HOW TO BE PRODUCTIVE IN THE WINTER TIME: WRITER'S ROUTIne
The sun dips closely to the evening start and it shows no early than too late for comfort and productivity often suffers during such a time. When the colds threatens to smother it by making sure that bed it the most comfortable place in the whole world.
Productivity is a struggle that really gets me in trouble on a daily basis, even more during this time of the year where seasonal depression is a tad too real and where the cold makes it impossible to have motivation to actually accomplish something.
I can't stress how much energy it took to get out of bed this morning and put down my book just to come sit and write this blog post. But I realise that this is a common thing and that sometimes being lazy is really a pain in the ass. Because time does not wait for us.
And I have some tips to ease your way into a better path down to productivity king or queen. This list is mostly directed at writers and that is only because I am one and I know quite a lot about being a writer and how productivity is not the strong point of many of us.
Being creative is about creativity and time management is not our focal point. I am here to tell that this mind-set needs to change drastically. If you, like me, want to pursue this career that is writing you will be thrown at the wolves, the wolves being deadlines.
I have some experience with this due to my journalism degree. I am in a writing course I have deadline for my writing being a more creational piece or a hard news story.
Time management is one of the most important tools that you, as a writer, need to have.
Routine is not just important to meet deadlines but also to make your writer's brain focus on the task ahead. Several successful writers don't write without going through their writing routines first. Habits are something else that is very beneficial to a writer. I am sure you already heard the sentence:
But nobody actually tells you why this is important and how to do it. Writing everyday is important because it creates an habit. And you need that habit to be able to be not only better through practice but to build discipline. And yes you guessed it, discipline is very important for anyone as a person, not only to writers.
I am here to let you know my process which took me a while to figure out. I can understand how difficult it may be to follow this routine but I am not asking you to. I am just letting you know an option.
and there are many other out there. Here is an youtuber that makes a very interesting series following other writer's routines.
But without further delay here is my winter writing routine with bonus tips in how to accomplish it in an easy peasy way:
1.Wake up at 6 a.m
I love to sleep.
But I know how time is important and I also know my productivity pattern. What is that you say? That is your working hours which can be between four to five hours a day and they can be at any time of the day. For me my hours are in the morning. Meaning that if I spend those hours sleeping I waste my productivity.
I rarely can write or be a functional person after 4 to 5 p.m. I mean that. And this is even a more pressing issue on the winter because of the few hours of sunlight that there are. I cannot work without sunlight.
To figure out your productivity pattern you will need to suffer for a bit. Understand how you work when you feel more alive and when you simply produce the best and fastest work. You have to make some test.
Try to write and night. in the evening. in the morning. in the middle of the day. in the middle of the night. See what works. Compare the work and you will eventually figure it out. Then plan you schedule around those specific hours. That is how you tailor your routine.
For me the day starts at 6 a.m. Not a minute later and please not a minute earlier!
Bonus tip: Like I said before I do not enjoy to wake up that early and most times I wish that I could stay in bed, which you probably can. You do you. but for me the way to go defeating this problem is to think about food. I love breakfast and it is my favourite meal of the day. I often wake up very hungry and planing the breakfast one day ahead is how I force myself to get up.
Cold is the best wake up call.
I know that a lot of people don't live in safe areas or are capable of getting out of bed this early but I love to feel the cold on my face. It is a very easy way to make feel more alive.
Going for a short walk -maybe five to ten minutes- not only makes your body start to wake up by increasing the blood flow but also makes the brain less foggy due to the fact that as soon as you step outside you are making a step into a possible danger situation. This forces your brain to be more alert, meaning it wakes up in a second.
But the truth is that most are not going to have such energy in the morning. The next best solution is meditation. or like I like to call it best: Focus. The idea is the same. This is a process let aggressive to achieve it. Force you brain into a focus situation where it has to engage in a difficult activity. Many think that meditation is the opposite but keeping your mind blank is a focused task and it definitely needs engagement from your brain.
This will get you more awake after a while by only making your brain sharper with focus.
And there is also the benefit of actually meditation. More clarity and less anxiety and also a time to just flow inspiration.
Bonus tip: If you are not able to walk outside for a while try to open a window and remain near it for five minutes while making an effort to keep your mind blank (meditation). This is a powerful combo and a five to ten minute each day are enough.
3. Music and Light
I need to set the mood.
I have talked previously about the importance of music in relationship with inspiration and mood (here). And I am going to push it a little further with my latest addition of a routine step. I think it is important to set the vibe for a great day. and it does not takes a while.
I have playlist for about everything in my life and they are crafted to the best of my abilities to the specific parts of the day that I need them for. I often play instrumental, both modern or fantastic and classical, music. I feel that for me it is one of the requisites for my writer's brain to start producing.
I also light up my fairy lights. A lot of them thought the house. I write in my living room/office since my partner sleep until late and I can't write in the same space. I love to just light up the room with fairy lights, usually light cream or bright yellow. Often at the time of the morning it is still dark outside and this makes me fall into a slumber of fantasy, which is what I really need!
