Fall is one of my favorite seasons. One of the biggest reasons, besides the cooler weather and the warm, cozy sweaters and socks and the spices and smells of pumpkin and cinnamon,  is I usually spend more time writing. In contrast, I find writing tedious in the summer months. The sun is out too long and I feel drawn to the outdoors. I do actually spend more time outdoors in the fall (because boots and scarves!), I have this drive, more than any other time of year, to sit down and write. Write and write and write anything and everything. What benefits me as a professional is that and I have learned my own writing seasons and have tried to make the most of them.

Yet, coming off the summer months, there are often lingering distractions. I spend far too much time trolling Facebook for food videos and filtering through Pinterest for future home redesigns in the summer, along with Netflix/Hulu binging. Don’t even get me started on the Netflix/Hulu binging. (Who else can’t wait for Stranger Things season 2?!)

The point being, habits, and it’s usually the bad ones, are difficult to break.

But, break one must. Especially us writers who are oh-so-good at finding any and everything to be a hindrance in our writing progress.

Before I started back up with writing after a more-or-less summer hiatus, I came up with a list to help me remove those sunny summer day distractions from my fall routine. I wanted to share them with you so that, whether you are a writer or not, you could use them to help return you to the land of productivity and accomplishment… in the real (not virtual) world, that is.

So here it is, my Top Ten List for Being Productive:

  1. Don’t hit snooze.

  • I know, I know. Trust me, I know. Snooze makes us feel better about getting up super early. Especially if you stayed up late writing (or enjoying quiet time without the kids). Just remember that hitting snooze only prolongs the inevitable. Why not charge out of bed instead of rolling? Rolling is for lazy summers. If it helps, move your phone or alarm clock far enough out of reach that you have to get out of bed to turn it off and once you are out, go to the bathroom so you aren’t tempted to get back into bed. The way you start your day determines, more often than not, how the rest of the day will go.

 

  1. Eat and drink before you play with your phone.

  • This may seem weird but just try it. No, you really don’t need to check your email first thing in the morning. It’s probably all junk anyway. No, you don’t need to see your Instagram likes or your Facebook comments first thing. Get some water- warm with some lemon in it to help wake you up- and then maybe some coffee (Bulletproof is my favorite, but whatever you prefer, drink it) or tea. Eat something healthy. If you have kids to get off to school, spend time talking with them before they head out the door. Set the pace for the day for yourself, and your family members (if you have them.)

 

  1. Just say NO to Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/etc.

  • Unpopular as this might be, this goes with number 2. Just stop with the early morning social media. I personally try to do devotionals in the morning, but you could just as easily do meditation or whatever it is that fits into your beliefs. I made a rule to avoid all social media until a certain time of day (lunch maybe). If I do that, then I find myself looking at my phone less often. I think you are seeing the pattern here of what is really distracting for most people today. We have technology that makes our lives easier, but it doesn’t make doing life easier. Often times, that phone can be the biggest hindrances to success in our families, relationships, careers, and personal goals. Start with saying NO to social media, at least, and most especially, first thing in the morning. If this is part of your business platform, designate specific times of day to update, post, answer emails or messages, etc. Just make sure you LIMIT your time and that the time you do give is specifically for furthering your goals.

  1. Prepare a list of things you want to accomplish for the day

  • I do this on paper *gasp*. Yes, I still write on the ancient invention and with pens and pencils. I know my phone has productivity apps. Yeah, apps that are right next to all the social media ones. Unless you are going to remove all those other apps from your phone, just go old school and write out your goals. Plus, if you use sticky notes, you can hang them up around the house (or in one neat area for us OCD people). The goals can be simple and easily accomplished in one day, or they can be ones that might take longer. Either way, make a list and then…

 

  1. Make a Plan

  • Goals mean nothing if you don’t make a plan to accomplish them. Nothing gets done when you are procrastinating. But, nothing gets accomplished when you dream instead of work. Once you have the list of things you want/need/would like to get done for the day/week/month, make a tentative plan. If you have avoided social media to this point, you are doing good. Also, you can do Number 4 and 5 the night before. If you do, then you can simply review the things you want to accomplish (alternative #4) and then skip to number 6.

 

  1. Start at the top of that list and get to work

  • It seems to go without saying, but most of us are pretty good at the planning stages. We plan for days, weeks, months even, but when it comes time to DO what we planned, we fall short.  Don’t hamper your success or productivity with laziness. If you make a plan, put it into action immediately. Don’t make excuses, make an effort.

 

  1. Mute the Phone/Shut off Notifications/Set an Alarm

  • I group these things together because they are all important and function together. While we don’t want to be distracted by the phone, we may need to keep it near in case of emergency. (And no, your farm or café or puzzle factory isn’t going to die without your care. It’s virtual. Really, it will be okay.) Notifications from Facebook and every other useless app you have can also be distracting. Go into your settings and turn notifications OFF on every app (except maybe the really important ones like your bank). And then, put on alarms. This is important for number 8.

