Resources The Writing Life

Keys to Writing Productivity

Writers write.

I read a short Kindle book about the secret to being a productive writer.

“Successful writers write, and write, and write, and then write some more.” Now, that’s a secret.

But, sometimes, we can’t. Not because of writer’s block, but because of lack of productivity.

Productivity is a combination of motivation, and managing activity.

I can handle Motivation by reviewing my goals, and my plans. Well-made goals and plans include the ‘why” completion matters, and the “how much” it will cost me if I don’t finish.

Managing activity is typically called “time management”. But, you can’t manage time. It flows on to infinity all on its own. No stopping it, no slowing it, no saving or wasting it. It is a dimension that has no controls.

What you can do is to manage what you DO during any given time period. Activity management is productivity.

As writers, we’re supposed to write for an hour, four hours, or some other arbitrary time. But, sometimes writing for even five minutes is a chore, even if we have plenty of time available.

Keeping your nose to the grindstone usually ends with a stooped posture and a short nose. There has to be some better way to write, and write, and write, and then write some more.

Besides Scrivener, which I use to physically manage my writing projects, and my various note-takers to collect ideas, I have a couple of activity management tools that help me stay on task and write.

The first is the Pomodoro Method. Pomodoro is Italian for “tomato”. (Why a tomato came to represent activity management? I don’t know.) This is a methodology for staying on task. The idea is to work like heck for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, repeat three more times, then take a 20 or 30 minute break. In this way, you work steadily for two-and-a-half hours in a three-hour time slot.

During your breaks, you do other stuff. (”Stuff” is a technical term in activity management.) You stare at the ceiling, you do stretches or light exercise. You rehydrate or snack. You do anything except your main task. You give your brain a break.

When the break time is up, you get back to work.

This works well with a kitchen timer, or a countdown timer app. I’ve even seen “pomodoro” apps, too.

When the bell rings, go on to the next phase.

You can get more details at

I modified the technique in that I usually only employ it when I have a goodly size of work to do. I get easily bored and distracted by shiny objects — Look! A squirrel!!! — and this simple timer process helps me stay focused and productive.

The technique is free, but you can buy their timer or eBook that gives further explanation and tips.

Then I spent a few dollars getting “The Action Generator.”

This software comes pre-loaded with dozens of pre-defined activities complete with variable times you can assign them. You can see it and buy it through my affiliate link:

The software lets you create or modify activities and then assign them to built-in timers. There are 50 numbered timers, 7 day-named timers, and 31 date timers. You can rename any of them to suit your needs. This allows you to have a variety of activities custom arranged for specific days, dates, seasons, projects — whatever. It is highly customizable.

To use it, after you’ve assigned and configured the activities, is to click the “target” and your timer begins. It sounds an alarm at the end. You can activate a break timer for any time from 5 minutes to an hour.

You really should see the 10-minute video they’ve prepared to demonstrate it.

Regardless, this is what I use. Because I get easily distracted, and lose track of what I should be doing, this combination of the Pomodoro Method and The Action Generator fits my personality and working style.

What tools or methods do you use to stay productive?

By John Larson

John is an experienced small business owner, management consultant, project manager, and family man. John has been married since 1967 to the same beautiful bride. He has two sons and eight grandchildren. He makes his home in Carlton, Oregon, USA.

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