As a writer, the biggest mistake I make is multitasking. I careen wildly from Twitter to writing blog posts to researching my latest health article to packing up my house for our big move (tomorrow!!).
It’s beginning to look like I’m cheating myself of my most prized commodity: time. And energy. Here’s what publication coach Daphne Gray-Grant says about multitasking:
“I work mostly from home and I’m the mother of triplets. In some ways, I think I’m a marvelous multitasker. Heck, I practically defined the term. When my kids were small, I could feed two babies, change the diaper on the third, talk on the phone and plan dinner, all at the same time. So please take me seriously when I say I know multitasking. But when it comes to writing, I think it’s a bad idea.”
If you want to be a more productive, creative, successful writer, read Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer (it’s one of my favorite books about writing). And, here five tips from my favorite publication coach…
The Biggest Mistake Writers Make? 5 Tips for Writing More, Writing Better
Guest Post ~ Daphne Gray-Grant
In theory, multitasking sounds brave and competent. Truth be told, however, it’s more accurate to describe multitasking as “being distracted.” I think there are five main ways in which writers try to multitask (and I suggest you avoid ALL of them while you’re writing).
1. Checking email. This is probably the most disruptive — and compelling — distraction of our day. According to a calculation by Merlin Mann on 43 folders, if you check your e-mail every 5 minutes, then you’re checking it 12 times an hour. Multiply 12 times an hour by 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year (assuming you take two weeks of vacation and not counting your at-home email habits) and that means you are checking your email some 24,000 times each year. That’s awesome — in a bad way! As Mann asks: “What are you not working on during that time?” (you’re not writing more or writing better, that’s for sure!).
2. Surfing the web. How often are you checking Facebook, Twitter, blogs or just generally surfing the web? Sure it’s attractive (I adore Twitter for example), but I don’t let it control my life. All computer related habits should be delegated to set times of the day. Start by trying to limit yourself to once an hour for each. From there, reduce even further to only once or twice a day. Or, possibly, use this “distraction” as a reward for when you finish your writing.
3. Talking on the phone. Here’s a hard one. Not only can it be fun, it can also be essential for your job. If there’s a call you can’t afford to miss, it takes nerves of steel to ignore a ringing phone. To solve this problem, try to schedule your writing as an appointment — and then treat it like a meeting with your CEO. If necessary, leave your office and perch in a coffee shop or at a boardroom or library table. (One of the biggest mistakes I make as a writer is not getting out of my home office once in a while. Writing elsewhere increases my creativity and productivity).
4. Doing research while you write. Please, don’t ever mix your writing with your research. These are two separate tasks and the research should always come first. That doesn’t mean there won’t be information gaps when you write but don’t use them as an excuse to stop writing. Instead, insert a blank “marker” in your text — like this ________ or this XXX — and then research how to fill it/fix it later, when you’re editing.
5. Eating lunch at your computer. This is a bad idea — not just for you, but also for your computer. Crumbs and liquid can kill your keyboard. My daughter lost her laptop when she spilled a glass of orange juice over it. But it’s also bad for you. When you’ve been working hard writing, you deserve a break. So, pat yourself on the back and go eat your lunch (or your snack) elsewhere.
Multitasking. It’s not just being an extra-hard writer. It’s being a distracted one.
Do you multitask — and is it the biggest mistake you make as a writer? I welcome your comments below…
Daphne Gray-Grant is a writing and editing coach and the author of the popular book 8½ Steps to Writing Faster, Better. She offers a free weekly newsletter on her website; subscribe at The Publication Coach.