One Simple Way to Increase Writing Productivity

Like a lot of writers, I struggled to make room for writing. There are so many other demands on our time: paying work, church work, family, friends…

It’s way too easy to let your writing fall off the end of the day. That’s why many writers do their writing first thing in the morning. I have yet to develop that habit, though I’ve long intended to. Somehow, I’m just not there yet.

Calendar Writing Time

Photo by Kristen Stieffel

But I did hear of another practice that was easy to implement and has really helped improve my consistency. This productivity tip comes from Jerry Seinfeld and is explained by Brad Isaac in an article for Lifehacker.

The idea is to get a big one-year wall calendar and then X off every day on which you write. In short, Seinfeld says, “Don’t break the chain.”

Daily action builds habits. It gives you practice and will make you an expert in a short time. If you don’t break the chain, you’ll start to spot opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t. Small improvements accumulate into large improvements rapidly because daily action provides “compounding interest.”—Brad Isaac

The article describes a big calendar with red Xs, but those look angry to me. Green check marks feel more positive. And I don’t have room for a big calendar, so I printed off one that fits on a page and added it to my bulletin board.

Download a one-page calendar for 2016. I got it from the spreadsheet masters at Vertex 42.

It really is true that once you have a string of check marks looking at you, you don’t want to miss a day. I haven’t missed since January 30.

It’s not always a huge amount of writing. My goal this year is to write at least 500 words a day, which is a little less than an hour’s work, usually. I wind up going over most days. I’m averaging 516 words a day (yes, I have a spreadsheet for that, too). So far this year I’ve completed two novellas and made progress on a novel. But I’m way ahead of where I was at this time last year. So that’s a win.

Next up, I just have to move that writing time to the morning.

About Kristen Stieffel

Kristen Stieffel is a writer and freelance editor specializing in speculative fiction. She's a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, Christian Editor Connection, and American Christian Fiction Writers.

5 comments on “One Simple Way to Increase Writing Productivity

  1. Kristen, sounds like a great idea, and one I need. One obligation after another each day, and the next thing I know it’s time for bed without writing. The I’ll write more tomorrow time never seems to arrive.

  2. I’ve started placing star stickers on my calendar on the days I meet my word count goal. Sounds a little juvenile, but it’s incredibly motivating. I want that sticker!

  3. Wow… Having a string of checkmarks looking at you is very simple to keep yourself motivated. I may have to try this out… Thanks for the tip.

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