The #1 Goal of Productivity

Suffice it to say, our attitude affects everything we do. Or don’t do. If we have a negative attitude about doing our schoolwork, it won’t get done. Or we’ll do a hasty, sloppy job. Or we won’t be able to concentrate, and it will take three times longer than it should to complete.

We might whip ourselves, pour on the pressure with guilt or threats, and while that might make us get the work done, we will be miserable doing it.

When it comes to writing our books, we certainly don’t want it to be a miserable experience. Writing is supposed to be fun! We’re supposed to love writing—that’s why we long to do it full-time and make it our career.

Sadly, I’ve met too many career authors who hate writing. They didn’t start out that way. But while they’re currently cranking out best sellers year after year, they’re not happy campers.

Habits and methods aside (for I believe some are miserable because they don’t ever plot, and they stress all the way through writing each book worried they won’t make their publisher’s deadline), many writers have learned to be productive . . . but at the cost of their joy (and perhaps even their sanity). 

The Goal: Being Happy in Productivity

Maybe that’s too obvious to mention—that we don’t just want to crank out books; we want to be happy doing so.

But I think it’s worth discussing.

Some writers, like me, love the stress of deadlines. I used to work for various newspapers in what was called the Composing Department. That’s the department that put the pages of the paper together—oh, long before computer tech invaded the newspaper world.

You know—back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Our job was to print out the newspaper articles on a special paper, use an Xact-Of knife to cut out the columns, then run the pieces of paper through the waxer roller (to apply wax to the back). From there we’d stick the pieces on the big white tagboard pages of the mocked-up edition until every article and ad was in place. All the while the clock was ticking above our heads and editors were leaning over our shoulders, hurrying us along with press deadline looming.

More than once, I had an editor snatch the big sheet off the work table the second I ran the roller over the last waxed piece, to hurry it over to the camera room. Whew.

But I had fun. I liked the pressure and challenge. And I’m a weird type of person that loves to inflict ridiculous self-imposed deadlines on my projects—because that’s what helps me be productive and crank out my books (or blog posts or email blasts).

Here’s the thing: I’ve learned how to be productive and happy doing so because I’ve taken the time to do the analysis. Which is what you’re going to be able to do after going through all this material.

I’ve analyzed my personality, my habits, my attitudes, the ways I self-sabotage, the types of excuses I make, the hacks that work (to get me crashing through my obstacles) and don’t work, my biology, my eating and drinking preferences . . . and more.

And after analyzing all this stuff that makes up the picture of who I am and how I function each day, it become super clear to me how to be highly productive—and still stay happy.

In fact, all this analysis didn’t just help me keep my joy of writing; it elevated it.

Productivity Must Have a Foundation of Proficiency

I mentioned how satisfying it is to publish a book. Think, then, how fun and exciting it would be to publish three or four books a year. Great books. Ones readers love.

Of course, part of that success—a big part—is reliant on your skill and application of the hard work and time put into mastering your writing craft. But we’re not delving into those deep waters in our look at productivity. Let’s just assume you have been putting in the hard work to become an excellent writer. And in order to be highly productive, that’s a must. If you don’t master the skills of your craft, you can’t produce great books on a regular basis.

Let’s just stop here for a second.

A big reason so many aspiring writers aren’t productive is they haven’t mastered the skills needed. It’s no wonder they can’t finish that first (or third) novel. Or that memoir or self-help book.

If you’re standing in front of a machine that makes door handles or microcircuits—anything, really—and you don’t know how to operate the darn thing, nothing is going to happen. You won’t produce anything. Those little parts won’t come marching down the assembly line conveyor belt.

So, while you may not be ready to produce a line of books because you haven’t gotten your chops yet, reading this material on how to be productive is going to help you immensely.

Why? Because you can apply everything you learn here to your pursuit of mastering your craft.

Productivity and Life in General

It’s the same with anything we attempt in life. You need to learn how to be productive in the pursuit of any goal. You want to learn how to sew your own clothes? Turn your ugly yard into a beautiful and bountiful vegetable garden? All these tips will help you be productive in reaching your goal.

So while this information is geared to writers cranking out books, I hope you’ll see how you can apply all of this to life in general. To everything you take on in your life.

It’s the tweak on the old adage: writer, know thyself. When you understand yourself—your attitudes and motivation and biology—you can make wise and practical decisions and choices that will impact your success.

