We all want to be more productive, whether that’s writing more often, sending out more submissions, or being able to focus on the page at hand. But it’s not always easy, especially when most writers are working around other work, family and social demands. So how do you manage your time more effectively and get more done. That’s what productivity expert Moyra Scott is exploring on her workshop Time Management for Writers. We caught up with her to find out a bit more.
How did you become a ‘productivity expert?’ What has your journey been like?
As a creative, I am a proliferator of ideas, a starter of many projects. In terms of productivity, my weakness is being able to focus and follow through.
After one slightly fraught conversation with my husband, who told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to ‘Get. Stuff. Done!’ – I decided to take myself in hand. I started a blog, called it ‘Getting Stuff Done’ and began my quest to be a productive superstar! I studied the experts, I read the blogs, I attempted to apply it all to my life.
A year or so later, I was in conversation with a friend, who mentioned that their business was looking to take someone on. I was looking for work and literally said, ‘Hire me!! What is it? You can train me!’ It turned out that what their company did was to deliver a productivity programme based on the work of David Allen, who wrote the seminal productivity book Getting Things Done: Stress Free Productivity. I felt this was serendipitous and luckily so did they. I was trained in the ‘GTD’ method of ‘stress free productivity’ and learned to help transform the way people organised themselves at work. I worked at this company for several years, training and coaching hundreds of people to be more productive.
I discovered that I LOVED the whole field of productivity. My work broadened beyond the GTD method. I qualified as a coach and integrated my learning and experiences. I am still a productivity geek and i read books on it all the time.
You’ve worked in both the corporate and creative worlds. How different are the two environments?
The main difference is that in a corporate setting there are more external obstacles to productivity; other people, emails, meetings and so on. For creatives the obstacles can be more internal; distraction, procrastination, or attempting to operate without any kind of organisational structure whatsoever – which might feel like the creative way of doing things, but in fact means some activities, which need to be done regardless, are confusing, stressful, messy and take up waaay more time and energy than they need to.
Sometimes in the creative writing community people are described as ‘planners’ or ‘pantsers.’ The first tend to plan out their work and writing, whilst the second go with the flow (or fly by the seat of their pants). Do you think that either approach is better?
I love those descriptions and recognise both behaviours. Having said that I haven’t come across many ‘planners’ in the creative community! I would say, that there are pluses and minuses to both approaches but if there is a problem with productivity, then either approach can used as a form of procrastination.
Many writers will be writing around their daily commitments; for example after work, or whilst looking after a family. What advice do you have for people who can’t commit all day, every day to writing?
I was speaking to an author, the other day, who has just finished writing a book which she wrote while her child was napping. She managed to do it because, when she sat down to write, she actually wrote. I am telling this story to show that it is possible. It is worth knowing what is stopping you is not ‘not enough time’ but something else. Figuring out what is the first step in overcoming it!
What are your top tips for productivity?
This does slightly depend on the person – but for me and in as general a way as I can, I would say:
Begin with the end in mind
Work out what the easiest, smallest, physical thing you need to do to start.
Do one thing at a time (ha! so hard for me – but its true!)
Zone your time so that certain days / times are strictly for creativity.
Work out what your own personal obstacles are – be honest with yourself – and figure out ways to overcome them at source and in advance.
Read the War of Art by Stephen Pressfield if you haven’t already!