Bonus tip: Add a steaming tea to the step and you will feel relaxed and ready to start the say in great shape. I usually cozy up in the sofa after this step with a peppermint tea and my sweet cat.
4. Write for 30 min
It is time to be creative.
This is my pre-writing writing. I know how it sounds but trust me for a bit. I do this as a way to get my creativity on a roll. I love to write but the truth is that I am often paralysed by the fear of writing shit. And I am sure a lot of you feel the same way.
If this is you then try this step. Just snuggle in the sofa or armchair or wherever is comfortable for you, expect the bed! Getting back in bed at this point would be a death to productivity. Just cozy up a bit. And then get a notebook. a blank page. a paper or a napkin.
And write. For 30 min straight. Set a time and put the phone in another room. Pee before sitting and get a tea. Just write. Write good or write shit. Be okay with your mistakes and even acknowledge them but writing an "ups" near them.
Let the writing flow and only stop when it is flowing. When you are not thinking about your crap skills and when it starts to just feel good. as it should. Let go of control. Then stop.
Bonus tip: If you don't live alone tell the rest of the house to leave you for a bit. Use your headphones or just lock the room where you are. This the your time to enjoy. And stick to it. Write whatever comes to mind even if it does not make sense.
4.Create a distraction
Mine is shower and breakfast.
I need challenge to grow as a writer and I bet you do too. The way that I do it is by breaking creativity with a break what usually involves breakfast- did I mentioned how I love food?- and a shower.
I am that person that takes showers so hot that the skin gets red afterwards. and I adore it. Showers are where I get the most inspirational thought ever. I don't know why but it is. So I start with a shower and let my inspiration go free. and only then I do my breakfast.
I could lie and tell you that I eat some healthy avocado toast but I couldn't hate avocado toast more and I love fried eggs with bacon and actually bread. So that is what I eat. I avoid eating too many carbs so that the fogginess stays away and eat a lot of protein to keep productive.
By breaking creativity time you will challenge yourself and hopefully after a while you will be able to get into the creative flow easier than before. A lot of writers depend too much on getting the right pen or being in the right place and I cannot stress enough on how important is to just let go of those constraints.
5. Bullet journal / Organise
Planning and business are as important as Creativity.
If you ,as me, want to get to publishing a book start to get accustomed with the idea of being a brand and getting business specific skills. Cleaning your email. Cracking social media marketing. Understand social design. Planning your days.
All of this is extremely important for a successful career as a writer, actually as anything these days. I never let a day pass where I don't share things on social media or try to get my niche to follow my accounts. I never let a day pass where I don't do a to-do list and then organise my day accordingly to it and my productivity pattern.
Personally I use a bullet journal in combination with Google calendar to plan my work and my day. I separate three big goals for the day and then complete three separate sub-lists for how to achieve each goal. Often these goals are each for these categories: Writing, Life, University. I also complete a weekly to-do list of "when I have time" task.
Then I do my schedule weekly according to my own to-do lists. Simple. Maybe a little work but it is worth it! I assure you that it is.
Bonus tip: If you are not found of using a bullet journal, use a simple daily planner or even google calendar. You can separate your lists in your own head and not even write them down like I do. It is your call what platform you use.
6.Go out to work
TIME TO counter attack seasonal depression
I am not going to lie and tell you that I don't suffer a little of seasonal depression. The lack of sun light we get in the winter makes me feel super melancholic and not very productive. So when the sun is up I make the most of it.
Another factor that contributes to this type of depression is staying in a place, often home, for a long period of time mostly due to rain/snow/cold. This is something that there can be avoid by simply going out.
I cannot write or work in my own home normally. Just because I associate it too much with relaxing and not being productive. I usually go and work in a cute coffee shop or my university library.
This not only makes me more productive by enjoying the sun light for a bit before it is gone but it actually give me more creativity as well by the change of scenery around me. I am more productive outside of the house also because I can easily make my mind associate a place with a target.
For my actual writing routine once I am in the coffee shop I often do this:
Five minutes of pinterest browsing for inspiration or just flow of idea. Note taking
Step the specific target for the round of writing. Not words but project wise. Scene wise or character wise. Devise my work in different section.
20 min writing with no interruptions. Offline.
Five minutes pause. Getting a late or a hot chocolate.
30 min writing with no interruptions. Offline.
Five minutes pause. Note taking. Research.
20 min writing with no interruptions. Offline.
Pause for some outline work.
Done or keep writing for how long I want.
Bonus Tip: Do not count your words. The point is writing daily. Writing what you want and what you need. Writing for little amounts of time makes it easier for me to get more writing in.
PS: I know that a lot of people don't have the possibility of making this happen daily or ever. But with a little effort you can always create your own routine and I hope that this article gave you some ideas or some guidance.
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