Last week, we established that mastering the ability to write at a faster speed is essential to earning more. We explored how paramount creating positive writing rituals and using time-saving tools is in aiding this goal.
Now, we’re ready for Act 2, and the main player here is time-management. The fact is that you are not a writing machine, and need food, water, sleep, and social interaction to survive. It’s all about how you harness the time you do have, even if that’s only 20 minutes a day. Chances are, this is an area where all of of us could stand a few improvements.
Since there are countless assailants trying to steal your precious time (hello, cute cat videos), you’ve got to have safeguards in place to protect your productivity and sanity. In today’s post, I’ll explore how the simple act of organizing your ideas in an outline and then using the Pomodoro technique will keep distractions in check and maximize your efficiency.
In Defense of Outlines
For many, outlines conjure up less-than-desirable memories of middle school and Roman numerals. However, it’s time to see outlines in a new light– and also to let go of the idea that they quell creativity.
The truth is, outlines give you the freedom to let your creative horses run wild while ensuring you can always lasso them back in and make sense of your ideas in a logical way.
By effectively sequencing your information, you also make the subsequent hassle of writing and editing far easier. Structuring your thoughts propels your writing forward with focus and momentum.
The brevity of these blueprints calls for brutal honesty, too–it will be apparent pretty quickly if you haven’t established the focus of your article, have a gap in your research, or are just plain headed for a dead end. A good place to start is with establishing the core message of your piece.
After all, every single sentence you write should come back to and strengthen your core in some way. Your outline is like that old, slightly Type A friend from the past that gets you back on track, whether you’re veering totally off course or hitting a wall.
Even if you’re putting together a 300-word blog post, I highly recommend you give outlines a try to establish better control of your time right from the outset of your writing process.
The Pomodoro Technique
Most writers have so many projects going on that they get nowhere by trying to do them all at once–this is where the Pomodoro Technique intervenes.
If you’ve ever felt like multi-tasking may lead to your early demise, you’ll appreciate this time-management strategy, which is based off the belief that juggling a million tasks without taking a break simply doesn’t work.
Instead, the Pomodoro Technique advocates for short sprints of productivity called “pomodoros.” The idea is to concentrate on one task for 25 minutes, without doing anything else, and then to take a five minute break. After four consecutive cycles of this, take a longer break of 20-30 minutes. It’s also essential you use a timer so you’re not distracted thinking about the time (this article is a great resource for exploring the best pomodoro timer apps).
Twenty-five minutes may be the sweet spot for you, but the length of these pomodoros can be adjusted as you find fit. It’s not the actual length that matters, but rather you focus fully on the task at hand and keep your mind fresh with frequent breaks.
This technique is also a life-saver when multitasking is kinda sorta not optional. For instance, maybe your day looks like sending in a proposal, research, answering emails, and editing two drafts. Scheduling one pomodoro solely to answer emails is more effective than disrupting your day to constantly answer them as they flood in. Studies show it can take up to 25 minutes to get back in the swing of things after being interrupted.
Taking frequent short breaks is also necessary to avoid eye strain (and a hunchback!). A little time to stretch your legs and relax is not only healthy, but helps stimulate fresh ideas– after all, how often do you have epiphanies on your sixth straight hour of screen time?
As always, I’d like to welcome your feedback. How do you feel about outlines? Have you experimented with the Pomodoro Technique–or found success with a different time-management technique?
Hannah Chenoweth is a conference producer and freelance writer based in Hoboken, NJ. She is a passionate storyteller who also also enjoys reading, yoga, travel, roadtrips, meeting new people, and adventures. Feel free to check out her past work at https://www.clippings.me/hannahchenoweth/ or say hi on Twitter @hannahchen2!
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