I think the key to success is implementing a series of habits and routines that work for you.
The great thing about habits is that they are done so easily and with minimum effort.
They feel effortless to do and as human beings who can be a little on the lazy side, our habits allow us to get through our days and do our tasks.
But the down side to habits is if you have habits that do not serve you. In this way it becomes even easier to do whats not good for you and becomes even harder to change because you can’t see it happening.
From time to time its important to step back from your daily routine and observe it from a distance. So ask yourself:
- Are your current habits serving you?
- Are your daily habits making you better than you were compared to yesterday?
- Are you habits getting you that much closer to the goals you have?
My Current Writing Habit – An Analysis
I thought I was plodding away just fine churning out 500 words a day, which is great. Let me just state that its taken me a long long time to just get to this point.
But we need to make sure that we don’t get too comfortable with our routines. Last week I was asked how much time I spent writing and how often I was blogging.
It was only when the words verbally left my mouth that I recognised how comfortable I had become with my writing habits and where I had stopped growing. Because comfort doesn’t allow for growth.
I had 8 hours a day free yet only wrote for 30 minutes a day producing 500 words. I was also just posting twice a week on this blog even though I was learning a lot more and had more than two blog posts worth of information I wanted to share with people who also love writing and want to make a business from it.
‘Surely you do better than that’ came the reply from the business coach. In that instance I detested her, she had hurt my ego. But at the same time she had raised my habit to the light and questioned it rightly.
It was that comment that spurned me on to produce more content. And so I did.
Utilising the Pomodoro Technique
I went back to giving the Pomodoro Technique a go. I had tried to use it in the past but couldn’t quite get it to work for me and so had some doubts about it. I’m also currently reading ’Miracle Morning for Writers’ and this technique was suggested in there, so I thought to give it another go.
So this time around I approached it with an open mind and fuelled by a hurt ego I set out to produce more content that mattered.
I decided to focus on finishing the first draft of my next book (How to Find Your Passion & Live With Purpose) by the end of June. So I had 18 days. I thought it was doable.
I use Scrivener which has a cool project word counter which tracks how long you want your project target to be i.e. how many words in your book.
You then set a deadline and the counter will calculate how many words you need to complete per day to hit your deadline and word count.
My word count was 50k words, deadline was 30 June.
Writing Results From The Pomodoro Technique
After using the Pomodoro Technique for 9 days, I hit 41k words and completed the first rough draft within 8 days!
I had produced over 20k new words in this short time frame. Although I fell short of the 50k words target, I had written the main content required for my book. 50k was just a ball park figure I was aiming for. But I am more than happy with 41k words at this point in time!
How did I do it?
How To Write More Using The Pomodoro Technique
(1) Schedule a writing appointment with YOURSELF every day.
If you schedule in the time then you are more likely to stick to it. You are making a commitment to yourself. I scheduled in 8.30am daily (including weekends).
(2) Decide how long the time frame should be and block it out physically in your diary or calendar.
Seeing it blocked out will give you more motivation to stick to the plan.
I blocked out the time slot 8.30am -10.30am. This is also known as Batching. This is because during this time you WILL ONLY DO THE ONE TASK i.e this time will be spent writing. No email checking, no social media. This time is dedicated to writing. For me this time was dedicated to writing the first draft of my book.
(3) Eliminate Distractions.
Turn your phone to silent and ensure you have told important people or loved ones that you will be unavailable during this time.
Of course if you are disciplined enough to wake up at 5am and do this then chances are not many people will be disturbing you anyway.
Turn your phone to silent or if you have an iPhone, you can put to ‘do not disturb mode’.
(4) Set a timer for 25 minutes and start to write.
I tend to use my wristwatch or stopwatch on my iPhone to countdown the 25 minutes (but if you are using your phone then please make sure you are not tempted to take a quick look at your text messages, surf the net or check email).
This is why it’s sometimes better to go old school and use a proper egg timer or wrist watch which has zero chances of distracting your attention. You can also use this online egg timer.
When the buzzer rings at 25 minutes take a 5 minute break. Yes you read it right, it’s just 5 minutes. So stretch your legs quickly or get a glass of water.
Now back to your desk. Set the timer for another 25 minutes and repeat the process.
I typically do 3 sessions in a row i.e time block is 1.5 hours, then take a break for lunch and do a final session in the early afternoon. It may seem like to much at first but I find it easier to get all the writing done in one go and sometimes struggle to produce content when I’m doing my final session as I have lost my concentration and focus after lunch.
Using this technique I was able to produce 2 – 3k words daily.
A Few Tips To Make The Process Easier
- Create an outline beforehand: To help this process, you should have already spent a few minutes beforehand knowing what you will write by creating an outline. This just makes it easier for the writing to flow.
- Just Write: Whilst you write, if there are things you need to look up like research DO NOT start researching. Just put in something like this <need to do research on this topic> and then continue writing. You can fill in these gaps later.
- Be prepared: Have snacks and other supplies easily available when you get to your 5 minute break. You only have 5 minutes. So have a bottle of water near by, have some snacks out. I usually have a bottle of water and that keeps me going. I don’t tend to snack as I find it distracting to my writing and I know I’m going to have lunch after 3 writing sessions so that keeps me motivated!
Narration and Dictation
On the last day I was getting somewhat frustrated with the book. I felt like I just wanted to get it all done (considering I had been working on it for the past 7 month) and so I decided to give dictation a go. I knew what the last few chapters would be about. Here is my dictation process and the results.
(1) Download the Dragon app (its free)
(2) Take a few minutes before speaking to think about what you want to speak about.
(3) Tap the red button in the app and start speaking. Speak clearly and slowly.
- I found it surprisingly easy to talk my book because I found that I couldn’t edit myself whilst I spoke. I don’t think the critical part of the brain can surface for air whilst the mouth is talking which is a good thing!
- The app only records for about a minute at a time before it stops and saves your content so just keep an eye on the app and make sure it is recording you as you speak.
- If the app stops recording as its processing your current words, just let it finish processing and then tap the red button again to record. All your content will still be there.
(4) After you have finished your session, you can email the words to yourself.
In total I was speaking for about 20 minutes and producing 1200 words. Now I can understand why so many authors rave about dictation.
Granted the output was not 100% accurate but I think it just takes some time to ‘train your dragon’ so the app understands your voice. I will need to go over this content to make corrections but at least it’s all out on paper and I got the words done.
So this is how I managed to get to the end of my first draft quicker than I had anticipated. Here are the key takeaways that you can also use:
- I implemented a new writing routine that worked for me.
- I batched and protected my writing time.
- This allowed for deep work to occur.
- I wrote using the Pomodoro technique i.e. writing for short bursts of concentrated time rather than trying to write all my words in one long marathon session.
- I dictated the last few chapters of my book where my word count was 3x higher than standard old-fashioned keyboard writing.
I’m super excited to have completed the first draft. The working title is ‘How to Find Your Passion and Do Work You Love’.
I will be sure to release some of my book here for your to read before its officially launched so sign up to the newsletter if you’re interested.