Journaling and documenting everything, two of the required activities for participants in Angela Booth’s 100 Day Writing Challenge, bring an unexpected benefit. After a few weeks, you begin to detect patterns in your daily work flow. This information is invaluable as a tool to improve the quality of your writing and increase productivity.
Each of us is governed by our own particular biological rhythms. Some of us are night owls, for example, while others are most productive in the earliest part of their day. These rhythms are further affected by a number of factors, including what we eat, how much we rest, whether we get enough exercise, and our mental attitude. Reviewing my documentation for the past month made my personal patterns clear and provided guidelines that allowed me to structure my day around the ebb and flow of my energy. Here are some tips on how you can track your own patterns.
1. Identify your high-energy period. Mine is first thing in the morning, before the details of daily life and running a business interfere with my creativity. Most days, I fire up the computer as soon as the coffee is ready and jump right into writing. I can accomplish more and better work in the first three hours of the day than I can in the latter five. Find the time of day when you think most clearly and feel most creative. Dedicate that time for pure writing, and schedule all other tasks around it.
2. Compartmentalize. In any business, some tasks require greater mental focus; others are rote and can be accomplished during low-energy times of day, since they don’t require a great deal of mental energy or creativity. My work log showed that I was least effective at mind work during the late part of the day, so now I allocate that time for tasks such as restocking office supplies, photocopying or preparing mailings.
3. Set limits. Angela advised Challenge participants to break down their work into tasks that can be accomplished in 20 to 30 minutes. While I still take advantage of those times when inspiration carries me away like a tidal wave rushing to shore, I rarely block more than 30 minutes for a particular task. Short bursts of mental energy with frequent breaks in between keep the mind fresh and prevent me from feeling burned out or overwhelmed. Between tasks, I move around, brew a cup of tea, and return to my computer ready to tackle the next item on the list.
4. Watch for energy slumps. Many people experience a drop in energy in the early afternoon, right after lunch. Since most of us can’t indulge in a siesta on a regular basis, find other ways to recharge. A 10-minute walk, according to research, can raise your energy and keep it higher for up to two hours. If your environment doesn’t permit taking a walk, simply get up and move around, bending and stretching a bit, before returning to your desk.
5. Avoid draining distractions and frustrations. Except during deadlines with http://CSN50andBetter.com, when communicating with clients means advertising dollars, I turn my phone off for periods of time so my writing is uninterrupted. Phone calls and email are scheduled right after that. I also schedule tasks that I know may be potentially frustrating, such as debugging code or learning new technology, on a day dedicated only to those tasks. This keeps my creativity and productivity high and my sense of satisfaction intact.
Journaling and documenting your work provides a blueprint toward greater creativity. Use the information it offers to find your natural ebb and flow – and then go with it. For more information on using a journal to increase productivity, see Angela’s article here https://www.fabfreelancewriting.com/blog/2010/05/09/get-creative-and-sell-your-ideas-editorial/
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