The professional life of a writer can often feel ill-defined, especially when compared to friends and family working regular nine-to-five jobs. Not having a clear beginning and end to the day can make setting goals difficult, and if you’re not working under pressure from an editor there’s rarely someone else keeping you on track. In an effort to help the writers out there boost their daily efficiency, here are three easy tips to keep in mind when getting down to work.

Set Clear Goals

Having not only an idea of what your story will be about but of the steps you will take to accomplish it is an important part of keeping to a deadline. Crafting an outline for your writing will help you stick to your plan and remain focused on what you’re trying to achieve. Of course, this is not to say you must be absolutely tied to this framework. Creative writing is meant to be creative, so if you find yourself inspired to take your work in a new direction, then following that muse is to be encouraged. Setting an outline just means you are less likely to find yourself going off on a tangent that cannot be incorporated into your finished work. Having an outline will also help you set goals for the day and provide a method of seeing if you are on track for meeting your deadline. If you set target dates for certain plot points or word counts, it’s much easier to keep on schedule than it is to always be aiming toward a final product. As you get into this habit you may become less reliant on writing out physical outlines and become able to naturally work toward these goals on your own terms.

Have Your Ideas at the Ready

Obviously, we’re keen believers in the value of keeping a journal. Not only can a journal help you maintain your creative flow no matter the situation, it’s also a handy reminder of those ideas you came up with while away from your writing desk. One thing we cannot stress enough is the importance of not taking for granted your own brain power. Sure, you may spend your entire day thinking up a brilliant story arc while running errands, but if you get distracted by a phone call or an interesting news story it’s a safe bet that your idea will go right out the window. The time spent trying to retrace your steps and regain that creative impulse is time wasted if you can’t recover it, and time you should have been spending developing your idea. Keep a notebook nearby so you can at least write down keywords to jog your memory, and then refer to it later to get back into the same train of thought.

Stop Over-Complicating things

Do you find yourself staring at a perfectly good, albeit basic, word and racking your brain for a more impressive way to say it? Well, stop. Not only can this lead to choosing an inappropriate synonym from an online thesaurus, it actually disrupts your flow of writing and causes even more time wastage down the line. If you have an clear outline in place for what you’re aiming to write, there’s no reason to focus on one particular word choice at the expense of all others (that’s what the proofing process is for). You’ll be surprised, when you opt to move past this troublesome word and keep writing, how often you won’t even notice it when you read the entire piece as a whole. That’s because, as with a multiple-choice exam, your first choice is often the best one and by going with your gut instinct you allow the idea to continue to develop uninterrupted.

As with any set of guidelines or pieces of advice, the above points are made to be broken. But if you’re finding your days are becoming less and less productive, these easy tricks may help jolt you out of that rut and get you back to achieving your goals.

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