Productivity Lost and Found

What Drains and/or Blocks My Potential Productivity?

By Jeff Salter

Gosh, this is a deep topic… and to think, I was the one who proposed it (way back when). As our Friday Fox recently said (paraphrased), “I wish I could recall what I was thinking about when I suggested this topic.” Well, I suppose I ought to jump right in… and we’ll begin with the “drains” and/or “blocks.”

productivity

Procrastination

It would take a psychiatrist to parse out all my issues related to this malady, but I’ll just lump them together for the purposes of this blog. “My name is Jeff… and I’m a terrible procrastinator.” There, I said it —Step One of Twelve Steps. I’ll set out to do Task A… but somehow, before I can begin it, I get diverted to Task B. And I’ve hardly begun that before I’m distracted by Task C. And so on. By the time I’ve actually settled on ONE of those ever-spiraling spin-off tasks – and actually finished it (hopefully) – whatever available time I’d had is long gone and Tasks A and B (and possibly C) will just have to wait.

Obligations

As our Monday Fox reminded us, we each have commitments to family, friends, organizations, etc. – not even counting JOBS (if not yet retired) – which can dominate our schedules to the point of exhausting all our energies. Medical issues – for those of us burn during Baby Boom years – can take an additional toll (whether it’s our own… or those of spouse and/or parents).

Health

As our Tuesday Fox pointed out, the general state of our health is vitally important to productivity. If we’re slightly off kilter – whether by imbalance of vitamins, hormones, serotonin, or whatever – it can significantly impair our ability to function even in the most basic way. Forget about being creative — survival and self-preservation has to be dealt with first.

I’m drafting this before I know what the Wednesday Fox and Friday Fox have to say, but I’m sure we’ll find interesting and important points in their blogs, as well.

Social Media

This deserves its own category because – in the broader scope of centuries of writers and authors – it’s a brand new phenomenon. If somebody had told me, prior to January of 2009 (when I joined Facebook), that I’d spend HOURS each day reading, commenting, “liking”, and creating my own posts… I would have laughed in their faces. Yet, somehow FB has weaseled its way into my daily schedule in a fashion that nearly dominates it at times. Yes, some of it is “networking” — which is necessary for me to stay in touch with author colleagues, publishers, editors, etc. And yes, some of it is “promotion” of the titles I’ve slaved over — which is essential since I don’t have an innovative NYC advertising firm at my beck and call. And some of it is keeping touch with relatives, friends (new and old), and other contacts related to everyday life.

And when the power goes out – which still DOES happen occasionally – or when FB is “down” or otherwise glitchy… it’s amazing how suddenly isolated I can feel.

Small Chunks of Time

In the realm of productivity killers, another biggie for me is that my daily schedule is often carved into snippets of time that I COULD potentially be creative. I realize that many of my friends and writing colleagues manage to successfully utilize a half hour here and a half hour there. But for me, to have 30 minutes available to work on something creative hardly seems worth the effort. I mean, it would take me nearly 10 minutes to drag it out, find my place, and remember what I was working on… plus almost 10 minutes at the end to do my saves and back-ups. Which leaves a net of scarcely more than 10 minutes in the middle of that period to actually WORK on the story itself. So what do I do instead? Get on FB and scroll through posts. LOL

Remedies?

Gosh, I don’t really know. More discipline is necessary — certainly. Setting time limits for FB and e-mail and Twitter. Better prioritizing is important — definitely. If I need to spend 90 minutes a day on a manuscript, I really ought to tackle that FIRST, before I turn to FB and e-mail. Establishing internal goals and deadlines would clearly help. When I’m “hot” on the first draft of a story, my goal is to crank out 2,000 words a day. I’m not crushed if I only get 1,000 words… and I’m elated if I get 3,000 — but I need to set that target of averaging 2K per day. [It breaks my momentum to have a day in which I was not able to get any work done on a W.I.P. … and each day AWAY from a manuscript makes it that much more difficult to return to it.] So, it’s extremely important for me to get SOME work done on the current story each and every day… if at all possible.

