Little Hacks Writers Can Use to Be Productive

Last week we talked about hacking. Finding ways to work around ourselves (our own objections or resistance) to get our writing done. This is a kind of metal game we play, and sometimes we gotta do it.

One hack that works for me is clearing out my pressing emails. I just can’t wait till the end of the day to deal with them. If you can’t either, then aiming for In-box Zero is a good objective. If we know we have a pile-up of emails we need to get to, it can prey on our minds when we’re trying to focus on our writing. By creating numerous personal folders in our mail program, we have a place to put them all.

Create one folder labeled “to do today.”

When you take that one minute to glance through your emails (after every half hour of writing, if that’s the schedule you’ve decided upon), see which emails can first be deleted, which ones can be answered in that one minute (sometimes a “hey, thanks!” is all you need to respond with) and then answer those, and then assess which ones need to be answered but will take more than a minute. Stick those in your “to do today” folder.

When you’ve finished putting in those hours of writing, you know where to find them. Sometimes by setting something on a shelf, knowing it’s there and waiting for us, we can then forget about it and get our work done.

To-do lists are great for that. So long as I have my to-do list at hand, if a thought pops into my head (which it often does) while I’m writing (whether it’s something I have to do or a cool idea for my next novel), I can jot it down quickly and forget about it until later.

I “reward” myself after getting my writing done by indulging in replying to my emails. Sure, it’s something I need to do, but now, when my brain is tired and not at its peak (as we looked at earlier), answering emails is just the thing. I get a nice sense of completion at the end of the day when the writing is finished and my emails have been moved out of my in-box, and my “to do today” box is empty.

You may need a folder called “to do this month.” Some things will take time, or aren’t top priorities and so can be put off awhile. But clearing them out of your in-box helps avoid distraction.

Here are some other small hacks that might help you get your best writing done:

Write things down right away that come to mind. As mentioned above, a great hack is to carry around a notepad or even your smartphone if it has a notes program. I’m always stopping to jot down a note about a word or idea to use in my novel. If I’m driving, I tell my phone to take a note, and then I dictate the note so it’s written down for me. Later I’ll move those bits into my big notebooks that I use for reference when writing my books. Think about using a to-do-list app like Wunderlist, if you need something organized and simple.

Schedule stress time. Here’s a great hack if you tend to let things build in the back of your mind that stress you. They could be world issues or family problems. Whatever they are, set a time during the day (best to make this either before or after you get that chunk of writing done) to dive into your stress. Say, twenty minutes to go all-in, even talking to yourself or kicking a tree or something while you’re on a roll. But when that time is up, you’re done. You’ve dealt with the stress and now can at least put it aside for a while, so you can be productive in your writing.

This is a workaround, not a cure-all. Someone I know (who wouldn’t want me to identify him) yells in the car, pounding the steering wheel, when stupid people get to him. Maybe all you need is to go into your closet and scream (make sure no one else is in the house).

Choose some uplifting surfing time. If you need a break and want to get on social media, instead of jumping into the usual, try exploring some different topic or site you don’t usually visit. Maybe look for recipes on Pinterest. Or find a hash tag on Twitter that points to your favorite movie and see what people are saying about it. Better yet, go to an astronomy site or other science site that can teach you cool facts about the universe and show you beautiful pictures of galaxies. Learning a few new, intriguing facts that you can share with others is refreshing.

Limit your daily to-do list to just five key items. Sure, you have a heck of a lot more you need to get done each day. Some are so routine (put up the laundry, prep meals, etc.) you don’t really have to put them on your list. But think about some specific tasks you’d really like to complete today. It could be “go through my shirt drawer and organize” or “write one scene in my novel.”

Every day is different and has its own challenges and demands. Some days you can get a whole lot more done than other days. But if you put lots of tasks on your list each day and hardly get most of them even halfway done, it can lead to perpetual frustration and being unduly hard on yourself.

This goes back to that attitude adjustment and the positive way of talking to yourself. But since it’s hard for many of us to suddenly change the inner dialogue (easier to change our characters’ dialogue than our own), engaging in small hacks can push our attitude along the right track. And the best hacks are those that help us change our habits—which we’ll get into next.

Can you think up some small daily hacks that help you get to your writing faster and with more focus? Share them here! (And in case you’re wondering, yes, that is my cat Astro, who isn’t all that interested in hacking his way out of the wrapping paper.)


Regardless of whether you write fiction or nonfiction, if you want to get established as an author, you need to be productive. Highly productive.

You can’t just write one terrific book and call it good, expecting that singular work to carry you atop the wave of success for years to come.
Studies show readers want 3-4 books a year from their favorite authors. And to build traction and a growing audience, authors need to deliver.

The key to being highly productive is centered on knowing yourself. First you need to identify your distractions, excuses, and attitudes that are keeping you from being the productive writer you want to be. Then you need to assess your unique biology, to determine the best times to write and to optimize your sleep and eating habits. It’s all here in Crank It Out!

Get your ebook or print copy HERE.

Turn your life and career around by learning the surefire way to be the super-productive author you long to be!

2 Responses to “Little Hacks Writers Can Use to Be Productive”

  1. RJ Thesman May 8, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    One of my hacks: I love to walk and/or just be outside – but I can’t go outside until after I’ve written at least one thing on my to-do list.

  2. Victoria Marie Lees May 9, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    I reward myself after writing by answering e-mail, too! The writing is the hardest part for me, so I start my day with writing. Everything else comes afterwards.

    Another reward is to allow my mind to wander while I take a walk outside. Unless it’s raining, I’m outside walking around the neighborhood thinking. I don’t have a fancy phone, but I do carry a small notebook to jot things down.

    Thanks for sharing these tips with your followers. All best to you.

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