About Productivity — A Workflow Plan

Yesterday, due to a nexus of opportunity to work and volume of committed projects, I put just over 17,000 words down — not counting emails and Facebook conversations. That’s an unusually busy day for me, but 10,000 words of one sort or another isn’t that unusual anymore.

A lot of my writer friends ask how I do that, especially since I’m also taking care of my house and kids. Here’s the answer.

I divide my workday into “cycles” which consist of a writing goal, a housework goal, a business goal, time with the toddler and exercise. Each takes between 40 minutes and an hour. Any given day, I’ll do between 4 and 6 cycles.

For example, the cycle I’m in right now includes the following:

  • Write this blog post
  • Do a final draft of a chapter for my current book project
  • Apply to a job posting that interests me
  • Box the stuff in our “To Goodwill” basket
  • Do 50 pushups, 50 situps and a repetition of a kata
  • (Gabe’s not awake yet, but if he was we’d play with his new toy backhoe)

What this cycling does is let me keep my energy up by getting away from my computer frequently. I find that while I’m cleaning or playing with Gabriel, the back of my mind works on the problems I need to beat for my next bout of writing. At the end of the day, I’ve finished my assignments, raised my sons, cleaned my house and seen to the needs of my business.

Counterpoint

A lot of research says this is a bad idea, by the way. They say it takes five or ten minutes to refocus once you interrupt the flow of any given task. This is probably true, so if you do better in large blocks of uninterrupted writing time you should stick with what works for you. For me, and potentially for some of you, though…

  1. My work mostly consists of smallish chunks like a single article, blog post or chapter
  2. I have a serious physical activity addiction, and I get antsy if I sit for more than 30 consecutive minutes
  3. Because I like this organization of my day, I break up all my tasks to make them work with it. I never quit a job in the middle to move on to another thing (unless the demands of parenthood require it).

How About You?

What systems do you use to organize work flow? How many different ways did you try before settling on what you do now?

Tune in next week and I’ll talk about how I decide what goes into those cycles. If today was about tactics, next week’s entry will be about strategy.

Thanks for listening.

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