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A Strategy Primer for Writers: Part V

March 4, 2021
5 min read time

Welcome back to the strategy primer for writers!

So far, we’ve covered twelve productivity strategies that writers can use to decrease procrastination. You can catch up on those in parts I, II, III and IV, but if you’re already up to speed, let’s jump into our next batch of strategies.

The focus this week is on themes of vision and identity. Who are you, and who do you want to be? Processing these two questions can make a big difference when it comes to reaching your goals and here are a few strategies that will show you how:

STRATEGY #13:

DAILIES

Author, speaker and podcaster Todd Henry advises that for creatives and entrepreneurs to have long term success, it’s important for them to carefully set a number of intentional daily practices, or as he calls them, “dailies.”

In his words: “You can say you value whatever you want, but it’s what you actually do every day, how you spend your finite focus, assets, time and energy, that truly matters.”(1)

Henry’s dailies include studying, meditating, writing, engaging in some act of business development, and setting time for deep conversations with his kids. If you’d like help brainstorming your own list, Henry offers a few guiding questions to do so through his website, but for a quick look, the main prompts are as follows:

  1. List a few valuable activities that are rarely urgent.
  2. What daily relationship practices should you incorporate?
  3. How will you feed your mind each day?
  4. How will you fuel the flames?
  5. How will you keep your body strong?

Whatever activities you decide to turn into daily habits, it’s the consistent repetition of these tasks that over time, will help form you into the person you want to be.

STRATEGY #14:

THE RULE OF THREE

The Rule of Three is a great option if your to-do list is overflowing and you’re having trouble choosing how to focus. It’s a simplified approach to your day that will help you prioritize the most important items on your list by considering the end result.

Utilized by J.D. Meier, the Director of Digital Business Transformation at Microsoft, and detailed more in his book "Getting Results the Agile Way", the Rule of Three structures your day and your to-dos by having you ask yourself one question every morning:

“What are the three results I will want to have achieved by the end of the day?”(2)

This strategy not only reminds you of your main goals, but has you start your day by envisioning the end result and the satisfaction of having completed your top three tasks for the day. It’s one simple question that can make the difference between a productive and unproductive day.

STRATEGY #15:

FUTURE SELF STRATEGY

This next strategy takes the Rule of Three one step further. Instead of just visualizing yourself at the end of a productive day, the Future Self Strategy asks you to imagine yourself ten years into the future.

Social psychologist Daniel Gilbert has found that when asked, people believe they are the same person today that they were 10 years ago, most people say no.

But despite our agreement of how much we have changed over time, most people still underestimate changes that will happen to them in the future. Or, as Gilbert puts it: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they are finished.”(3)

Imagining your Future Self then is a way to constantly remind yourself that you are a work in progress and can achieve more than you have so far. “Current You” may want to binge one more episode of  Better Call Saul, but “Future You” knows that right now, you need to be elbow deep in revising a script you’re working on.

Here are a few ways you can practice the Future Self Strategy so that your current actions will support “Future You”:

  • Consider your goals and imagine who you will be in the future once you’ve accomplished, or are in the process of accomplishing, these goals.
  • Remind yourself that you are a work in progress, and your current self is temporary.
  • Ask “What will Future Me thank me for?” Use the answer to this question to clarify and motivate your current decisions and behavior.
  • Measure your progress over time so you can note and celebrate the small victories and increments of growth along the way.(3)

By asking “What will Future Me thank me for?” you allow your brain to process and plan deliberate steps toward reaching your goals while provide strong motivation to do so. And it’s these deliberate, intentional actions that are most successful at helping us reach our goals.

ONE MORE THING

So. You’ve now got 15 solid productivity strategies to choose from whenever you find yourself distracted or procrastinating. But if you’ve gotten this far and still haven’t found one that works for you, I want to leave you with one last strategy...

STRATEGY #16:

THE FIVE SECOND RULE

This Five Second Rule has nothing to do with food falling on the floor, but it does aim to jumpstart you into action.

“The rule is simple: The moment you have an instinct to act on a goal you must act on it immediately (or within five seconds) — otherwise your brain will start leaning towards procrastination.” (4)

The key is to bypass your naturally analytical and indecisive nature by jumping directly into action. Is this a mentality you should use in all areas of life? NOPE. But when it comes specifically to your to-do list and even more so to your writing, it’s certainly handy.

And the more you practice the five second rule, the more you will begin to identify yourself as "the type of person" who gets started with tasks right away — and that can have a ripple effect, making it even more likely that the next time you’ve got a lot to do, you’ll jump right in then, too.

I’m sure it goes without saying, but not every person will benefit from every strategy listed in this series. The goal is to simply find one or two that work for you so that you can create a more intentional and productive life as a writer. Because as comedian, writer, activist and meditation guru Russell Brand says, “in the absence of structure, tendency will prevail.” (5)

So with 16 productivity strategies now in your toolbox to try out, I’ll leave you to it!

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