Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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January 8, 2024

Gear Up for a Productive New Year

By J. Alexander Greenwood

As the new year unfolds, it's the perfect time for writers like us to reset, reorganize, and rejuvenate their creative process. Whether you're crafting mysteries, spinning tales on your podcast, or shaping influential essays, staying organized is key to success. 

Let's explore some practical ways to streamline your workflow, interspersed with personal insights and tools that I use in my own writing journey. These things help me write books, produce two podcasts, write two newsletters, run a business, and market everything I do. I did the math, and these tools and processes combined easily save me twenty hours of work a week.

Don’t get overwhelmed by expectation. Start by setting clear, attainable goals for the year. Whether it's completing a novel, growing your podcast audience, or reaching 1000 subscribers on your newsletter, having concrete objectives keeps you focused. Break these goals into smaller, manageable tasks and set deadlines to keep yourself accountable.

A cluttered workspace can lead to a cluttered mind. Dedicate time to create a writing environment that's conducive to productivity. This doesn't mean you need a complete overhaul; sometimes, a tidy desk, comfortable seating, and a little personal touch can make all the difference. 

Less is often more when it comes to a productive workspace. A minimalist approach doesn't mean a bare office, but rather a space where every item has a purpose and a place. This approach not only clears physical space but also helps in reducing mental clutter, leading to improved focus and efficiency.

For example, I made an effort to clear off my cluttered bookshelf, which is the backdrop to my Zoom calls with clients and podcast guests. I have packed it with so many books and trinkets that it looks like a thrift store bargain shelf! So, I gave away a dozen or so books and have moved some of my keepsakes elsewhere. It looks better, and other people get to enjoy some wonderful books guests on my show gifted me for review.

Leveraging digital tools is a game-changer for staying organized. For instance, I use Harvest for project management. It's a versatile tool that allows me to track my progress as a PR consultant, writer, and ghostwriter. Similarly, tools like Evernote or Google Keep are excellent for jotting down ideas and organizing research. And I simply could not keep up with producing my podcasts if it weren’t for Calendly, which creates workflows that help me automatically book, pre-interview, and communicate.

Time management is crucial. Techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, where you work in focused intervals, can significantly boost productivity. I am also a big fan of the Eisenhower Matrix, which I have written and podcasted about. It helps you manage by illustrating the difference between the urgent and the important.

As a writer and podcast host, I rely on a combination of writing and design software. Scrivener is a fantastic writing tool that helps in organizing complex writing projects, while Canva is excellent for designing graphics for my blogs and podcasts. 

And don’t be afraid of AI—it’s a tool (just like spellcheck, Grammarly, etc.) that can help you organize your thoughts, create images, and more. It is not a substitute for creativity—but used correctly, it will enhance your work magnificently.

These tools not only streamline the creative process but also add a professional touch to your work—and save you money.

It's important to regularly review your goals and workflow. This could be a monthly or quarterly review to assess what's working and what needs adjustment. Flexibility in your approach ensures you stay aligned with your evolving objectives. 

Don't underestimate the power of networking and collaboration. Platforms like LinkedIn or writer groups on Facebook can be great for sharing ideas, getting feedback, and staying inspired. Plus, you never know when a connection might lead to a new opportunity. The biggest reason I podcast is to network with new people. It has paid off in spades, professionally, financially, and personally.

Invest time in personal development. Attend workshops, webinars, or courses to enhance your skills. Platforms like MasterClass or Coursera offer courses on writing, marketing, and more, which can be immensely beneficial. Join a local writing group or beta circle to make friends who understand the journey you are on. Real talk: this is advice I need to heed, myself.

Lastly, take care of your physical and mental well-being. Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and adequate rest are crucial. If I did not work out five to six days a week, I would be in a world of hurt physically and emotionally. Get out of the house, get your blood flowing! Remember, a healthy body fosters a healthy mind, which in turn nurtures creativity. 

As we step into the new year, let's embrace these strategies to stay organized and productive. Remember, the key to successful writing isn't just talent; it's also about how effectively you manage your time, workspace, and resources. Here's to a year filled with achievements, growth, and, of course, fantastic writing!

What strategies and tips keep you on track for the year? Is it one of the above, or something else entirely. Please do share with us down in the comments!

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About Alex

Alex Greenwood

J. Alexander Greenwood is an award-winning writer, public relations consultant, podcaster, speaker, and former journalist and broadcasting executive. He is best known as the author of the John Pilate Mysteries and host/producer of the Mysterious Goings On podcast and the PR After Hours podcast. Alex is also the author of the Amazon Top-Selling eBook/audiobook, The Podcast Option. You can read his blog at JAlexanderGreenwood.com.

Image credit: © 2023 J. A. Greenwood. Image created by AI technology. All rights reserved. This image is proprietary and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published, or broadcast without the prior written permission of the creator.

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12 comments on “Gear Up for a Productive New Year”

  1. Thanks Alex, for this terrific kick-butt organizer. I need these reminders in the worse way. You make me realize that the terms ‘workflow & project management’ are not in my daily plan - and all this time I thought my problem was Focus!
    Adjustments ahead, although I don’t know about the AI inclusion!

    1. Mary -- Thanks for the thoughts. I think you may be surprised at how much easier your life will get with solid workflows. It isn't "sexy" but it is definitely necessary for busy folks. AI is truly a good tool if used correctly...but that's another blog post!

  2. The most valuable time management tool I have is a little program called Freedom; it allows me to block the internet for a preset time.

    It's amazing what I get done some days by not being able to surf the web easily.

    1. Interesting--I have not heard of that one. Will check it out. One thing I also use is a Remarkable 2 tablet--used remotely offline--it prevents me from straying from the task at hand and really helps me shut the world out and get to writing.

  3. I spent a lot of time last year learning about workflow and project management. This year is all about intentionally using those to make my work more efficient and productive. The digital tools you mentioned sound interesting. I will be checking them out. Physical care and networking are two areas I needed to be reminded of--I'll be working adding those to my workflows.

  4. These are fabulous ideas. I plan to implement several of them. And my own best productivity tool is the kitchen timer. Knowing that I only have to do something for a little while lights up my ADD brain with the adrenaline of a not=-so-much-stress deadline. It works every time.

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