I guess almost every occupation has inbuilt time wasting activities. Unnecessary meetings, for example. In another life I experienced – as a classroom teacher – I was aware of many time wasters, and not just some of the activities indulged in by my students.
I, too, was guilty of being sidetracked by time wasting activities in my daily routines. Overall I think I managed them at quite a reasonable level. It’s amazing how accountability to parents, colleagues and a principal can be a strong incentive to perform.
As a writer, however, I generally don’t have anyone peering over my shoulder ensuring I keep on task. I’m accountable to only myself. There’s the problem; it’s so easy to allow time wasting activities and distractions to get in the way of productive writing times.
In recent months I’ve been aware of the growing problem I have with an enormous volume of email traffic. It was severely getting in the way of essential, on task writing activities. I wasn’t making the progress I desired, so I had to do something drastic. Several years ago I solved the problem in a limited way by categorising incoming emails into folders. This streamlined the way I dealt with less important mail by placing them in their own folders waiting for attention when time allowed.
Since then the problem has escalated to a new level. Dealing with my incoming mail was taking increasingly larger slabs of time every day. Some emails sat waiting in their folder for months without being read. That was not good. The ever growing number of unread documents was beginning to really bug me. In fact, I was almost becoming depressed.
In a few weeks I will be travelling for an extended time, a significant portion of the journey will be without internet access and limited access for the rest. It horrified me to think of how many thousands of emails would be waiting for me on my return.
Dealing with the problem:
Over the last week I have been steadily unsubscribing from a whole range of newsletters that were causing the issue. Many of them are very worthy and interesting, I’m sure. In order to get some semblance of productivity back into my life I had to take this drastic action. After all, I can resubscribe again if I really need to. It will also mean I won’t have a massive problem to deal with when I return home from my travels.
That has to be a good thing.
Chris on his blog The Qwertyrash Blogs asks the question: Are you Productive or Active? (Sorry – this link no longer works.)
…years ago, I learned that there is a difference between productivity and activity. Productivity either makes you money, or directly has the potential to. Anything else is activity.
In BlogLand, productivity is writing posts and promoting your site. I’ll let you say putting ads on it, but that’s all. All else is activity.
Reading other blogs, while important, will not bring in any money. Making comments and links, also important, may bring in some traffic, but in themselves will not bring income. Productivity is mainly gained through posting and promotion, claims Chris.
While I agree with Chris I would counter his argument to say that, for me, reading other blogs is still quite an important part of my day. I am still very much in a learning curve. Each day I learn more about this thing called blogging. It’s my apprenticeship stage in the craft.
Similarly, just over a decade ago when I started writing seriously I went to seminars, workshops, subscribed to writing magazines and read every book on writing I could get my hands on. That was my apprenticeship in writing. Now I have a fair handle on the craft I am very selective in what I read or the seminars I attend. With my writing I am now in the stage of applying all that learning.
Still, Chris has a good point. Sometimes we are so active doing related tasks we forget the important basic aspect of blogging. Activity is not productivity.
Updated November 2013.