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No Time to Write that Novel? Try Getting Better at Your Day Job First

Productivity expert David Allen argues that doubling down at work could help you realize the novel you’ve kept in your head but never put down on paper.
by Michael Benninger | Sep 6 2017

Got a great idea for a book, but can’t seem to find time to actually write it? Countless aspiring authors struggle to sit down and type because they’re too “busy” with work and life. Oftentimes, however, this perceived busyness is anything but productive, driving would-be writers further away from a literary future.

Write that novel

In today’s world of non-stop distractions, it’s easy to lose track of life goals and find yourself mired in meaningless tasks. But as productivity expert David Allen explains in Making It All Work, the next generation of novelists can start churning out chapters by first becoming better workers.

In the book, Allen explains how to align actions with ambitions to achieve meaningful goals. He outlines how being organized—both at work and at home—can help you reclaim your focus and cultivate a better work-life balance. So for scribes just starting out, or those who have been at it a while, but find finishing even a page takes weeks, this means fewer late nights at the office, leaving more time to put pen to paper.

Ready to get that book out of your head and into readers’ hands? Start by taking control of your daily actions to achieve peak productivity. Here’s an overview of Allen’s guidance based on the blinks to Making It All Work.

Find a balance of control and creativity to reach your full potential

Only by striking a balance between the practical and imaginative aspects of any undertaking are we likely to achieve our objectives. To find the sweet spot, it’s essential to relentlessly organize tasks and goals. This practice develops the confidence to be creative and dream up new ideas, but keeps you grounded by requiring you to consider every aspect of your project’s execution.

Outsource your memory by putting everything on paper

Unless permanently captured, our ideas are at constant risk of being forgotten. But by recording every task, project, and goal on paper, you’ll be far more likely to act on your thoughts and finish your work sooner. Keep a journal within arm’s reach at all times, and jot down anything you’d like to accomplish, from instantly actionable tasks to insanely epic undertakings and general life goals.

Organize your ideas and define actionable tasks to accomplish them

To make the most of your journal notes, sort and order them to determine which ones are actually actionable. For those that are, come up with easy, specific steps necessary to complete them. The more specific these steps are, the easier it becomes to check them off your task list. Define a certain time and place whenever possible and record them on a calendar.

Sort your tasks into three time-based categories

The first list should contain tasks you can do immediately, while the second comprises longer-term items to be subcategorized with more context. The third list should exclusively include tasks currently in someone else’s hands. Finally, unburden yourself of any extraneous ideas by storing them on separate lists, too.

Revisit your lists often to avoid feeling overwhelmed

Your lists should never stop growing, but by spending 2 hours reviewing them each week and omitting anything no longer relevant, you’ll keep these lists under control and feel more in charge of your destiny. Take your organization to the next level by clearing your workspace and collecting all documents in one place for processing.

Connect short-term tasks to long-term projects to find meaning in your work

Stay true to your priorities and ensure what you do day-to-day is important by mapping your duties and grouping related tasks into manageable projects. Projects generally include any efforts you can accomplish in under a year, and they should build toward goals that encompass undertakings on a longer timeline.

Answer big questions to illuminate your path and identify your values

It’s not enough to know simply what you want to achieve—you also need to ask yourself why. Think about the person you want to become someday and what events you want to unfold. Ask yourself big questions about life, family, and death to define your personal values. Write your thoughts down to discover your path, and focus all of your efforts on following it.

Only by improving skills in your day job will you be able to create room for your personal projects and feel more fulfilled at work and at home.

For concrete examples on how to incorporate these principles into your life, dive into the full blinks to Making It All Work or explore the dozens of other productivity books in our ever-expanding library.

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