We have a saying here in the office that behind every great work of genius is a lot of home help. Sadly we don’t all have assistants to take care of the daily chores. If we are to get stuff done and stay functioning as human beings, we need to be more rigorous with our time.

Counter-intuitively one of the worst drains on our time is allowing writing to take over. Whether we seek perfection, lack in confidence or are trying to make up for interruptions, the lure of doing “just one more” tweak or re-write is compelling. Ultimately this path never yields the results hoped for and we have wasted our time.

The trick is to know when and how to finish each day so that we are in good shape to tackle the next. Writing is intensive. It can’t be done effectively for hours straight. Pacing is all. Here are five tips (gained from bitter experience…)
  1. Set yourself a realistic time to finish each day. Stick to it come what may (even if you feel you haven’t been that productive). It’s a marathon not a sprint. Don’t let yourself get depleted.
  2. Avoid off-script tweaks at the end of the day when you are tired. They may seem like a good idea but, like a battle-weary soldier, you will be making poor decisions and going round in circles. Wait until tomorrow. Gaining distance on your writing will sharpen your judgment.
  3. Ideally finish when you have a clear idea for your next paragraph/section or even in mid sentence. This will enable you to pick up quickly from where you left off avoiding writers block.
  4. Clear your desk. Sticking to a schedule means you no longer have to hastily up and leave at the end of the day. Take a few moments to organise your space. Bin those coffee cups and crisp packets (yes we are guilty too…) Jot down a brief list of points you want to cover next rather than have them lurking in your psyche. Save your work and allow your computer to power down in its own sweet time so that your files aren’t damaged. It does make a difference.
  5. Refresh yourself too! It’s crazy how the writing process can make you look and feel like a saggy bloodhound. Splash some water on your face, blink, scrunch up your face a few times to get the circulation moving.

Composed and without suffering any drop in output, you now have time to
catch your train, buy your mum a birthday card, see your friends, plan dinner, have a life!
You will also be better set to take on the next day.

Image: copyright Randall Munroe, http://xkcd.com/1739/