I think as a writer, one of the issues I struggle most with is brain fog and procrastination. Often, my most well-intentioned days can turn into hours of distracted research, “networking”, and staring blankly at an empty Word document.
And I know I’m not alone.
Dedicating a concentrated time and effort into getting work done can be difficult in the days you just “aren’t feeling it”, which is why I’ve compiled a list of five practical ways you can boost productivity and say goodbye to procrastination.
1) Create a Workspace
I can’t stress enough the difference having a clean, organized, inspirational, and focus-driven workspace can make on your productivity. As our brains are wired to recognize and appreciate patterns and visual cues, sometimes simply the act of sitting down at your workspace can be enough to jumpstart your day.
Depending on your situation, your workspace can be anything from an armchair in a corner, a desk, an office, or even your greenhouse. There are no limits, just so long as the location you choose is separate from your daily life and specific for your work use.
Some things to include in your workspace that are scientifically proven to boost productivity are:
- Live plants
- Natural sunlight (or UV lights)
- Zero clutter
- Things that inspire your creative genius/make you happy
- Physical reminders of your past successes
- Vision statements posted where you can see them daily
- Splashes of color (check out this article on which workplace colors are best!)
- A comfy chair
2) Find a Productivity Playlist
If you know me, you know that I am never without my own personal soundtrack to just about everything in life. Music is the ultimate mood-maker, and when it comes to putting yourself in the mood to get stuff done, sometimes a good productivity playlist can be just the thing.
A good rule of thumb to follow when picking a playlist: choose music without lyrics that makes for an uplifting, but subtle background.
As our brains are physically incapable of multitasking, song lyrics (even when played at a low volume) can disrupt your train of thought as your subconscious attempts to process every word. Similarly, you want a beat that keeps you feeling peppy, without being so crazy you lose focus – or so mellow you grow lethargic and depressed.
3) Become a To-Do List Master
Maybe this is just me and my Type B personality, but if I don’t have a list for everything, I will either A) not be motivated to complete it, or B) completely forget. I’m the type of person who will write simple things like “shower” or “make dinner” on my To-Do list just to have the satisfaction of crossing it off.
So, if you’re like me, embrace it!
Having a hard time putting a concept into words? Write out a bullet-point outline to help you stay on-topic. Battling brain fog or feeling overwhelmed? Create a To-Do list for that day or your work projects. Facing another lack-luster Monday with zero motivation? Inspire and remind yourself what it’s all for by compiling a list of your “reasons why”.
Often, the simple of action of putting something on paper can bring clarity, while that little rush of checking something off can propel you into accomplishing your next task!
4) Avoid Tech Distractions
I can’t tell you how many times I used to start a project, only to waste valuable time and focus to distracted research, checking my email, texting with clients and friends, or falling into the social media void.
Sure, we might tell our families not to bother us while we work, but nowadays, distractions are everywhere – even work-related ones! Which means its up to you to clear them away.
Before sitting down to a project, begin the habit of handling all client communication first thing, before closing out all non-related tabs and any site that will flash new notifications – avoiding the temptation to check for replies until the end of the day.
Answer all necessary calls or texts, but then immediately turn your phone on do-not-disturb, placing it out of reach or in another room.
Lastly, for god’s sake, stay off social media. As unimportant as every notification is, how many of us have popped on for some “networking” only to realize two hours of mindless scrolling has passed?
5) Time Yourself
Whether you work hourly, via retainer, or on a fixed-rate basis like me, this last one is must. Not only by timing yourself do you have a better picture on how long it actually takes you to complete a project (priceless information for a freelancer), but it’s also a simple way to keep you on task – ensuring that time spent, is time spent working.
Personally, I use the Hours app on my phone – pausing for snack breaks or anything non-work-related – and it’s a great resource to help you stay focused.
Combine all of the above tips for one productive workday? You’ll be busting out quality projects in no time, while also investing in lasting, efficient work habits.