The latest buzz word in corporate circles today: Disruption. The connotation typically is positive as in a “breakthrough,” “innovation,” or “shake-up of the status quo to reinvent better ways.” But disruption has a negative connotation as well: distraction.
If you need to complete core work, continual distractions and disruptions can be disastrous—particularly if that core project includes high-concentration efforts like promoting your practice, career, or brand by writing a book.
A few weeks ago, Newsday interviewed me about my newest book (Faster, Fewer, Better Emails: Master the Volume, Reduce the Stress, Love the Results) for an article on executive stress and email productivity. The journalist shared with me a comment from an executive he’d just interviewed about how email sapped concentration: “I have a project that I need to finish this afternoon. If I could concentrate on it, it’d take me about an hour and a half. But with all the email flooding my inbox, it’ll actually take me all afternoon to get it done.”
That’s the same challenge that stalls most book authors: distractions.
So now on the publication of my 48th book, one of the first questions journalists and podcasters typically ask me is this: “Before we get into the topic of email, what’s your secret to such productivity?”
My answer: Writing marathons.
Let me elaborate. Although I’m going to focus on marathons as they apply to book writing, make your application to ANY kind of core work. The concept works. I introduced the idea to colleagues in several of my professional associations almost three decades ago (the Association for Talent Development, Society of Human Resources, and the National Speakers Association). Many members have used the approach since——some calling them a “writer retreat” or “writer camp”——and have reported to me their breakthrough achievements after years of being unable to finish a book.
Here’s what you’re committing to do: Set aside a specific period of time (5 days, 2 weeks?) to focus totally on your project, working up to 12-16 hours a day, with minimal downtime for the basic functions of life: eating, grooming, exercising.
Collect all the tools, research, and approvals you need to complete the project. If book writing, plan the structure. Complete and transcribe any interviews. Gather and file research studies.
As for your living arrangements, have your supply of food so you don’t have to go to the grocery store. If you have small children, arrange for babysitting.
In other words, plan for this project as if you were planning to go away for a two-week vacation. The only difference: You may intend to stay home and lock yourself away in the basement.
Tell your family, friends, and coworkers about your plans so they don’t sabotage your success. You don’t want to hurt their feelings when you don’t return calls, answer the door, or reply to texts. So ask for their help during this black-out period.
As I enter one of these periods for a new book, my message to my husband goes something like this: “I love you, but I’m working on X project for the next Z days. Please don’t stop by to tell me that you’re going to Home Depot, to ask if I have anything to go to the dry cleaners, or tell me you’re picking up milk at the store. I’ll come out to eat when I’m at a good stopping point; you can ask me anything then. If someone calls for us to go out to dinner, please feel free to go without me.”
When I had teenagers at home, the message was a little more lighthearted: “I love you. I’m working. You know what you can and can’t do. You know where you can and can’t go. Please be nice to each other and settle things yourselves. Dinner will be on the table at 6:30. Come get me if someone is bleeding!”
Then do it. Work your plan. Today with no kids at home, my writing marathons look something like this:
The above schedule (14+ hours of writing every 24 hours) doesn’t represent anything rigid, of course. My specific project dictates the appropriate stopping spots each day. But you get the idea: Let the necessities of living serve as your refresher breaks during the day.
So that’s how you write a book in a couple of weeks—or concentrate to complete ANY core project on a tight timeline.
Learn how Dianna can help you with your next book. Check out her Executive Book Coaching Program.