Drafting a plan of action to overcome your obstacles to productivity

Β am writing around obstacles


It’s the final day of our group therapy #AmWritingAroundObstacles series.

So far, it’s helped me recognise various obstacles to my productivity and grade them in order of severity and fixability.

You’ve helped enormously. Thank you for discussing your situations so openly. You’ve added breadth and depth to the conversation and I hope this has been as helpful for you (and for future readers) as it has been for me.

Today, I'm going to draft my plan of action. Click To Tweet

Here I go…

Choosing my projects
This is fundamental to the shiny new follow the joy in writing attitude I adopted at the beginning of this year.

Like many writers, I have a big file of story ideas. Some are just titles with single-sentence descriptions, while others are sketched out ideas. A few are outlined more fully, and some are researched in detail so that they’re ready to go when I decide to write them.

Also, like many of you, I experience plotbunny attacks regularly. But there simply isn’t enough time to write every story idea that occurs to us, is there?

Over the Christmas holiday last winter I took the not enough time thought to its extreme. I wasn’t being morbid, or anxious, but I faced the fact that I won’t be around forever and asked myself which of my as-yet-unwritten projects I’d like to be remembered for.

The answer was easy. Right then, it was my outlined space opera (that became Damage Control) and the three Big Idea novels that were sitting there fully researched and ready to rock.

Choosing just oneI dug deeper. If I only had time to finish one of those projects, which would it be?

That was more difficult to answer, because I wanted to be remembered for all four and hoped to finish them all before my time is up.

If you only had time to finish one project, what would it be? Click To Tweet

(I hope to finish many more than that, but you get what I was doing, yes?)

So I introduced another element. Having decided that now is the right time in my career to sign with an agent, I looked at my projects from the point of view of attracting an agent from my shortlist of ideal people.

The answer was obvious. As soon as I’d completed and sent in Golden Triangle, I started work on my futuristic steampunk adventure, A Flight of Thieves.

But the fundamental question was, and remains: which book would I like to be remembered for?

That question will guide my choice of projects from now on. And my answer to it has gone hand-in-hand with my rediscovery of the exhilarating joy of writing.

Furthermore, when I remind myself of it, I find all the external pressures of this business evaporate along with the internal ones. It’s a win-win-win situation. πŸ™‚

2015 Update

I’m still thinking this way. I find it a powerful mental tool.

If in 2012 you’d described to me the winter of horrible health I was going to have in 2014/5, and then told me that in spring 2015 I would finish writing, editing, polishing, and submitting the big novel (The Honesty of Tigers) that might just be my masterpiece, I wouldn’t have believed I could achieve it.

But achieve it I did, with help from some wonderful friends and the working system I devised in my 2012 plan of action.

Work patterns
I’ll continue to record and measure obstacles against productivity, and to tweak stuff accordingly.

Some external events and situations can’t be changed. I’ll identify them and work around them.

Internal obstacles are easy to recognise now that I know to look for them.

The one I expect to have the most immediate effect is social media.

My plan of action is to catch up with social media first thing every morning, and again over my quick lunch, then I’ll leave it alone until I relax in the evening.

That will cut out several hours of “Twitter sitting open in a tab” per day, but I don’t expect my active participation will be any less than it is now. It’ll be a change in pattern, is all.

2015 Update

The biggest efficiency change in my work pattern has happened quite recently, and mostly because of Darren Rowse’s superb daily podcast course 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, which I enjoyed on his ProBlogger site during July this year.

I’d heard of Darren before, as I’m sure many of you have too. But I’m embarrassed to say that in the past I assumed his blog was all about monetisation. Which I don’t require and have never been interested in.

Well, I was wrong. It isn’t. There’s a world of learning available over there at ProBlogger, of which only part is about how to monetise a blog. It’s a university of blogging.

I learned so much on his podcast course! But as well as all the technical stuff I picked up, probably my biggest takeaway was designing a method and a practice for my regular tasks.

This doesn’t affect my novels, but my routine in that area is fine so it didn’t need to change things there. What my new efficiency does is allow me to produce blog posts and newsletters regularly, without denting my creative writing work.

It’s a new freedom. And of course it’s all linked, all part of the same thing. I write novels, and I blog for readers and writers, and I produce a behind-the-scenes newsletter, and they’re all parts of the whole.

I can’t overstate how grateful I am to Darren for giving me the tools to build this new efficiency and freedom in my working patterns.

Thank you, Darren!


Ideally, bringing these new patterns online will balance everything better for me. I hope that will include helping me manage my health condition on a daily basis, by planning activities and their expected fallout in advance, and in the light of measured results from previous projects.

2015 Update

It worked, and still is working. I still tweak my plan of action regularly. I’m very glad I worked my way through this process.


Over to you
Plan of ActionAre you ready to draft a plan of action to overcome your obstacles to productivity?

Show us yours in the comments below and let’s all celebrate our planning and navigation skills! πŸ™‚


Are you ready to overcome your obstacles to productivity? Click To Tweet


Further reading

Introduction post is here.

Day 1 is here.

Day 2 is here.

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8 Responses to Drafting a plan of action to overcome your obstacles to productivity

  1. Raven says:

    Well, I'm not quite ready to have a plan of action, but I've been looking at my list of novels in much the same way. I have several novels (probably like you, around 4) that are really important to me, and I'm focusing on the one that I think can be a lead in to my name and my work.

    That said, right now, I'm still kind of in survival mode regarding my new job, and have been spending almost every minute of my free time working on it. Once that has gotten more manageable (I *do* have a working plan for THAT!), I will be able to make up a writing plan as well. I've been reading all of these posts, but haven't had a chance to respond.

  2. DaniMarie says:

    I did a project I had been avoiding. Redesigning my website with the fluid technology. It wasn't as bad as I expected other than a few fusses with the hubby. But in the end he did it how I wanted it and I'm much happier with the end results. AND… it looks great on my smartphone. What this showed me is that really if I just start doing it (whatever it is) and quit second guessing myself at least I'm stepping in the right direction. Sighs…… tomorrow, I apply this to actual writing.

  3. Mike says:

    Nice series, David πŸ™‚

    If planning and prioritization is difficult, there are plenty of tools out there which might help.

    Microsoft Outlook may already be on your computer if you have MS Office. GTD “Getting Things Done” is a book and approach which is popular these days, and “Remember The Milk” is another piece of software I've seen mentioned favorably.

  4. Alex F Fayle says:

    For me it's creating the habit of wiritng and making sure I go back to it when something interrupts. Pushing against inertia and encouraging momentum.

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