in the last 6 years. They’ll take some getting used to. So if you’re getting a new computer, make sure you take time to actually learn it!

  • Jill Kemerer says:

    Great comments here! Yay, on your new office space!!

    I get more done in my office, so I work there as much as possible. It’s only a flight of stairs away!

    I agree with everyone who already posted–goals, goals, goals! Also, I spent a few minutes every morning planning my day, then when I’m finished writing or revising, I jot down what I need to do next. It kick-starts the next session. Less wasted time!

    Have a terrific weekend!! (I’ve said no to teaching Sunday School for a few years now. I love kids, but I focus on short term teaching, like VBS.)

  • Congratulations, Rachel, on your new home–and new office space! (And who doesn’t love french doors?!)

    I’m blessed to have my own office now, but when our children were little, my “office” was my lap, the dining room table, and eventually a little work area with a converted desk. Separate work spaces DO make all the difference in our productivity.

    Thanks for all of today’s suggestions!

  • Jaime Wright says:

    My real-job admin has self appointed herself my pro bono writing admin bc she loves to read and write so she lives vicariously through me. SCORE!

    My husband has decided it’s his duty to do the dinner-making since I am talented and burn frozen pizza. SCORE!

    But yes, I cut back on several ministries at church and also significantly decreased my other “hobbies” — as in now I have no other hobbies :) That helped a LOT! :)

  • Sherry Kyle says:

    Rachel, your new office sounds perfect!

    I have a 2007 MacBookAir and the display screen doesn’t work anymore. So much has changed in the last six years that I think it’s time for a new one. Thank goodness my husband agrees. (I know what I’m getting for Christmas this year!)

  • Prioritizing and productivity go hand in hand. My goal is to edit 20 pages a week, and send the revisions to my first reader as I go.
    Also, certain music helps creativity bubble to the surface. Earbuds in, and U2, Coldplay, The Civil Wars, and Alison Krauss cranked up.

  • I want to live my life following God’s plan for me. If I clutter my day with things not from Him, then in essence, I’m not choosing Him. I used to feel guilty when I said no to a good work, but now I see it through the lens of whether or not it is something God is calling me to do. There isn’t time for everything, and when I take on too many commitments, I’m in danger of substituting the “good-thing” for the “God-thing.”

    The trick of course is determining which is which!

  • “If you over-commit and try to do everything, you won’t give your best to anything.” – Words my husband has been trying to drill into my brain for awhile now. *sigh* I think I’ve gotten the message. Thank you, Rachel, for a much-needed post! :)

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I heard that the first time from Karen O’Connor at a writer’s conference and it has stuck with me ever since. That woman is wise!

  • Having a morning devotional before writing has helped me tremendously. I take time, with a cup of hot tea, to focus on God before writing. This prepares me for the day…

  • Kathy N. says:

    This is so practical and so helpful. Thank you.

  • Angela Mills says:

    I’m blessed to have a beautiful office space in our new home. 3 years and it’s still new to us! I couldn’t believe it when my hubby said we should use it as my office, I mean I’m not even published :) He found an old green door and hung it on the wall for me, and I have let my love of flowers and all things pink explode in there. I definitely feel inspired in there.

    What would help my productivity is a housekeeper! That would be 8+ more hours a week to write. But then, I do get some great ideas when I’m scrubbing away and my mind has time to wander.

  • Yes! I put 14,000 hours on my Macbook and wore the letters off two keyboards, and then it died. (About time I guess)

    I bought a used MacBook, (Heck if it ain’t broke applies)

    End Note: Yes, I buried Mac. It was a good friend and served me well.

  • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

    Sorry I didn’t reply to your comments on Friday! I was following them on my phone, but we had home inspections going on so I wasn’t near my computer. Everything looks good and we’re on track to own this house before Thanksgiving! :)

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