I’ve heard of authors who use some sort of “reward” system — you know… write a chapter and eat a bag of M&M peanuts. I’m afraid that wouldn’t work for me — because, as anybody who knows me already realizes, I’ll eat the M&Ms anyhow!

Question:

What about you? If you’re also a writer, what blocks or challenges your potentially productive time? Or, if you work in any other creative medium, like art, music, crafts, etc. — tell us how you cope.

[JLS # 433]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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22 Responses to Productivity Lost and Found

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Yes. Yes. And yes. All of this. It is a wonder we get ANY work done. I wish I had the answer. I think another killer for me is simply being overwhelmed. Or work so much on Tasks A to Z and burn out before sitting to do the writing. I have made it a habit of writing a minimum every day. I’d like to crank that minimum up a notch, but I know with the kids about to get out of school that isn’t really going to happen (though I’ll try). Every day/weekend there is another banquet, activity, dance show, test, or other end-of-school events. Then…summer. It’s a challenge to carve out quiet time when the kiddos are home. And Peanut M&Ms (my fav) are bad for my hips. So…
    Great post. It’s awesome to know I’m not alone! LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • One thing I don’t do is set a word count goal for myself. It’s too easy to fail. I just push until I’m done for that scheduled session. Having been under deadlines all my life before retirement, I found making a deadline now for myself with my creative efforts is nonproductive. But that’s me.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I found that easy word count goals help me, Sharon. In fact, I never would have thought that although a story was in mind, I would not be able to write a full romance, yet, with the help of a former Fox,I joined a competition and made great headway on one.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I can’t imagine how I’d cope if I still had children at home — and all their activities.
      One recent school year my wife kept the youngest (pre-K) granddaughter during the work day while our daughter was working. Just having her in the house — with all her cheerful activity and noise — was quite disorienting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Discipline is definitely a problem for me. Five minutes on Facebook turns into 30 minutes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I used to post on Wattpad and on my own blog, but gave those up. Once a week on this blog is plenty. As for rewards, I’m with you – the M&Ms will be consumed whether or not the work is done. Today I’m going to try walking. Since my back doesn’t allow me to sit for long periods of time, I’m going to get up at scheduled times and walk – and that gives me 1.5 hour blocks to write between my walks. Hopefully, that will get my energy and my mind working.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You seem to have the opposite problem from me. I can’t walk like that anymore because of my leg and knee. However, I can make a suggestion to you, since you feel it profitable to walk. Take a mini recorder with you and, record your ideas that will inevitably pop up. Even if it’s only setting scenes. Also, the Dayrunner would probably help you with discipline if you schedule your writing time and appointments or chores. You can even use an egg timer for your time on Social Media. But it all takes practice. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • Patricia Kiyono says:

        Great idea! Today it’s raining so I’ll be walking indoors (at school), but I’ve got my phone with me and that’s got a voice recorder on it. I’ll look into Dayrunner. So far a timer doesn’t seem to help.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I found that transcribing notes from a tape recorder was extremely time-consuming.I gave up on it, but if it works for others, give it a try!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      when I’m not sick — which, unfortunately, I HAVE been this year so far for something like six weeks total — I’ll be at exercise at least three days a week. That’s good for my general health, as well as my weight, and my stress — or so I’m told.
      I used to post daily on Twitter, but somewhere along the line, it just became an extra burden and I saw little or no “profit” coming from it.

      Like

  3. Jeff, I would never have pegged you as a procrastinator. Live and learn. I think most of us do our fair share of procrastinating. I tend to do that with things I don’t particularly want to do. But when it comes to my writing, I’m full-steam-ahead. Arnie sometimes has to remind me what time it is (usually when his stomach starts grumbling. lol).

    And that brings me to obligations. Arnie and Susie (our dog) need me to take time away from my writing, but are oh so patient. So I make time on purpose, this time dragging myself away from the computer. In the evening is our special time, after dinner. We read and watch something on TV together. Even Susie (that’s our cuddle time on the couch).

    Health issues aren’t much of a problem for me as it’s my leg and back, so sitting in a wonderfully comfortable desk chair (my birthday present last year from Arnie) is no problem.

