Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tracking Time: Analyzing Your Work Week For Maximum Productivity


Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Last week I talked about 10 ways to increase your productivity. And, as promised, here is a breakdown I did of one of my work weeks and what I learned from it. If you can, I highly recommend keeping track of your hours working on one of your books, just to give you an idea as to how long it takes you and to reveal patterns of low and high productivity. So let's take a look at one of my weeks.





As I mentioned last week, I really struggled to finish my book King's War. Ever since we moved, my new schedule was sabotaging my efforts. First, let's examine my schedule, which looked something like this:

Monday- Babysit my charge from 7:30 am until about 1:00 pm. Write from 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm. Pick up son from 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm. Write in the afternoon.
Tuesday- Go Teen Writers blog post day. Write fiction when finished. Pick up son from 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm.
Wednesday- Babysit my charge from 7:30 am until about 1:00 pm. Write from 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm. Pick up son from 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm. Write in the afternoon.
Thursday- Home to work on book. Pick up son from 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm.
Friday- Occasional babysit my charge day (from 7:30 am until about 1:00 pm). Once a month writers meeting from 9:00 am - 12:00 noon. Otherwise, home to work on book. Pick up son from 2:00 pm - 2:30 pm.
Saturday- Random activities on the schedule. Often home to work on book.
Sunday- Day off.

Add to that schedule taking my son to school from 7:00 am to 7:30 am and a couple physical therapy appointments and you can see there isn't a lot of time that could be blocked out for writing. And ideally, I'd prefer not to work on Saturdays, but that hasn't been an option for me. I did my best, however, with this book, but things got stressful, especially every Monday through Wednesday.

Now I'd like to show you a sample of writing results from an average work week. I used Stephanie's free story workbook tutorial on this book, so I was able to keep track of my writing time, which helped me see where I was productive and where I was not. Here is a sample week:

Monday- 512 words. It's always hard to write coming off the weekend. So Mondays are usually down a little in word count. But on a babysitting day, it's especially difficult.
Tuesday- 2840 words. I did better this day, even with it being a GTW blog post day. It helped that I did some writing the previous day and I was home all day this particular Tuesday. No physical therapy or any other appointments.
Wednesday- 1547 words. Another babysitting day, so my word count was down.
Thursday- 1140 words. Home all day, but this chapter was a difficult one (a major battle) and it took me all day just to get this many words, though to be fair, I did delete quite a few other words too, so I bet I wrote closer to 1400. Still. Super tough scene.
Friday- 4860 words. I picked up easily this morning and got right into things. Did much better.
Saturday- 4449 words. This was an equally productive day.

From this I learned:
-I write better in the mornings.
-I am not so productive on Mondays
-I am not so productive on any day in which I didn't write the day before.
-I am not so productive on a babysitting day or on the day after a babysitting day.
-I am most productive when I am able to write for at least three days in a row. 

Mondays are rarely great writing days for me. I'm coming off the weekend, and I need to get back to work and back into my story. Plus I babysit on Monday mornings, so that makes it extra hard to get to work since I'm often exhausted when I do finally sit down (my charge is a three-year-old, quite active boy). Tuesdays are rarely good writing days. It depends on the blog post. I sometimes can write them in a couple hours, but often it takes me all day. But even if I do manage to get the post done in a few hours, it takes a different type of concentration for me to write fiction than it does to write nonfiction. So it's not easy for me to transition from one into the other.

Since I have been writing mostly on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday afternoons (after I finish babysitting or my GTW blog post), all day Thursday, and sometimes on Friday and/or Saturday, it has been tough to consistently get into my story. On the weeks when I didn't have to babysit on Friday and I had Saturday free as well, I did so much better. Having three full writing days in a row makes a huge difference. I'm able to draw progressively deeper into my storyeach day builds on the lastand I get a lot more done. To do my best fiction writing, I need to be immersed.

Since I like to write nonfiction writing books and have a few projects I want to start working on once I finish King's Blood, I'm going to embark upon a new trial season in which I'm going to alternate between projects. For example, I might set aside a month or two to write a nonficiton project, then switch to three or four months of fiction. I'm hoping that this method might make it easier for me to work deep and be more productive on each project than trying to switch back and forth in a day or even a week. I'm hoping I will no longer continually derail myself from trying to multitask. I don't know it it will work, but I'm hopeful. It's good to try new things to see what works and what doesn't.

Have you ever tracked your writing time to see where you are most productive? What works best for you? What is a hindrance? Any experiments you might like to try to be more productive? Share in the comments.

21 comments:

  1. I like everything to be quiet, so any kind of noise is distracting, especially when I get called away from my computer occasionally.

    If my closet were bigger, I'd love to shut myself inside and write in the dark. It sounds like such fun to write in complete darkness. One of these days I'll find a way to do so.

