3 Productivity Tips I’m Going To Try

Welcome to the Distress Signals Blogging Bonanza! What’s that, you’re wondering? Well, you can either go and read this post or read the next sentence. In a nutshell: Distress Signals was out in paperback in the UK and Ireland on January 5 and hits the U.S.A. tomorrow (!!!!), and every day in between I’m going to blog as per the schedule at the bottom of this post. 

[UPDATE: I just realised, a couple of hours after I posted this, that I forgot to mention something kinda important. Today, 1 February 2017, is this blog’s 7th birthday! Yes, seven years ago today, 1 February 2010, catherineryanhoward.com was born. Time flies when you’re a very sporadic blogger. Thanks for hanging around!]

Guys, it’s the penultimate day of the DS Blogging Bonanza! Distress Signals will be out in the U.S.A. in hardcover, e-book and audio in mere hours.

In a few weeks’ time, Book 2 will (hopefully) be ready to move to the editing stage which means it’ll be time for me to get started on – GASP – Book 3. The problem is that (a) I just had a completely self-induced nightmare binge-writing the last draft of Book 2, which is something I never want to repeat again and (b) right around Book 3 Getting Started Time, I’ll have 3 x 5,000 university assignments due and an exam to study for as well. I want to be organised, relaxed and on a normal person’s sleep schedule, while also getting s–t done. There’s no point, I think, trying to change habits or implement new ones while there’s a deadline looming – now is the time to do it, pre-emptively.  So here’s a few productivity tips and ideas I’ve come across that I’m going to try…


I’ve blogged about this before, but since when I do it I find it really works, I thought it was worth mentioning again. Don’t break the chain works something like this:

  1. Get yourself a calendar, wall planner or at least something that has a box for every day, and hang it somewhere prominent
  2. Commit to writing a doable amount of words every day, e.g. 500
  3. Every day you do this, put a big red cross in the corresponding box
  4. Do this every day for at least few days and—
  5. Ta-daa! You have a chain. Now, don’t break it.

Tip: it is immensely satisfying to start this on the first of the month, on a gleaming, clean new page of a month-to-a-view calendar. I have my lovely new Parisian Life calendar all ready to go.


I really find it difficult to write anywhere except at home but at the same time, I realise this is just a habit. And this isn’t always a good thing, because although it’s lovely and quiet where I live, my coffee machine, Netflix and about 831 other distractions live there too.


Do you know where this is? It’s the Swan and Dolphin! Well, the Dolphin technically – the resort where I used to work in Walt Disney World

The good news is that there’s about that many coffee shops within a twenty minute walk of my place too. This article on StylistForget working from home: coffee shops are the key to freelance success – is really food for thought. I think there’s a lot to be said for getting dressed, getting out of the house and ‘going to work’, even if it is just you and your computer in a different spot.


Late one night I was watching TV with one eye on Facebook. In my absentminded scrolling, I spotted a link that said something like If you’re reading this, you’re probably depressed. Catchy title, I’m sure you’ll agree, but it piqued my interested so I clicked…

And read with horror about how the author of the piece was horrified about the fact that the average teenager spends 61 minutes on social networks a day.

Um… 61 minutes?

A day?

Dude, I start my day with 61 minutes on social media! I’ve usually clocked that during the several post-snooze, pre-alarm interludes I enjoy before I get out of bed.

Now I am not one of these people who goes on a complete digital detox for the sole purpose of returning to Twitter to smugly announce its conclusion a week or month later. Blackouts are not the answer – and they’re not practical for me. I need email, Twitter, Facebook and my blog for work, and I need the internet for college stuff and, you know, online stationery shopping (!). I don’t think the presence of the internet is the problem anyway. I think it’s that my attention span is shot.

Rather than avoid the internet, I think I just need to contain it more. Here’s three ways I think you could do this:

  • Delete all e-mail and social media apps from your phone. I have to admit, this makes me feel a bit nervous. I’m not sure about the e-mail, because I use e-mail like telephone calls and text messages, and I don’t let the idea of being out of contact all day if I’m out and about. But Twitter and Facebook? They can definitely go. Instagram really only works on your phone, but I don’t use that anywhere near as much as the others anyway.
  • Put devices out of reach. To give you an example: I am currently watching the TV while writing this post, and my phone is on the couch with me. Once I put the laptop away, I’ll have the phone in my hand. That’s just terrible, isn’t it?
  • Re-think bedtimes. The last thing I do before I go to bed is check that my alarm is set for the next morning – but it’s on my phone, so that usually means I do a quick social media account check as well. And the first thing I do when I wake up is turn off that alarm, and then… Well, you get the idea. I don’t think it’s too bad in the morning, but it can’t be good going to bed with blue light and tweets in your head, especially with all that’s going on in the world at the moment. So: must stop this.

What do you think? Are there any productivity tips, tricks or books that you think are good? Let me know in the comments below.

Join me tomorrow for the last day of this mayhem which will include a video blog and me picking a winner for a special, signed hardcover ARC of Distress Signals. Anyone who left a comment on any post published here since January 5 is eligible to win. If you haven’t entered yet, just leave a comment on this post. One entry per post. Open globally.

See you tomorrow!


7 thoughts on “3 Productivity Tips I’m Going To Try

  1. Joel D Canfield says:

    As bedtime approaches, I turn off the electronics and read. A book. Printed on dead trees. That kind of reading. No matter how gripping the story, at some point, I get tired enough to fall asleep quickly, meaning I rest well, and leap up ready for action in the morning.

    Unless it’s “No Country for Old Men” which I read in one sitting starting at 9pm. Still, I got up this morning, somehow.

    My tip is that schedule doesn’t have to mean clock. I follow the same pattern virtually every day, whether my day starts at 5:30, as it often does, or at 8:45, as it often does. “Go to bed the same time every night” is good advice, except with it’s rubbish and makes you miserable and just doesn’t work.

    Best thing I ever did for my writing schedule, though, was an office with a door. Working with the door closed meant nobody came in, I didn’t go out, not even mentally. Put. Words. In. The. Book. Then, when the words were in the book, I got to go out and be human again.

    • David Cunningham says:

      Hi There,
      This post is so very, very useful to me. I especially like the section “Don’t Break The Chain”, staying consistent is a necessity for me. As I am starting out with my new blog, I try to be consistent with my Creative Signals blog http://creativesignals.cf

      Once again, awesome and very useful post. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Melissa Stacy says:

    I grew up in a house full of mayhem, so I can write anywhere. It’s hardest to write while I’m rocking a crying infant in my arms. Then, I have to chicken-peck keys with one finger. Plus the screaming and crying noise is a brain-drag. It slows me way down. But once that baby falls asleep again, or decides to revert back to Happy Baby mode, then it’s go time.

    I do not own a smart phone. This is a hardship as well as a blessing. I don’t live in a city, so I don’t need a smart phone for navigational help while driving. My life just isn’t adrenaline-charged enough to require me to be plugged in all the time. I spend a lot of time daydreaming instead. I daydream, and I get glimmers of scenes that I write toward, so my plots always veer away from my outlines. Outlines are still useful for me, I just end up writing several of them in the course of each book.

  3. Gato Martínez says:

    I’ve been using the change of scenery method for a while now, and it has helped so much to become more productive and creative. I’ve been going to coffee shops, malls, bistros, etc. Not only it’s been a great method for my everyday productivity but I0ve also met and made new friends.

Ah, go on. Tell me what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s