10 Writing-Related Tasks I Do In My Non-Productive Time To Boost Writing Output
Learn to protect your ‘pious’ writing hours
I recently posted a story about an incident on how I couldn’t write consistently because of my doorbell!
The one thing writers can wish for in abundance is some undisturbed time slot in which they can write in calm and peace. But unfortunately, and sadly, many of us are not blessed with the same.
I, for one, am not.
I will spare you details of how I struggle to squeeze writing time into my daily chaos. But know that I have a tough time getting that blissful and ideal writing space.
Being the smart engineer I am, I have a solution to everything—Pat pat. So, I worked out a system to fit as much work as possible into my writing days.
And save my undisturbed hours for the actual writing.
Feel free to take a few leaves from this (smarty pants’) book!
What is non-productive time?
Every writer has their own peak times when their writing juices are just gushing out. They are on a spree and shell out a significant chunk of their work during those hours. And, of course, you also have that time of the day.
That’s your productive time. And as writer Dickie Bush says:
Defend those sacred hours — ruthlessly.
Apart from that, you will also have small writing windows scattered here and there throughout the day. Though they are insufficient for proper writing, they are long enough for the peripheral stuff.
Introducing — the non-productive time.
- 20-min time between my lunch & my daughter coming back from school, brimming with her day’s stories,
- the intermittent times, between my cook’s 21 questions,
- my bathroom time with my phone,
- the 10-min slot I wait for my daughter’s bus,
- etc, etc.
Tell me about yours.
The tasks that qualify
So, what all can you squeeze in here?
We, content creators, do many other tasks that are not exactly writing. These are peripheral tasks that need to be done for the smooth functioning of the system. The good news — one can easily accommodate many tasks in these small pockets of time.
What are these tasks?
- These tasks take less time to complete.
- Frequent interruptions do not affect the quality of these tasks.
- You can always pick up from where you had left.
The 10 tasks
#1 Outline a story
I have an abundance of ideas, I will admit. However, sometimes I fear I will burn out with the burden of not being able to give life to all my ideas.
I have started using Effie — a tool that has helped me enormously in idea-collation and drafting of my stories. So, when I get chunks of time, I pick up one idea from the folder and start making the rough outline — just the rough bullet points. It helps me later because I don’t have to start from zero.
#2 Clicky-click — I need my pictures
I work on simultaneous stories. So, I have 2–3 stories that are in the pipeline. And I like my images to pop out and make an impact on the story. That takes time.
Hence, I use these times to look for a good image for my upcoming stories. I also collect images I feel I can use for my future writings — saves me a ton of time later.
#3 Hedwig’s here — mail time!
Mails can be a real distraction, I say. They can steer you away from productive writing. Hence, I make sure I check my mail during my non-writing times.
Replying, reading, and checking out stuff like offers in the mailbox does not require that level of focus as writing does. So, keeping them for the non-productive times is a wise practice.
[But I always star mark & designate a proper time for the client mails.]
#4 Ping goes the notification
Medium, LinkedIn, Twitter.
Engaging with readers is refreshing for me. It’s a high point of my day. In fact, most days, I get into the groove by replying to readers. It really pumps me up.
This is one of the tasks that can fit in small pouches of time here and there.
#5 Data backup and content planning
I often link my old stories. So, I need the link to be handy.
Hence, I keep them sorted in one place so that I know exactly where to find them when I need them. It is a content planner of sorts.
I also tag my stories and earmark them for other purposes — a listicle, ebook, newsletter, etc. I need to do that frequently to avoid a stressful backlog.
When I have some time, I collate them in my planner to streamline my writing process better.
[Get your planner here.]
#6 Flesh out a story limb
For me, a story is rarely a one-go thing. It happens in batches.
First, the idea dawns; then, I have a rough outline. And then, I flesh out the points. So, I go to my story list, pick one sub-heading and start adding sentences to that. Then, find out more on that point and keep adding volume — on that one point.
When done in batches, I manage to fit in more things in a day.
#7 Tweet tweet
Tweets are micro-stories that can be quickly made. If not the whole thread, at least the layout or the basic idea.
Unlike LinkedIn posts, which require more time to come up with, Twitter posts are manageable in these little time brackets.
#8 Don the research hat
Every now and then, writers are thrown a new tool, new statistics, a new website, or a new course. And though it might not be related to actual writing — yet; they need to be checked out.
If nothing, content creation is an ever-evolving beast.
And when do you do this digging-up-a-little-more? Never in your writing hours. So when? Yes, perfectly answered — in this too-less-to-write sort of times.
I always have a list (long) of things I need to research, and given a small opportunity, I use it to enlighten me more on the topic.
#9 Clearing out the writing cupboard
Believe it or not, the making of a story comes with a lot of garbage — images, screenshots, video recordings, etc. And soon, if not cleared, they can make things hell for you.
And also to mention the downloads. Oh yeah! Tons of them — can make your system slow. Need to flush them, alright.
So, all this janitor’s work is for the non-productive times of the day.
#10 Mixed bag
There are also many things that do not fall into a broad category but are standalone and need to be ticked off the list. For example, my list of miscellaneous things for today is:
- Login to the MyCommerce website to activate an affiliate link of a client.
- Review a fellow writer’s story.
- To start the subscription, a client has gifted in order to review the product.
- Complete the next session of the online course
Writing is not just about writing.
It is a total of all the behind-the-scenes stuff. A lot of things, when synchronized together, bring about the magic. Now, how to make everything run smoothly is something that can make a difference.
With time you know that your sacred hours are too sacred to do anything else than actual writing. You protect them.
And make use of what other time the day gifts you for the fringe jobs that need to be done.
Tell me, how do you use your time pockets?