 

  1. Give yourself time to breathe/take a break. Just don’t make it last for hours.

  • We have kids or jobs or other responsibilities in life besides the goals we set for ourselves. If you want to be more productive at work, take small breaks throughout the day to stretch and move. Often when we are physically stuck in one place too long, we can also get mentally stuck. I would still say to avoid social media at these points, mostly because people have little self-control when it comes to these kinds of distractions. But if you have somewhat of a handle on that, 5-10 mins on ONE social media site won’t kill you. Just don’t get sucked in. DON’T GET SUCKED IN! If you are at home with kids, you might have to take more breaks than someone who works away from home. That’s okay. Just make sure to return to the work/tasks you set for yourself when you are done hanging/teaching/caring for your young ones. Don’t use parenthood as a crutch. (I can say that because I have four kids and I know that we often use our kids to make excuses for ourselves. Don’t do it. It will make it harder to be productive. Take breaks as you need, but don’t let it become your singular mindset/excuse. It is harder to get away from that than you think.)

 

  1. Schedule time for FUN and Relaxation

  • I know most people aren’t planners. They like to wing it in life. That’s great. But honestly, the most productive people are ones who make plans or try to, even if those plans don’t always pan out. Be spontaneous where you need to be (vacation for one), but the rest of life should have some sort of structure. I don’t mean a down-to-the-second breakdown of everything you need to do for the day, just plan (as I mentioned in number 5) things that you want/need/would like to accomplish. These tasks could be big or small, from painting a room in the house to finishing a project due in a few months. IF you plan then you can accomplish early enough that you give yourself more time to have FUN and relax. These times can be scheduled, too, on the weekends or around holidays and birthdays. Make time to enjoy life and not just work, work, work. Plus, if you make time to relax and enjoy things (like evil social media), you can return to the top of the productivity list with a renewed sense of purpose the key is…

 

  1. Find a Balance

  • Life is a balancing act. If you want to stay motivated to accomplish goals, whether personal or professional, you have to find your balance. I know that in the summer I give myself a break and in the fall I start back into work. That is my rhythm and pacing in my work schedule. As a writer, I have that kind of flexibility. Not every, however, does. But, don’t let that stop you from finding your rhythm and pacing in life. Pay attention to where you are lacking in areas of your life—relationships, faith, work. Where do you want to improve? What kind of things might be holding you back from doing so? Observe and analyze with brutal efficiency. Be as harsh a critic to your excuses as you are with people on Facebook (joking, joking.) Identify those weak areas and shore them up. If you are giving too much to work but not enough at home, attempt to correct that imbalance. If you are spending too much time on side projects instead of your main project, stop, evaluate, and redirect your focus. Don’t become lazy in your approach to success. If you are out of balance, you will know. Excuses won’t help you rebalance your life, only effort will.

In all this, however, remember to be patient with yourself. Don’t baby or coddle yourself, but don’t expect changes overnight. Start small and go from there. You would be surprised how just changing one or two bad habits can transform your productivity.

I don’t know if any of these tips will work for you, but I hope that they at least spark your interest and give you a place to start thinking of how to help yourself become more productive.

If you have a tip of your own to share, post it below. I’d love to hear from you.

 

-Shannon

 

About Shannon

I am a full-time author of Urban Fantasy Fiction novels and Fiction short stories in all genres. I am also a full-time mother and teacher.

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2 Comments

  1. Rachel Arnwine

    Hi Shannon, I enjoyed your blog. This is the first one that I’ve read (didn’t know you had one until I saw this on FB).
    I agree that goal setting is important and what you wrote about social media (Getting tangled up in the WEB, so to speak) can be a real time sucker upper.
    My husband and I have each used a Moleskine for about 15 years. Way before the Bullet Journal craze hit😀. It’s great to have goals listed and the baby steps listed also to help keep us on track.
    Life moves fast so it is important to keep on track and not waste time.
    I look forward to reading more of your writings.
    (Well, I’ve never commented on a blog post before. So, I’ll sign my name, but not sure if that is correct blog etiquette 😀)
    Rachel Arnwine

    • Shannon

      Thank you, Rachel!

      I think that most of us today struggle with staying on task because there are so many more distractions today than there were a decade ago. I think that it’s important to know your limitations and to set limits for yourself, and your kids, to help stay on task.

      I haven’t heard of Moleskine, so I will have to look it up. I personally make calendars and lists for everything. Half the time, I don’t accomplish even half of my lists, but it’s the planning phase that I enjoy more than the implementation.

      Thank you for stopping by to comment!
      -Shannon

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