How to be a productive writer even though you’re lazy
I am, without a doubt, one of the laziest people on the planet. Despite my overwhelming laziness, I’m also strangely ambitious. My ambition and tenacity is what lead me to pursue a career as a writer, YouTuber, and Twitch Streamer. Even with so many projects on my plate, I’m still making plans to start a story-based TikTok account. Juggling all of my work when I literally have no energy to do any of it is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do, but I am living proof that it’s still possible. Whether you are a lazy person with dreams of being a professional writer or you work full time and are trying to find a way to fit writing into your schedule, you can use these 7 tips to build your productivity as a writer.
1. Set Your Goals
One of the things that helped me the most when I first set out on my path to become a full-time fiction writer was the notion that I’m not just making stories: my writing and all of the things that go along with it are a business. The first thing that business owners do when they start a business is to set goals and then make a plan to achieve those goals. I talk about goal setting a lot, because I’m a very goal-oriented person and because I believe that setting goals gives you a big-picture view of what you want to achieve.
Any goal you set for your writing business should fall in line with SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. What this means is that you need to know exactly what you want to achieve, you have to have some way of measuring the goal and how close you are to achieving it, it has to be something that is realistic for you to achieve, and it has to have a deadline.
I learned about SMART goals while I worked as a grant writer for a large non-profit that served over 20,000 people in Central Indiana. Any time we talked about a new project for the organization, we always thought about it in reference to goal setting. Using SMART goals you can track your progress more easily, determine whether or not your project is succeeding before you reach the end, and evaluate your success after the deadline has hit.
My first goals for my work as a writer were to reach 5,000 followers on Twitter, build up a YouTube following of 100, and gain 100 followers on my Twitch Stream. As a writer, I wanted to publish one story and sell 5,000 copies of that story in the first year after it was published. With those goals in mind, I set out a step-by-step plan for what all I needed (both in resources and in tangible work) to reach those goals.
Another grant-writing tool you can use to help come up with your plan of action is something called a Logic Model. With a logic model, you lay out all of the resources you currently have, all of the resources you need, the specific jobs that you have to input into the project, and what you expect to gain from all of that input. It helps lay out the small steps needed to reach a bigger goal, and the Logic Model also helps identify any aspects of your plan that are too sparse or not necessary so that you’re not wasting resources.
2. Find Your Time
You either have a limited amount of time to work, or you procrastinate so much that you tend to put yourself in a bind. Those things are okay, as long as you find ways to use your time wisely. This is probably easier said than done. You might have kids, dogs, spouses, classes, work, or a dubious combination of all of these things standing in your way. And here’s the thing; you’re probably not going to like where I suggest you take your time from, but I promise you it will help if you can manage it.
One place where you can locate extra time is from the time you spend scrolling through Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, or any other social media platform. Do you use social media to promote your work? That’s great. So do I. But I use a content management app to do it. I spend less than 30 minutes a week working on my social media account (maybe a little longer if I’m replying to posts), and then I set it aside and get back to work. No doom scrolling, no 4 hour long binges, just a quick checkup here and there and I’m done.
Extra time can also be found when you don’t have to spend an hour cooking every meal. For this, I don’t mean default to fast food or unhealthy habits. Ask your partner to take over cooking a meal here and there. Do some meal prep: every time you cook food, make a little bit extra and put it in the freezer. When I cook, I make at least two extra meals worth of each dish and use those for my lunches. Healthy, delicious, and time saving.
This one is probably going to hurt a little bit, and I’m sorry I even have to bring it up: do you watch TV, Twitch, or YouTube? Stop. It sucks, I know, but the time you spend watching shows is interfering with time you could be using to write. You don’t even have to cut out all of it, if you don’t want to, but you should seriously consider at least cutting down on your TV time so that you have more time to achieve your dream. I promise you, it’s worth it.
Do you have kids who demand your attention whenever you try to write? Ask your partner to take care of them for an hour or two each week so you can write. Don’t have a partner? Think about who else you might have in your life who could help out by watching the kids. Write when they’re taking a nap. Write while they’re zoned out in front of the TV watching the same cartoon they’ve already seen twenty billion times. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s exhausting, but you can do this if you really want to make it work.
3. Treat Writing Like a Job
Treating writing like a job is similar to the idea of turning your writing into a business, but there’s a specific distinction to be made: you have specific work hours you have to meet when you work a regular job. You have specific tasks you have to accomplish each day at a regular job. Why should your writing job be any different?
We spent so much effort trying to find the time to work on writing, you shouldn’t be using it to do something that isn’t writing related. If you need help staying on task, you can try doing writing sprints. I love doing writing sprints because they help me stay focused on just writing during a two hour block that I set for myself each week. Set a time for yourself to “go to work.” During that time, write non-stop for 25 minutes straight. Then take a 5 minute break. Then write again for another 25 minutes. Keep cycling like that for 2 hours, and then your work day is done. Congratulations, you’re a writer!
4. Make Realistic Deadlines (and stick to them)
Part of making SMART goals is creating specific deadlines to meet your goals, but you can’t meet your goals if you don’t finish individual tasks in a timely manner. When you start a new writing project, give yourself a deadline for when you will finish writing it. Once the writing is done, give yourself a deadline for when you’ll finish the first edit, the second edit, the third edit, and so on until you have a polished story. Then give yourself a deadline for pre-launch preparations and marketing, a deadline for launch, and a deadline for each post-launch marketing task ahead of you.