    Social Media works both ways. As you said, we have to stay in touch, promote our work, and be a part of the community where we are exchanging ideas and sharing. Sometimes it can get carried away, and for me quite so as the head of the Christian Writers & Readers FB group forum I created just for that purpose. But I’ve also learned much online, which has helped me become a better writer. So…I don’t see it as a drain to my productivity. I’ve even been able to organize a lot of the posts and tweets I do making the time I spend on them at a minimum using copy and paste.

    What has helped me immensely is having an office of my own where I can spread out my notebooks and reference books, and all that goes with my method of writing. Everything is at my fingertips. If I only have that half hour window before we have to leave on errands or whatever, I can get a little work done and then leave it, picking up right where I left off when I get back. Some don’t have that luxury, but make a space in the house for themselves where they can do the same. I have all kinds of ideas for people like this, if anyone wants to hear them. 🙂 But my biggest suggestion is to treat your writing as a job…a REAL job. Get an appointment book and schedule your writing times, along with anything else you must accomplish for the day.

    As far as rewards for doing the work, I reward myself after my book is off to the professional editor. I get out my canvas and start painting until the ms comes back to me for corrections. When I send it off to the publisher (since I’m an Indie, that would be KDP), I do the same thing until the proof arrives. After reading that and okaying it to go live, I celebrate with a launch party. Then, it begins all over again. YES! I spend a lot of time jumping up and down at this point, excited about getting the next story down.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I’ve (thankfully) had my own study since we built this house in fall of 2007. Unfortunately, I’ve allowed it to get so cluttered that it’s nearly unmanageable. I need to work on that, but when? Right now I have a deadline to finish this draft and that takes priority. There always seems to be some deadline — which is, of course, a mix of positive and negative. Deadlines mean you have a publication track of some sort.

      Like

  4. Well, you’ve just said a mouthful! It was like I wrote the article or something!! Obligations are always a big pull, but for me, the last 2 years have been with health issues. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as healthy as a horse except for a silly virus I have called chronic Epstein Barr. It causes overwhelming tiredness and chronic pain. Talk about robbing the creative drive. I’ve given up on modern meds and have now turned to CBD oil and essential oils and antioxidants. Keeping fingers crossed. I’ve worked for 2 years on this latest novel and I’m still not done! Sheesh.
    Glad to know I’m not alone. I don’t feel like such a failure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jeff Salter says:

      I’m not familiar with Epstein Barr, but I suffer from fibromyalgia — diagnosed in late 1992. It also saps energy, fogs the brain, and is accompanied by widespread pain. Makes it hard to be creative!

      Like

      • Yep, the symptoms are very similar and they are related. More and more studies have shown that things like Fibromyalgia, RA, Lupus, MS etc. are mostl likely all caused by a virus. Epstein Barr is often called the gateway virus for the others to develop. I also have chronic fatigue and Mono (not the contagious kind but still present). It’s all under the giant umbrella of herpes simplex. Apparently most every human has it but only a few are triggered- usually after a period of high stress and fatigue.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Jeff Salter says:

          living with multiple symptoms from multiple syndromes is extremely difficult. Ought to be a special place in heaven for us.

          Like

    • We must never let health matters make us feel like a failure, even though it’s hard not to compare yourself to others and to what you used to be able to do. I hope you drop in and read my post for tomorrow, Stacey. I give you a glimpse at my next guest (in two weeks), a former screenwriter, turned psychologist to Hollywoood writers, who writes mysteries at the same time.His articles alone have helped me, and I although I started his book on self-help, I am procrastinating on finishing that, too! I still need work, but please read tomorrow’s and look up Dennis Palumbo. I may be spoiling my post for tomorrow and maybe his interview, but I would like for you to feel better as I have. Please let me know what you think.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I truly think that I can offer help getting help for you to help yourself, Jeff! Read above; I know that you will read tomorrow’s post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elaine Cantrell says:

    You’re right on the money with this article, Jeff. Any or all of those reasons can strike unexpectedly and out of nowhere, or they can be daily things that we have to cope with. And I’m pretty fond of M&Ms myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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