The following is a guest post from Nick Thacker.
If you’re involved in business (or life) in pretty much any way, you probably have little rules for improving your day-to-day productivity. For me, as a writer, these “rules” look like “write every day,” or even “write 1,000 words every day,” for example.
Even if you’re not a writer, you probably have to-do lists, task managers, or an Evernote account–something that helps you organize and store your thoughts, tasks, and goals. Much has already been written on how to get the most out of all of these great productivity tools, so I’ll take a different approach in this post.
Instead, I’ll look at the flip side of productivity–not how to be more productive so you can write or produce more, but how to use writing itself to help you be more productive.
First, I believe we’re all writers–I’m using the term loosely, meaning we’re all creators in some special way–whether it’s creators of content, products, or ideas; we all create.
When we create, we use different tools to get the job done. These tools are great for organizing thoughts and ideas, and even helping to “visualize” what we’re creating.
But when we can’t figure out what to create, what tool do you use?
Your brain? What if you’re exhausted?
Your previous creations? What if you’re wanting something new, something fresh?
What about using writing as a tool?
Literally–using writing to draft, conceptualize, and create ideas. It seems like a backwards concept, but it works.
An Old and Tested Concept
Authors and novelists use this approach all the time–it’s a tactic called freewriting, and it helps them remove the obstacles our minds place before us.
In business, it’s called brainstorming. Freeflowing, unjudged concepts.
The results of a good writing session can lead to a breakthrough product, idea, or creation, and most importantly–increased productivity.
I’m convinced that a solid writing/brainstorming session can help “get the juices flowing” and lend new creative ideas to my concepts. To put this into practice immediately, here are the steps:
1. Know that you’re writing to write–not to create something specific, solve a problem, or accomplish a goal.
Yeah, it seems pretty obvious. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stuck, trying to figure out what post to write next or how to end this chapter in my novel or whatever, and assumed that trying the dead-simple method outlined above just wouldn’t work.
But it does.
Lower the Bar
When I finally get over myself and realize that the things stopping me from proceeding–focusing on the success of a better author (coveting!), grammar, lack of ideas, burnout, etc.–are all in my own head, I start writing.
I pop open OmmWriter or Byword (I’m a Mac user!) and just go nuts. Sometimes it’s fiction; sometimes it’s a blog post.
Rarely is it published, and never is it published as-is–but that’s the point.
Every time I’ve tried to just write for the sake of writing, I either figure out that I’m going about the “problem” the wrong way and come to the right solution, or I uncover some new ideas I’ve subconsciously been chewing on for some time.
These results lead to a plethora of new ideas–content, creations, ideas, etc., that fuel my creative fires until I’m again at a roadblock.
Steps in the Process
For those of you hoping for a slightly more specific list of this process, here you go:
- Understand and be okay with the fact that you’re not writing to accomplish anything–you’re just writing.
- Remove distractions. Close windows, emails, notifications, or better yet: use a program like OmmWriter or Byword (or any program that offers full-screen editing) to do this for you.
- Give yourself a prompt of a few words. If you’re having trouble starting because of the big, empty screen in front of you, try typing the first word(s) that come to mind. If you’re trying to solve a problem at work or at church, try writing down a few key words that express the problem’s essence.
- Use a productivity tool like Pomodoro to help keep you actively focused on “free flow.” I find the constant ticking of a watch is actually calming.
- Going back to rule #1–don’t expect to solve anything–you’re merely writing to “free your mind” for later problem-solving.
Give It a Shot
That’s because you probably haven’t tried it. I’m not trying to be harsh, but I didn’t believe something like this could work until I tried it for myself. It was an accident, really: I was on a plane for a few hours with no books, no internet, and no phone–what was I supposed to do?
I wrote 5,000 words and figured out how to finish a chapter that had been gnawing at me for weeks.
Seriously, give it a try–see if writing can actually help your productivity!
Let me know how it goes, too–leave a comment and let’s start up a discussion!
About Nick Thacker: Nick Thacker is an author of fiction thrillers, and he blogs at LiveHacked.com, a productivity and writing site all about getting more out of life in an increasingly distracting world! You can visit his site, or subscribe to the LiveHacked.com newsletter here.
Photo Credit: Ramunas Geciauskas (Creative Commons)
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