Being More Efficient

I recently read a magazine article that said people who are successful in various fields spend no more than 4-5 hours a day doing their work.*  The idea is not how much you work, but how focused you are when you work.  This got me thinking about what we do as writers.  The most important thing we can do is write.  Without a book, we won’t have a product.

While I think social networking is good for building up a platform, establishing a brand, and making connections, I don’t think it’s the way you will sell the most books.  For more on why I believe this, read Kristen Lamb’s blog post “Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales”.  I see no reason to restate her main points.  Social networking in all its forms is about connecting with people.  I do think it’s important, but writing is way more important.  If all you’re doing is social networking, you’re missing out on the most crucial component of making money: your next book.   I see a lot of authors who write a book and all they do is promote that book.  They spend very little time writing their next one.  That is a huge mistake.

So in wondering, “How can we work more efficiently (instead of more) to get more books out there?” This is what I came up with after doing some research over the past couple months:

1.  Make a list of your priorities.

The things that are most important need to be first on the list.  I suggest making the daily list short.  That way, it’s not overwhelming.

You can make a list of things you want to do for the month and break that down across the days in the month.  For example, let’s say I want to edit my book.  I know some people are able to do this in 1-2 days.  I can only do 2 chapters a day.  So one of my monthly projects would be “edit Book X”.  Book X is 20 chapters.  What I’ll do is break down this task by marking down 2 chapters each day that I’ll edit.  (By the way, I do have other people edit my book, too.  To do it only by myself would drive me insane.)

A s a writer, the most important thing on your list should be writing one of your current projects.  Whatever the word count is, try to get something written that day.  Some people write on specific days.  Like, “I’ll write for 2 hours on Wednesday and Saturday”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Just make sure that is the priority for those days so it gets done before the other stuff.

I don’t write every single day.  I find if I push myself too hard, I end up shutting down, so I let myself take a break.  But I usually write six days a week.  If there’s a writer’s conference or family vacation, I obviously don’t write for longer spurts of time.  You need to find the best fit for you.  The key is to be consistent.  Train your mind to get into the writing zone at certain times.

I find it’s best to write first then do other things on my list (write a blog post, edit, answer emails, etc) come after I’m done writing. Why?  Because writing is the most important thing I’m doing. 😀

2.  Learn to say no.

We can’t be everywhere and do everything.  This includes social networking.  We have to pick the most important things that will get us toward our goals.  I’m assuming people reading this post have writing as one of their prime goals.  So you need to say yes to writing your stories.  Things you might have to say no to could be stuff like making your house spic and span clean 24-7, watching TV, critiquing another person’s book, spending time on a forum, or playing a game.  This is where the list of priorities come in handy.  Anything that isn’t on that priority list are things you could say no to.

Regarding critiques, I have gotten emails requesting critiques.  The best way to handle this is by telling the person wanting a critique that there are local writing groups, online writing groups, and editors who do this for a living.  It’s in a writer’s best interest to find people who are qualified to do critiques.  Contacting a stranger is not in their best interest.  The best thing is to develop relationships with other writers so they can form groups and/or get referrals to quality editors.  Now, I have done edits for people I’m super-duper close to (that’s a very small list), and they have returned the favor.  This is a cooperative arrangement, not one where I do all the work all the time.  Sharing is wonderful.  But share with people you trust to give you honest input, and give them honest input in return.  Be nice but share your honest opinion.  Both is possible.

Another big area is strangers requesting reviews.  This is a no-win situation.  First, you’d have to give up time writing (making money) in order to read someone else’s book (one you might not even like).  I’m fine with reviewing books you want to review.  I still review books.  But there’s no reason to review books you don’t want to review.  This is a time suck.

Yes, it’s not a fun feeling saying no when someone wants us to do something, but it’s absolutely necessary at times.   And yes, there will be people who will be mad at us for not doing what they want.  But hey, you can’t please everyone all the time.  You have a right and a responsibility to do write your books.

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I was going to write more, but I’m almost at 1,000 words so I’ll end this post here. 😀

*Article: “Do More, Faster!” from SUCCESS magazine, April 2014.

21 Comments

  1. This is exactly the sort of advice i need right now. Thanks for posting.

    1. I needed it too, especially since my life feels so hectic. I really need that list of priorities. 😀

  2. Great post and fantastic reminders all around. Prioritizing the day… this one thing has done more to get and keep me on track with my writing than any thing else! Thank you.

    1. I agree. When I make the list and let writing be at the top, I get stuff written. If I put writing further down, I tend not to get to the writing at all. Writing really needs to be first.

  3. Elke Feuer says:

    How crazy that you’re writing this post. I just read Kristen’s blog and I have the April issue of Success on my desk ready to read the article, “Do More, Faster!” Great minds think alike? 🙂

    You’re SO right that our priority as writers should be writing our next book. People ask me how I manage to got out two books (soon to be three) this year, have a family and an organization that helps local writers. I smile and give them a plethora of wonderful answers, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I could do much more if I cut down on TV and other time wasters, and say no to things that aren’t a priority.”

    1. Kristen and Success are wonderful! I love them. 😀

      I just finished the second draft of my third book that will be out this year and juggle a family and other demands, so it is very possible to do it. But like you, I keep thinking of all the time wasters I engage in. What it really comes down to is just writing. It sounds so easy, but it’s really something we have to be disciplined about.

  4. So true. Yes, do not review books you are not interested in reading. We cannot do everything. God bless.

    1. That is a huge time waster, not only as a writer but definitely as a reader. Our free reading time should be for books we’re interested in.

  5. G M Barlean says:

    Excellent post. Thank you.

  6. M T McGuire says:

    Excellent stuff and you’re right. Efficiency is key, I find knowing what I’m going to do before I start is always handy. 10 minutes spent planning my time can save me hours.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. I heard planning ahead really saves time on the stuff we need to do. I need to do that more.

      1. M T McGuire says:

        You and me both 🙂

  7. Harliqueen says:

    Great post, and a great reminder how prioritising really can help! 😀

  8. Great advice, Ruth Ann! I always found I had the same response if I pushed myself, so I finally stopped pushing. It took a while to sink in, though.

    1. The danger for me is putting too much pressure on myself to get stuff done. Then I end up freezing and being unable to do anything. That’s when I need to step back and say, “It’s okay to take a break.” That’s easier said than done. 😀

  9. Learn to say no. Learn to say no. Learn to say no….

    1. hehe That is one of the hardest things to do. 😀

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