One of the most surprising things about the publishing business is finding out how many people want to write books. I honestly have more people who tell me they want to write a book then people who talk about reading books. Now more than ever, that goal can be realized quickly and effectively. Yet it is still hard for some to take the first step or to get over the hump and really get moving on an idea.
I finished one of the best productivity books I have ever read this week. The title is Eat That Frog, 21 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done In Less Time. Chapter 4 discusses the consequences of our goals and what should be considered when we set them. The author suggests asking three questions of yourself to maximize your productivity, which I have modified for writers.
What can you and only you write that if done well will make a real difference? Peter Drucker, one of the best business thinkers ever, originally asked this question. For writers, it is the most important question that you can ask yourself. Until you have an answer for this question, don't start working on a manuscript. There is no need for another book that covers the same things in the same way with the same tone. Think outside the box, assess your passions, and write something that will make a real difference when you put your pen to paper.
What are my highest value writing activities? Ask yourself where you write best, when you write best, and how you write best. If you love one area of the writing process, like research, focus on that goal alone in the beginning and just move in the right direction. Identifying those times and activities that help create the most productive time for you will help keep you motivated and more productive. For instance, I have found that the mornings are my best time for thinking. If I wake up before anyone else and start working on my creative projects, I will often check off more things on my list from the hours of 6 to 8 then I would from 9 to 5. Find your highest value factors and maximize your productivity and time.
What is the most valuable use of my time right now? Ask yourself this question daily to keep you focused on the right things. Make sure that what you are working on moves you closer to your goal and that its not just busywork. Spend time on high value activities until they are finished. Apply the 80/20 principle to the list of activities that you have before your next manuscript will be finished. The 80/20 principle says that 20% of your activities will provide 80% of the benefit - focus on those activities. Hint: Spending time building your list on Facebook, Twitter, or making your website prettier will almost always be a low value activity. It will not move you closer to your goal of a finished book.
Ask yourself these questions and your writing productivity will skyrocket. Remember that strategy is really more about doing than knowing: you have the tools, now you just have to do it. What questions do you ask yourself as a writer? Have these questions had any effect on you? What will it take for you to get started?