What are your obstacles to productivity?

 am writing around obstacles

Here we are at Day 1 of our 3-day #AmWritingAroundObstacles series.

Today, we’re each going to list all the obstacles that stop us being as productive as we want to be. The rocks on our roads.

On Day 2 we’ll figure out how to overcome the obstacles we’ve identified, and on Day 3 we’ll draw up our individual plans of action to stop those obstacles from damaging our productivity.

I’ll go first.

Here’s my list:

This is the biggie for me. Rather than bogging down this conversation with details of my health condition, I’ve explained all about it here.

Like many chronically ill people, I measure my strength and energy for each day in spoons.

Like many chronically ill people, I measure my strength and energy for each day in spoons. Click To Tweet

Sounds odd, I know, but it’s a simple and very useful system. Its creator explains it here.

An ME dreamSo today I have one spoon, which means that writing this post is like trying to deal with one of those syrupy can’t-run-away-from-the-monster dreams. I’ll do it, because I’ve decided this is how I will use this spoon, but writing this post is the only task I’ll manage in the entire day. Absolutely nothing else will happen, writing-related or otherwise. I’ll be in bed, either unconscious or wishing I could be.

On the standard 1 to 12 spoon scale, the best I can usually hope for is a 5. A long series of 5-spoon days is brilliant.

For example, when I enjoyed one of them all through January and February of 2012, I wrote my SF novella Damage Control, rewrote my voice recognition software-savaged UF novel Golden Triangle, and outlined my futuristic steampunk novel A Flight of Thieves.

Again, apart from my morning shower and eating regular meals, writing was the only task I managed each day in that 8-week period. But it was so good to bang out tens of thousands of good words.

2015 Update

That was a productive year! I completed Golden Triangle, A Flight of Thieves, and Damage Control, and all three were picked up by different publishers and released during 2012/3/4.

In spring 2014 I used a similar 5-spoon period to finish writing Gifted, and then another one in late summer to edit that big novel ready for its release by Hartwood Publishing.

2015 has been more complicated after my winter of horrible health and two surgeries, but when a 5-spoon period came along in the spring I grabbed it and completed my literary fiction novel The Honesty of Tigers, which is now out on submission.


I love my family. They’re loud and active and fun and wonderful. They often interfere with my plans to write, but they don’t do it deliberately or maliciously and as they’re my Number One priority in this life I seldom complain. But they do have an effect on my productivity, so I need to factor them in.

2015 Update

I’ve had to factor them in even more in this past year, since one of our daughters divorced and moved back home with her lovely children. Three generations of us live together in this house now, including two toddlers, and I work on my Mac in the corner of our open plan living room because my old study is now a bedroom.


Other people
Certain personality types send me scurrying to the back of my cave, pretty much like anyone else I suppose, but mostly I deal with people as they come.


Social media
This one’s complicated. It’s magical in many ways, but too much of a good thing… etc.

And it’s all about people, so it’s intimately bound with my “other people” category.

It’s also bound with my “health” category, because on days or weeks when I’m too sick to write I often spend hours at a time on Twitter and various forums, which then becomes a comfortable pattern that can lure me to stay rather than leave when my health picks up. I know you know what I’m talking about. 😀

Mostly, I enjoy social media and wouldn’t want to be without it, and when I enjoy it too much so that it’s a distraction that forms an obstacle, it’s my own fault. This is something I need to remain aware of, because it’s slippery.

2015 Update

And there’s a lot more slippy danger potential now, with my new social media addictions. I’m on Twitter more than ever and have added Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest to the mix.

Happily, the plan of action I devised here in 2012 allows me to enjoy all these places without draining my energy to zero. More on that later in the series. 🙂


It piles up, doesn’t it? Mostly it’s okay and we’re in control, but occasionally it builds like a snowdrift overnight and suddenly we can’t get the damn front door open to go out and chop wood and everything gets horribly urgent with no heat or light or way out until all we want to do is crawl under a blanket and sob.

It’s internal as well as external. In fact, external pressures rarely give me a problem. I plan them, and manage them, and if someone else shows they’re determined to keep making unreasonable demands of me, I simply get alpha on their arse. That isn’t something I glory in or even look for, by the way. But if a situation requires it, I have it.

TimeNo, it’s internal pressures that can cripple my productivity. Personal deadlines and building over-optimistic lists of things I want to achieve. I’m a bugger for that sort of thing.

And I always seem to build those lists when I’m in a 5-spoon period, so although I’m experienced enough to factor in the possibility of poorer health, I always forget just how physically crushing a bad relapse can be until I’m right there inside one of them.

2015 Update

As with the social media, I’ve increased my potential pressures this year by stepping up my blogging and starting my weekly newsletter. It’s all writing, as much as my novels are, albeit with different routines and shorter deadlines.



Okay, that’s my list. Over to you. What are the rocks on your road?

What are your obstacles to productivity? Click To Tweet

We can do this like group therapy if you like. Talk to each other. Many of us will have insights that might help each other, and we can all give good hug.


Further reading

Introduction post is here.

Day 2 is here.

Day 3 is here.


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