Last week I finished writing Productivity for Dummies; Yay! Six and a half months of writing to produce almost 90K words.
I went out to celebrate with my husband and while enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to get up early the next morning to write, I thanked him. I thanked him for putting up with me over the past six months of scheduled writing bursts and regular deadlines”
“There was nothing to put up with” he said, “you breezed through it.”
Apart from realising once again I married a good one, I also realised he was right, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. A little intense at times but the reality is I managed it very well and I believe it comes down to these three things:
A pair of headphones, the Pomodoro technique and planning.
Planning & The Trusted Calendar
The process involved in writing a Dummies book is very well organised. Before starting the Table of Contents is created. Each chapter mapped out with headings and subheadings. While I found this process a little difficult and tedious to start it was the secret to my success. When you know what you are going to write in advance you waste little time pondering and rearranging chapters. Having the plan laid out allowed me to be able to plan my weeks up to each deadline. If I had six chapters to write in six weeks, I knew I had to complete a chapter a week to reach deadline. Each chapter was scheduled into my calendar. I needed to create time each week to stay on track. Everybody knows what a calendar is and how to use it but few use it well. The advice I can give you is if you need to get something done, schedule it into the calendar. I was then able to work out how long it would take me to write each chapter with the Pomodoro Technique.
The Pomodoro Technique & Groove Otter
I was never a fan of the Pomodoro technique until I was introduced to Groove Otter. A simple website which helped me make sense of what the Pomodoro Technique was about. The Pomodoro Technique is a time management technique created by Francesco Girillo in the late 1980s. It is a simple and very effective way to improve your productivity. The name Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, taking its name from the tomato kitchen timer used to track the time intervals. Groove Otter replaces the need for the kitchen timer with a timer on the website. The basics of the technique are very simple.
Choose a task you would like to get done
The task can be big or small, a daily tasks or a bigger goal. It doesn’t matter what you choose as long as it is something that you want to get done.
Set the Pomodoro Timer
Traditionally the Pomodoro technique recommended sticking with a task for 25 minutes. You can set different intervals with Groove Otter, depending on how long a task takes. Anything up to 45 minutes. Don’t take a break or allow yourself to get distracted the time period. Personally I worked well with 25 minute Pomodoros.
Work on the task until the timer rings
When I stayed with the task for the full 25 minutes, anything I wanted to do had to wait until break time. If a thought comes into your head reminding you of something you need to do, you capture it on paper and keep going until the timer rings.
Record your Pomodoros
Recording how many words I could write within 25 minutes helped me to manage and schedule the book, I averaged between 400 and 500 in a 25 minute period. So I could work out a very close estimate of how much time I would need for each chapter.
Take a short Break
The break is vital. Breathe, stretch, go to the bathroom or grab a cup of coffee. Use the break to refresh your mind and get ready for another Pomodoro. This new habit was a game changer. I never allowed myself to get over tired, I had less neck and shoulder tension from taking more breaks and I stayed hydrated always refilling my water glass each break.
My kids regularly became irritated when I called their headphones, earphones. Now I know why, they are two very different animals. My birthday presents this year included a set of Headphones, the intention of the present was to facilitate my guided meditation session but soon they became my writing salvation. Blocking out the sounds of everyday life they allowed me to focus intently for each writing session. I also tried out a new service called Focus@Will which they claim is music scientifically optimised to increase focus and concentration. It worked for me.
The experience thought me that we can all do so much more than we think possible but it has to be planned and scheduled. There also have to be sacrifices made. I did miss out on some family outings because I had to stay home and write. I also exercised a lot less, passing a lot of the dog walking onto others to get a couple more pages written, but life is a series of choices and I don’t regret the ones I made over the past six months. I will keep you informed of the book progress, hopefully launching before the end of the year.