Getting Things Done For Writers: 4 Tips To Increase Your Output

A reader asked about “getting things done for writers”: is there a special strategy for GTD which helps with writing?

(Here’s an article on GTD which has some useful tips.)

We’ve discussed Getting Things Done several times at our writers’ group meetings. Some members are keen on it, others not so much.

Getting things done: create your own Inbox

Over the years, I’ve tried the complete system several times. I have both David Allen’s books. To be honest, what helps me most is the concept of a universal Inbox.

Your “Inbox” isn’t your email inbox. It’s a collection: where you put materials before you organize them. I used to have many notebooks, both digital and paper. I’m a stationery addict, so I still have that, but Evernote is my preferred Inbox.

This article shows how to use Trello in the Inbox process:

I discovered how to make Trello line up perfectly to power my GTD workflow… Trello is especially useful for the “Collect,” “Process,” and “Organize” phases…

1. Writing is thinking: think in your Inbox

Many writers try to write whatever they’re working on straight through. In other words, if you’re writing an article, you write the title, and then plough through the article.

Invariably this leads to unpleasantness. Either the piece doesn’t work: your logic was faulty, so you end up repeating yourself, or you leave out vital information. Or you stall, then you procrastinate: you can’t think of a title, the introduction seems boring, you realize you need more research…

There are a million things which can go wrong when you try to write anything in a single session where your first draft is your only draft.

Find an Inbox for your writing: keep your initial drafts there. I like Evernote, because I can work on early drafts on my phone.

2. Set a goal for each writing session

If you want to write more, set a goal for each piece of writing, and each session.

Set a goal that’s achievable. Trying chunking down projects. For example, if you need to write a webpage, have disparate goals for each writing session.

You might have a single session to research keywords, another to develop a page title, and several sessions where you’re working on the content.

Achieving a goal encourages you to keep going on the project. “Brainstorm ten headlines” sounds like a goal which is easily achievable. “Write a webpage” sounds hard (and boring)—you’ll be tempted to procrastinate.

3. Prewrite using mind maps

It’s hard (almost impossible) to write a project from go to whoa.

From Mind Maps: 5 Tips To Manage Your Goals And Your Life:

What’s making you miserable and holding you back from achievement? Obstacles can be physical — or they might be emotional or mental blocks.

A blank computer screen is a HUGE obstacle.

Mind maps tame writing projects.

4. Discover the magic of zero drafts

Your “zero” draft is the draft before the first draft. It’s just a collection of notes.

After you create a mind map for a project, you can write short notes for each item on the map. Then you can export to Word, or another writing tool, and continue adding notes.

From Sönke Ahrens’ excellent book, How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking:

You can use this pool of notes not only to make writing easier and more fun for yourself, but also to learn for the long run and generate new ideas. But most of all, you can write every day in a way that brings your projects forward.

I love zero drafts. Dream up weird and unusual characters and outrageous scenes. Jot down snippets of dialogue.

A zero draft is all fun, no responsibility.

Please try these tips. When it comes to getting things done for writers, they’re tried and tested.


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