Sustaining Productivity

I had a topic all prepared, talking about how amazingly productive I’ve been in recent weeks, and how I’m hopeful it will be sustainable long-term, because I have a good attitude towards flexibility, taking breaks, and doing things that are good for both my mental and physical health.


And all of that is still true, and still a valid topic for a blog post.


But things have changed a bit this week, and that needs to be taken into consideration, too.


After getting back from a glorious writing retreat at the end of March, I felt reinvigorated, excited about my third novel, and eager to launch into revisions. And they’ve been going far better than I expected, keeping me more than on track to hit my original deadline of mid-July.


In fact, on discovering Gollancz is having an open submission window in June, I actually ramped up my revision schedule even further, to get it all done before the end of June. Then, I unexpectedly got offered a cancellation spot on a writing retreat at the start of June, so I decided I’d try and get all the revisions done before that, in order to give myself the opportunity to work on other projects in Devon.


And I am still on track to do that, with my wonderful parents frantically proofreading, as I go!


I’m also making efforts to do more paid editing – not least because I need to fund all the retreats I’m starting to go on again – how did I ever manage to pay for them all before the pandemic? But also because I’ve definitely been slacking off, since a very slow January. When I started making more effort to pitch for work, I decided I would *aim* to do at least ten hours of paid work a week, which suddenly seemed a lot… Which means I wasn’t doing that much beforehand… Which is a bit shameful, really…


Anyway, I’m still planning on working/writing only three days per week, with three to four hours of paid editing and three to four hours dedicated to my own writing projects – which is only 18-24 hours of ‘work’ per week, in total. I really ought to be able to fit that in, right?


I’m currently doing a challenge with my meditation community, which involves picking a few healthy habits and tracking them throughout May. The first one is to attend at least three live meditation classes per week (I’m currently doing 8-12). I also selected making sure I go to the gym or for a walk every day (so far, so good) and trying to manage lights-out by 11:15pm (absolutely fine on days when I’m not out in the evening, but I’ve been giving myself some leeway to enjoy a renewed social life). As an addition, I’m tracking my 7-day glucose average every day, and doing my best to keep it in single digits (under 9.3 is ideal).


Sounds like quite a lot, doesn’t it?


But it’s been going really well, so far! And I’ve been focusing on keeping an attitude of positive choice – I’m doing all of these things because I *want* to, not because I feel I *should*. Since, as soon as they start feeling like chores, they’ll get harder, I’ll start resenting them, and everything will fall apart.


Which is where the flexible attitude comes in. I mean, 12 meditation classes a week is more than enough, so if there’s something else I want to be doing at some of those times, that’s fine. And, as I said, a night out with friends trumps being in bed by 11:15pm, though I am keen not to overdo it on the outings!


And, yesterday, I worked really hard on client projects all morning in the cafe – and, after lunch, I really wasn’t feeling up to giving the novel the attention it deserves. So, rather than doing a bad job and resenting having to do it, I decided to give myself the afternoon off. Because I can!


I’ve got plenty of leeway on the novel – if I don’t finish the revisions before the retreat, I can always do some that week. Or, if I want to keep that week for other projects, I’ll have nearly three weeks to finalise a draft before the Gollancz window closes. Or, if that doesn’t work out for some reason, the new version isn’t actually due to my editor until the end of July!


Since I only work three days a week, I also have lots of flexibility in terms of taking either extra random days off, or switching my days around, or doing bits and pieces on my ‘days off’. Plus, I try to book bigger client projects, with longer turnaround times, so I can spread the work out and add in extra, smaller projects that may come up at short notice.


Even though I didn’t work on my own writing projects yesterday, and I’m not feeling particularly motivated today (though I’m writing this and I’m planning to try and catch up on the novel revisions later this afternoon), it doesn’t mean my new-found productivity is falling apart, or that I won’t be able to sustain the higher level of activity overall, during the next few months.


So, I’m still feeling pretty positive about how everything is going. And I hope my new, more challenging routine will continue to bed in and become standard. With regular time off for retreats, of course!

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