In my never-ending quest for productivity and work/life balance I’ve been trying to establish my writing routine, both short and long-term, and develop better habits.


I know I blog about this sort of shit a LOT, but you can never have too many productivity tips – as long as you’re not procrastinating by reading this. If you are, bookmark it for later and get your arse back in that document *stern face*.
Recommended reading for productivity
I recently read the excellent Writing Faster FTW by L.A. Witt, skim read Take off Your Pants by Libbie Hawker, and perused the impressive selection of writing planning sheets on Jami Gold’s website.
I would say I’m normally 90% a pantser, but I’ve long wished that I planned a little better. After getting some tips from these sources I think my current project is more like 80% pants/ 20% plan. I have a slightly more detailed outline than usual thanks to Jami Gold’s Romance Beat Sheet, and as a result I’m finding it easier to get stuck into writing each day. Less procrastination = more words, so I count that as win.
A ‘good’ day for me used to be 2000 words, but this week I’ve edged my daily average up to 2500. My next goal is 3000 average… it could happen!
Setting my Schedule (short term)
After seeing a post from Keira Andrews (one of my favourite authors) about productivity, where she suggested switching focus from word count goals to time goals, I did just that. Previously I’d have a daily goal (usually of 2k, sometimes less on a bad day). But between procrastination and finding other important things to do (aka procrastination by another name) and general lack of motivation, it would often take me until the evening to hit that goal.
The last couple of weeks I’ve set aside sacred writing time, and mostly stuck to it. I do three sessions every day from Monday to Friday:
9:00 – 9:45
10:00 – 10:45
11:00 – 11:45
After that, I’m free to do other stuff (admin, promo, editing, my other job, kid juggling, social media, lunch dates, exercise, more writing if I want, etc). But those three forty-five minute slots are sacred.
In that time I will almost always hit 2000 words, and on a good day, I might make closer to 3000. But whatever word count I reach doesn’t matter. I put the time in, so I can pat myself on the back and get on with the other stuff without having a word goal hanging over me like the sword of Damocles.
Setting my Schedule (long term)
At the start of this year, I booked five editing slots for 2016, and five more for 2017. My editor, Sue Adams, is an utter gem. She’s also a very busy woman who’s awesome editing skills are in demand, so I want to be sure of getting my slots with her.
Having a long term schedule is really helping me stay focused. It’s manageable, so it’s not paralysing me with fear… but it is keeping me looking one step ahead, and motivating me to fit my writing into the times that suit me best (school term times mostly, because I have two school age kids and a husband who teaches).
Apps and tools
I’m the queen of the productivity app. I know that researching them is an elaborate form of procrastination itself, but I don’t care. Because when I find one that works for me, it’s worth it 🙂
I’m happy to announce that, thanks to Avery Cockburn (another of my favourite authors), I’ve finally found the perfect productivity app for me. I work on a Mac, and the Focus app (https://heyfocus.com/) has been a revelation. It does exactly what I need it to do: namely blocks the sites I choose to block (on all browsers), for the chunks of time I choose. It’s not too expensive, is easy to set up, and it’s basically the best.

I have it set up to block all distracting social media during my 45 minute writing sessions. It removes all temptation and it’s actually incredibly freeing knowing that I can’t access any of those sites that normally suck so much of my time.
Over to you
What are your top tips for productivity? Whether you write in the daytime or the evening, full time or when you can fit it around another job, what works for you? And if you have more apps to share with me I’m greedy for them 😉

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© Jay Northcote

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