I know this all sounds overly structured, but the best way to get yourself to stop procrastinating is to put a little pressure on yourself to actually get the work done. A lot of us believe that we work better under pressure. Prove it, by setting a deadline and getting your work done.
5. Take Breaks
Never underestimate the power of taking a break. Breaks allow us to decompress, to recharge, and to think about other things. You cannot live your entire life only working toward a goal without letting up. You know why so many YouTubers post mental health videos and frantic pleas to their audience to let them go on vacation? It’s because most of them have been working non-stop for years and not taking the time they need to enjoy the fame and wealth that their careers have brought them. They’ve burned out. Don’t let yourself burn out.
If you need a vacation from writing, take a vacation. Writing is no good if the writer never gets to experience the real world. Don’t feel guilty if you need a week or two for yourself: it’s fine and it’s normal. If you don’t take a break every now and then, you risk facing writer’s block or becoming desensitized. You might even begin to hate writing. Nobody wants that, so make sure you take care of yourself.
6. Compartmentalize Tasks
Being a writer is about more than just writing stories. More and more, we need to have an already established platform before publishers will even take a look at us. We have to build our own platforms, publish stories, win awards, and already be successful before anyone will give us a chance. It sucks. But it’s possible to make it happen if we compartmentalize our tasks to meet the goals we’re reaching for.
Earlier, I mentioned that I spend about 30 minutes a week working on social media posts. I know that’s how much time I spend because I sit down for half and hour each week and compose every post I’m going to make for the entire week. I have a set time for it, a deadline that I need to follow, and I get it done. Two days a week I sit down and focus on writing. Two days a week I edit my YouTube videos. Two days a week I stream on Twitch. Every task has a certain time and a certain day that I work on it.
You don’t want to overwork yourself or try to do too many things at once. Multitasking is a bad habit. I don’t care that you think you’re a great multi-tasker. A study on people who multi-task proved that doing two things at once takes longer than doing each task individually and results in worse work than if people had just buckled down and done one task at a time. Time management is the key to working successfully. Compartmentalize your work, and only do one thing at a time.
Of course, there’s a little bit of a caveat here. I have some attention issues that make it difficult for me to focus on a single task for too long. What I do to get around this issue is plan multiple tasks that keep losing my focus and switch between them when I need a break. If you have the same issue, I encourage you to use this approach to battle work fatigue. As long as you get your work done on time, it doesn’t really matter if you have a bit of ADHD along the way.
7. Build Synergy
I have a YouTube Channel, a Twitch Channel, and I write for a living. Most people on YouTube or Twitch talk about how each one of those things takes up all of their time, and most of them have employees that help them get it all done. When you’re working by yourself, how do you manage so many projects? The answer is Synergy.
Sure, I have a lot of projects. But if you really look at my work, you’ll notice that my brand is all about writing. On YouTube, I post highlights from my Twitch Streams. On Twitch I give myself writing challenges, writing sprints, and writing practice. When do I get my regular writing and editing done? On Twitch. Using Twitch, I’ve built a system where I can get my normal work done but still put in the effort to engage audiences, practice my writing, and generate content for other platforms. It’s fun, and I don’t have to spend a ton of extra time recording. It also helps that recording video through my Twitch stream actually cuts down on the amount of video editing I have to do because the videos are already pre-formatted the way that I like it.
What it comes down to is that you need to find ways to save time on each of your projects. The more content you create that can be shared on multiple platforms, the easier your life is going to be. Earlier I mentioned that I’m planning a storytelling project for TikTok. If I only worked on the story for TikTok, I would have to find time for that project outside of my regular work. Am I going to do that? Of course not. I’m going to stream myself writing the story on Twitch, post highlights of me writing the story on YouTube, post the story itself to TikTok, and then make compilations of my story TikToks to create even more posts for YouTube. With one project, I’m creating content for multiple posts across three platforms and I’m doing it with about two hours of work (not including video editing time) each week.
That’s All, Folks
As far as tips to streamline your writing is concerned, all of my advice here is pretty basic. Of course you should work smarter, not harder. Of course you should find time to write. The most important takeaway is that you should really consider changing the way you think about yourself as a writer. You’re not an aspiring writer; you’re not a hobbyist; you are a writer. Want to know the difference between an amateur and a professional? Professionals get paid. If you’ve ever made even a penny off of your writing, you are a professional. Treat yourself like one. Treat your writing like a business and put in the work. Figure out what things you’re doing to build your career as a writer that aren’t strictly necessary and stop doing them. Identify what projects you’re doing that could work across multiple platforms and save yourself some time and energy that would have otherwise been wasted trying to come up with new content. All my advice here? I’m probably going to turn it into a YouTube video in the near future.
Writing productivity isn’t really about putting in a million hours of work; it’s learning to use the limited time that you have available to your advantage. I hope my 7 tips to better writing productivity has helped you even a little bit in your writing adventures. Hopefully you can put it to good use from here on out.
As always, thanks for stopping by to hang out. I’ll see you later!