    -Ann

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    1. Lol, a literal writing cave. Sounds somewhat dreamy. I'm not a fan being in total darkness, but a place with peace and quiet, no distractions and limitless time to write would be awesome.
      *sighs dreamily*
      God Bless.

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    2. Peace and quiet is super helpful. And it might be kind of fun to write in the dark for a while, but I do t think I'd want to do it always.

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  2. I write the most right before bed, but I write most creatively from 12-1 AM. That's not usually an option for me though. The hardest part of writing for me is getting a quiet place to write, since there are seven homeschooled kids in my house.

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    1. No way could I stay up that late. I don't think I've been productive enough lately to know when my best time is. Maybe morning time when I'm the only one awake? But during the week, that doesn't work as well with me being too busy in the morning. I'm trying to make a system, but with summer coming up, I know things would change anyway.

      Seven kids? That's a lot of siblings. Quiet probably isn't something you find easily.
      God Bless

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    2. Oh, man, Sara... back when I was younger I was the same--a total night owl. But I sadly can't do that anymore. And such a busy house certainly makes a challenging writing environment. Hope you can find some quiet time!

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  3. My dad once said "If it's important to you, you'll make time for it." He was talking about reading the Bible in the morning, but I think it applies to everything. So I went out and looked for time I could use for writing. Now I've got a routine down, which gives me about an hour and a half of writing time a day, in small increments. Of course, that's with me keeping control of myself and not using that time for interneting or otherwise wasting that time...

    10-15 minutes of writing a couple times a day can really help your word count. It may not seem like much, but it adds up. It may be easier just to check FaceBook or Pinterest, but I promise, you will be happy that you spent that little bit of time writing instead.

    I also live off of like, 6 hours of sleep. I do take Sundays off, so I catch-up then, and get to take a break from writing. That helps me come back roaring like a lion on Mondays, which are my best writing days.

    ~Julian D.

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    1. You're totally right. If it's something that matters, we will make time for it. I think I'll try getting in little increments at a time of writing. Maybe my word count would be better and I'll have more time to think on areas that are harder to write. Great advice!
      God Bless

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    2. Yeah, just set your priorities (make a list if you have too, because who doesn't like lists??). I used to spend a lot of time playing an instrument before writing, and I thought that was fine. Then I realized I was procrastinating from writing and spending a little too much time just messing around with whatever instrument I had in my hands.

      So I have to watch myself and just make sure I don't spend too much time on something that's further down on the list. But I'm glad I could help!

      ~Julian D.

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    3. Your dad is wise, Julian. Good advice. It sounds like you have a good system going. Awesome how the time away helps you recharge.

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  4. I find I write best after I've checked email and completed my studying for the day, so usually late morning and early afternoon. I like to write for about fifteen minutes, then listen to a song or two as a reward. Then I repeat as necessary. I don't allow myself to even think about social media, email, or anything of the sort as I'm writing. I get way too distracted. I tell myself that I can get back to those things after I'm done.

    Thanks for an awesome post!

    ~Sarah R.

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    1. Probably doesn't help to have me bombarding you with emails every ten minutes, does it? :) Short increments with a brief reward is great, though. It's something I've started doing, thanks to you.

      ~Julian D.

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    2. Hey, I don't mind the emails. I look forward to responding when I've finished my burst. But the trick to rewarding yourself is self-discipline. It's easy for that one song to turn into a Studio C binge. Once that one song (or whatever) is up, you have to get back to writing!

      ~Sarah R.

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    3. Good! Usually by the time I've finished my short increment, I'm totally "in the zone" so I just keep going. But it helps to get me started.

      ~Julian D.

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    4. I love that you reward yourself with music, Sarah. That's awesome! And you are wise to stay away from social media!!

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  5. I haven't really been sticking to any schedule, but I would love to eventually. With summer coming up, my schedule will change immensely and once I know what that will be like, I'm hoping I can find a better system for my writing. Right now, I just write when I can and when I'm not distracted.

    I'm editing right now and it takes a lot out of me.
    Thank you for this wonderful post.

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    1. My schedule will change come summer too, PT. Good luck with your editing! I hope you find lots of quiet spaces to stay focused. :-)

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    2. Thank you! I hope so, too.
      God Bless.

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  6. Mostly my schedule consists of writing/editing my novel an hour every day. So during the writing stage, I usually write about 1,000 words a day. Right now I'm off my schedule because of life.

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  7. Love this, Jill! My normal writing days are Tue, Wed, Thurs. I write from about 8:30am until I run out of steam, usually about 1 or 2. When I'm deadline writing, it's different for me, but the other four days of the week are full of family and church obligations and I count those as high priorities as well.

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