Writing

Making the Most of Your Time, or Different Ways to Measure Productivity

This blog comes after a week that just blew past, making me wonder – where’d the week go? We’ve all had these weeks where perhaps we were sick or distracted, possibly focused on something else, or else feeling like the whole world was in fast-forward while we’re stuck in reverse. Sure, technically you probably got things done (I mean, you were awake and moving around during the days, so you had to have done something, right?) And yet, your word count is 0 or lower than you’d like, leaving your ego feeling about the same.  You end the week thinking: did I do ANYTHING useful?

Of course you did. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of how you measure it.

Let’s start with the word count. For me, this is generally how I measure my productivity and forward-progress, which may or may not be the best idea. For starters, what “counts”? By which I mean, sure, you wrote two blogs, made notes on plot or character, did some critiques for a partner, rewrites, but possibly only one real chapter on the current WIP. I often only count the work on the current WIP, and I know I’m not alone in this, but is that fair? Really, at the end of the fictional week described, blogs do add into word count, and work like rewrites and background notes – while harder to quantify – are certainly work that brings you forward in progress of either the current WIP, or a future one.

The same goes for if you’re a different kind of artist or creator: just because you don’t have a new, and fabulously complete new something (insert painting, sketch, piece of furniture, etc) it doesn’t mean you accomplished nothing. Have you started? Have you been inspired? Have you been trying to get inspired? Have you been cherishing or feeding your muse?

Here’s what I’m really getting at: creativity can sometimes be difficult to measure, and just because we have weeks where we get less than we wanted done (or it can feel like nothing) there are times when we’re just being harder on ourselves than necessary. If you haven’t done anything to feed or recharge your muse and yourself, how can you expect the poor thing (and you) to keep producing at an endless pace? What can you do to change the situation? If you haven’t been working on whatever the focus of your work generally is (ie: word count on the latest WIP, etc) what have you been doing? Why isn’t what you have been doing allowed to “count”?

It’s very easy to compare ourselves to other writers / artists producing at a far faster pace than we have (or so we imagine) or to get bogged down in what we SHOULD have accomplished or be doing, rather than what we HAVE accomplished or been doing. Sometimes we can even compare ourselves to our own past and find we’re lacking, which probably isn’t any more fair. All we can do is the best we can for right now – putting in as much effort as we can, on whatever we can – and live in the present of what we are doing and accomplishing. Sure, we can make goals for the future (like next week I really will be more productive writing-wise) but really, it’s only the present that truly counts. There probably was a reason why you weren’t writing or producing “at acceptable levels” this past week, and those reasons may be perfectly correct, or even part of your process.

And sometimes, maybe we just need to be a little less hard on ourselves. What have I achieved already this year? Quite a bit more than last year, perhaps? Where do my priorities lie right now? Am I working towards and within them? Don’t lower the bar: just allow a bit more flexibility on what’s acceptable.

Have you had less than productive weeks / months / whatever? Are you someone who accepts them, or beats yourself up? What works better for you? Please comment below.

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