Productivity tips for writers

Generating content requires the mind to be fresh and active. Brands always need new ideas to work with, and it’s important to try and build new approaches, new angles, to existing narratives.

It’s also important to get the work done. In a world of almost constant distraction that can be difficult. Here are our tips for getting the most, and the best, out of your day.

Write anywhere

Today it’s possible to write anywhere there is a phone or wifi signal. Your office need not be an office, and could be a park bench, the beach, the coffee shop or pub (not recommended).

Several options exist to write in the cloud so your work is automatically saved and uploaded. Some improve on the old world word processors because they are designed to allow collaborative working, which can be tremendously useful depending on the project.

Don’t forget to check our list of home office hacks to get the best out of wherever you are.

Google Docs: The word processor gives basic word processing for free, and allows real-time collaboration too. The spreadsheet offers the same.

Evernote: Not structured as a word processor, so in some ways more basic than Google Docs, but your work is in the cloud accessible from anywhere with a connection. Great for making quick notes, saving links and pictures on the go, which can be refined later on.

Dropbox: Perhaps better for organisation. Store your documents, pictures, audio and more in the cloud. Dropbox is so useful because of the way you can share information easily, so others can share with you easily too. Many online publishing systems allow you to access Dropbox with a click, so the process is simple and painless.

Juggle projects

This approach does not work for everyone, but for those used to a busy newsroom or if you have a degree of hyperactivity, this technique will get the most out of you.

In essence, work on several projects simultaneously rather than sequentially. Work on one, switch to the next, and then switch to the next and so on and back to the first and around again.

In theory, your subconscious will be mulling over your other work as you concentrate on what you are doing now, and by breaking up the work, you are also enforcing a variation of the Pomodoro Technique.

If you have the slow, meticulous approach this might not work so well, however.

Check your writing

The Hemingway app will help you cut out extraneous words and easy traps like the passive voice. It might not get you writing like Hemingway, but it ought to help you make your copy more direct.

Grammarly is superb for checking your grammar and is far more accurate than checks on word processors, and includes many more rules of grammar.

Oblique Strategy cards

Musician and music producer Brian Eno and artist Peter Schmidt developed these cards independently as ways to break-up mental blocks, boredom or clichéd thinking.

The idea is you are somehow blocked. You take a card, which has an elliptical phrase or piece of advice printed on it. Interpret the card however you like. It’s there to help you think laterally and take your mind on a tangent.

Eno and Schmidt discovered they each had similar cards to help them work, and amalgamated them to form the Oblique Strategies deck.

Eno used the cards in the studio while working with David Bowie on the acclaimed Berlin trilogy of albums, and has continued with them ever since. The cards have proved popular with writers and musicians keen to do something different.

Get going

Two apps can help you start writing with some positive reinforcement. The ridiculous Written? Kitten! may be of help to some. A web-based writing aid, it rewards you with a picture of a kitten every time you manage to get down a certain number of words.

A little more considered is 750 Words, which behaves almost like a social network for writing. You win reward points every 750 words, and you can compare your progress with others using the service.

Beware: Twitter

While social media can be a superb way to rest your brain, it’s terribly easy to turn your social break into a quagmire of time wasting. All the social networks are good at wasting your time, with viral videos and so on, but the king has to be Twitter, which can empty a morning of work more efficiently that anything else known to man. Yes, it can be good for inspiration too, but use it sparingly.

If you have a social addiction, you can of course try some of the tools to stop you accessing the web. KeepMeOut allows you to set time limits for visiting various sites, and issues warnings if you break them. More severe is Freedom, which stops the internet entirely, and some notable writers are fans.

Last is the approach taken by Game Of Thrones writer George R. R. Martin, who writes on an ancient pre-Windows computer that has no internet connection and no distractions either.

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