When I get asked what I do for a living, I tell people I’m a freelance writer. People who aren’t writers usually respond with something to the effect of “Neato!” and ask a bit about a job they’ve heard of but don’t know much about.
The most common response from writers and aspiring writers? Either they ask about my day job, or they simply say “How?”
Answering that question is deeply complex, but the best answer I can give you is: I maximize my productivity.
Maximizing Your Writing Productivity
Aspiring writers often look at how much they can get paid per word, then at how much they write in an hour, and then they give up.
But there’s good news! Writing professionally is like doing anything else professionally. If a plumber took as long to install a toilet as it takes me, he’d starve. But plumbers know how to do their work swiftly, so they can do enough work to make a good living.
Some people are born with the discipline to be focused and productive with unsupervised work like freelance writing. Other people (like me) were lucky enough to get training on it during their most formative years. Still, others need tools in place to help them stay focused until they’ve mastered the art of self-governance.
Productivity Resources for Writers
For those writers who need some extra tools, here are the best productivity resources available to help you shift from an aspiring freelance writer to a successful one.
The Pomodoro method is basically PT for your ability to focus. It’s a system where you set a timer and force yourself to concentrate on a task until the timer goes off. Over weeks and months, you increase the length of each timed session, thus improving the length of your focus the same way doing pushups daily makes you able to do more pushups in a row.
Lots of Pomodoro tools, products, and resources are out there, along with even more Pomodoro clones. Seriously, just google “Pomodoro” and pick what suits your fancy.
[email protected] is a music app that uses neuroscience to make you more productive.
Its developers used research on how music and sound make focus easier or harder and created a program which will play music optimized to tweak your neurochemistry for better concentration, focus, and productivity. It will even let you choose styles of music to fit your current mood. They’ve also thrown in a productivity tracker so you can figure out which personalized options work better for our productivity.
If you do the kind of writing that needs a bibliography, you know that formatting the bib and tracking your sources feels like it takes almost as much time as writing the rest of the piece. Zotero is a browser extension that helps track and organize online and offline sources as you use them, then creates copy/paste bibliographies ready for Word, OpenOffice, or GoogleDocs.
As of this writing, it only works reliably with Firefox, but most of us have that on our computers someplace. When I do bibliography-heavy work, I keep an iteration of FF open and use it for research while using Chrome and Word for other tasks.
4. Typing Software
In high school, I dropped out of precalculus owing to a combination of advanced disinterest and a personality conflict with my teacher. The only class with space open during that class period was typing, which I took. Being able to type well over 100 words per minute is probably my superpower when it comes to writing productivity.
The best way to improve your touch typing is to type a whole lot. As a freelance writer, you have plenty of opportunity to do just that. But if you get bored, or you need that initial training, there are myriad programs and even video games that can help increase your typing speed. Spend half an hour with them each day and see what happens.
5. Social Media Blockers
If typing speed is my superpower, social media is my kryptonite. Those who follow my Facebook feed know I can rabbit hole down a conversation there and lose hours. My current solution: I turn off
But you don’t have to go that extreme. Apps like Anti-Social, Cold Turkey, and SelfControl will set your computer up to keep you off social media until a certain amount of time has passed, or you’ve performed a certain task on your computer.
Motivate Yourself to Be Productive
Think about it this way: A freelance writer gets paid according to what she produces. If you become 20% faster, you get paid 20% more for the time you spent writing. You can use that extra 20% in a few ways:
- Write 20% more to get a 20% raise in your writing job
- Spend 20% more of your time relaxing and doing what you enjoy
- Get 20% more of your Great American Novel written
- Spend that free time making your house cleaner, or your kids happier
The point is, that time becomes yours again. If that’s not enough reason to try one of the tools I just listed, I don’t know what is.
If you liked this post, here are some other articles you might love:
- Top 8 Online Time-Tracking Tools: Improve Your Process and Productivity with Accurate Time Management
- 9 Calendar Hacks to Maximize Your Productivity
- Time Management for Writers: The Stopwatch Method for Massive Creative Productivity