Year of a Million Words (Take 2): Thoughts on Productivity

This is an extension from a previous section of a post on the second try I’m undertaking to write a million words in a year. Since WordPress seems to hate excessively long posts, I’ve split them up. You can find the first part here.

Writer Thoughts on Productivity

I mentioned earlier that I had issues with productivity, especially a hyper-focus on method over practice.

I want to talk about why I think I’m doing so much better so far this year and why I’m optimistic. In particular, it feels like I’ve had a breakthrough this month, even though I’ve had some health stuff (really, that started back in February) that’s interrupted my sleep and caused me to miss some of my deadlines.

The Cluster Strategy

I have a lot of things going on at once. While that’s a danger given my business strategy and my need to execute, that’s also been half the reason I’m as productive as I am. I always have something to write.

I’ve adopted a strategy where I have two or three things going on any single day. For instance, today I knew I was going to write this letter for a potential future book (should I succeed in my overall yearly goal), work on a Substack post about the proposed unrealized capital gains tax, and also put in a good editing push on Libertarian Values.

There are also optional goals. For instance, I had a podcast episode I hoped to get hammered out but which fell apart in the middle, so I need to re-record some sections to make them better.

That’s optional. The podcast has been on hiatus because of laptop fan issues and my health making it hard to just speak for a long continuous take (even just seven or eight minutes, which is sort of my ideal “click record and then let it run” length right now), so it’s not critical.

I might also kick around Kenoma or Cybrine Dreams a little, trying to get them set up, but my primary task right now is to get Libertarian Values to my beta readers so I can get it out the door soon (I estimate a couple weeks turnaround time, but who knows?).

Cheerful Giving

There’s a line that I kept hearing as a child about how G-d loves a cheerful giver.

I’m not sure how much of that is really down to my upbringing, and I’m not even sure that it means the same in the sense that the people around me were using it when you examine it in the original context, but there’s an idea there.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I want to do with my life, and while I’m not adamant about being a professional writer, I’ve decided that writing is more or less the best thing I can put out there as far as my talents go.

So I’m going to do it, whether or not I’m successful, and if nothing else it’s a hobby that keeps me away from my other vices.

Getting Rid of Waste

One thing that’s really helped me as far as my strategy for productivity goes is cutting down on waste time.

I probably spend too much time on social media—I don’t even want to have an official number for my Twitter time because I’m sure it would send me into a spiral of depression—but at least I’m nominally boosting my profile on there.

However, I’ve cut out several things. I no longer really watch entertainment programming unless it’s high-budget. I’ll watch a movie, a comedy special, or a TV show (though I’ve never been a binge-watch type and rarely stick with an entire season), but I won’t waste a lot of time watching 10-15 minute YouTube videos.

In fact, I basically only use YouTube for some of my internet friends’ podcasts, when I watch them.

I still play video games, but I limit it to a companion for an audiobook or podcast, and I try to stick to things that I can walk away from when the time comes instead of sinking into hours and hours of play. I avoid new stuff in particular; I have enough of a library that I can enjoy old classics, but they don’t hold the same “just one more turn” allure to me that other things have.

Honor the Sabbath

I’m not, strictly speaking, great at keeping Sunday separate from work, but I make a simple rule:

At least one or two days a week, I have no mandatory goal. If I have a passion burning in me that needs expression on paper, then I don’t feel bad about writing. In fact, I’ve gotten to where I hit my productivity goals whether or not I have something I have to do, since I usually can think of something that I want to put into writing.

The secret here is that it’s recreational. When I write a hundred words and get bored, I stop and relax. If the passion comes back, it’s fair game. If it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be.

This is probably responsible for half of my project fragmentation, because I have a lot of half-started things that are those spontaneous whimsy moments.

However, I think that spontaneity is important, and I was forgetting that last year when my attempt failed.

A lot of what really helps me work is not having anything to do at all. Some of that is the nature of being a thought-worker, since you need to let your brain rest the same way you would let your body rest, but there’s also something to just being left alone with no pressure that lets a spontaneous growth occur.

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