Don’t you want to be productive and successful in everything you do?

I do. And I want to make the best use of my time, which is a precious limited resource in our lives. I want every minute to count, but I also want to live a balanced life, free from unhealthy stress (I qualify that because I believe some stress is great for us), with my priorities straight.

Each of us has a different order and set of priorities, and you know yours. So keep those in mind as you go through the steps to becoming a highly productive writer.

What about you? How important is it for you to love what you do? Have you ever stopped to analyze what factors contribute toward your productivity and which ones hinder it? Share some of your thoughts about attitude and productivity.

7 Responses to “The #1 Goal of Productivity”

  1. Olga Oliver January 16, 2017 at 10:38 am #

    Susanne, thanks so much for the #1 GOAL OF PRODUCTIVITY article. I’m working on Pillar#1. Even though I have a first draft completed, I’m having problems following your sheets. I’m finding that I must change my way of thinking in order to come up with answers. I’m also running into a blockage here and there where I say, woah, there’s a problem here. It’s taking a lot of time digging out the answers making me feel like an old slow turtle. So your article about productivity hits this old slow turtle with a smack. Then I read my entries and think briefly about giving up. Then, I read your article again, then again, and I’m not an old slow turtle after all. I’m simply learning and the learning process can be happy and being happy aids the brain cells to do their work and makes me ask the question: Is there a part of me that I really do NOT know, a part that’s always hanging around on the edges beckoning and chanting, “keep digging and trust yourself – you might be surprised.” So, here I am happy and back digging today.

    • cslakin January 16, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

      Glad to hear it. Every day is a challenge and we just keep plowing through the obstacles. I’ll be talking a lot about attitude and hacks to get around our own resistance.

  2. joanna elm January 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

    Hi C.S. I have found that this time around, mastering skills is almost a procrastination for me. I have attended Robert McKee’s three-day seminar in NYC, I have taken James Patterson’s Masterclass; I am subscribing to your great Fast Trackers class. What’s more I write about these classes (and what I have learned from them) on my website in my Behind the Scenes feature.
    I love writing about writing. But I’m not kidding myself. When I wrote my first two traditionally published novels twenty years ago there were no online classes or e-books on writing which you could download with one click. I read some books which I bought in actual stores, and then I got down to the job of writing my novel, and I had to fit my writing into a slot of a couple of hours while my son was in nursery school. So much more difficult when your whole day stretches ahead of you!!

  3. Lynda Haliburton January 16, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

    Well, my thought is that attitude is not enough. If my granddaughter is hungry I can have attitude of compassion on her that’s fine, but the choice must be made, get her something to eat! Even not making a choice we know is a choice, so what’s helped me be and get back on track after a lull from my love to write and train in up from stuck mindsets is being aware of my choice to be distracted, and do something about it. Another help is the key question Gary Keller suggests in his work, “The One Thing” What is the one thing (toward my desire to finish my novel), that by doing it, will make everything else easier or unnecessary?

  4. Rebecca January 18, 2017 at 6:36 am #

    I don’t always have to love everything I work at, but I do have to find a place where I can take satisfaction in what I’ve accomplished. I am often hindered in finding satisfaction by not knowing where to stop. So a day of very productive editing feels incomplete if I didn’t get to make all those corrections in the manuscript that day. A lot of my happiness in other areas has improved by being content with a good days work, regardless of whether I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I need to work on being more content to complete what I can complete in a day without being frustrated that I didn’t get as much done as I had planned.

  5. Marilyn Parker January 18, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

    When I taught 5th grade, I used to give my students who had difficulty concentrating a timer. They actually enjoyed being on the clock. It became a challenge to see how much they could get done in the allotted time. I probably should try it myself. I can mull over a paragraph for hours. I think I read somewhere that you do most of your editing as you go along, so when you write The End it’s pretty close to being just that. Do you have a system–write one day edit the next?–or is it just that you’re so familiar with the editing process you do it automatically?

    • cslakin January 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm #

      Thanks, Marilyn, that’s a good question. I often reread the scene as I’m writing it and fix little things. But mostly when I sit down the next day, I read through the scene or two prior and do the editing then. That said, I have a strong scene outline and already feel the scenes are in the right place and are accomplishing specific purposes. So with the key moment and character changes in mind, I add and tweak to make each scene as effective and error free as possible.

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