What I’ve Learnt about productivity from writing two books

Over the last four years I have published two books. My first was a book on presenting in English, written for the Korean public, and my second, published this year, was on the things I have learnt about productivity in the post PC era. Through writing these books I have discovered a thing or two about productivity that I would like to share with you.

The first 10,000 words are easy.

Getting started is the easy bit. You have been thinking about writing this book for a while and the desire to begin writing is burning you up with enthusiasm and, dare I say, excitement. So you begin. Words pour out of you like hot steaming tea from a tea pot. You find this part easy. The word count just keeps going up and up and within a few days you hit the 10,000 word mark.

This is similar to when you begin a new project. The excitement and enthusiasm boil over and you cannot wait to get started. The beginning is easy. Early tasks and milestones are completed seemingly without effort. Obstacles are dealt with quickly and efficiently and everything feels great. You have an unlimited amount of ideas and things move along quickly

The middle part of the writing process makes you want to quit — every single day!

You then hit the 20,000 to 40,000 words part. Your ideas have run dry and you struggle to come up with new things to write. Instead of easily writing 2,000 words a day, you struggle to write 200! You have to dig really deep to keep ideas flowing and every day you question whether it is worthwhile continuing. You face doubts about the quality of what you are writing and start to think nobody will be interested in what you are writing. It is hell and you hate every minute of writing.

Like when you are involved in a project and the easy, low hanging fruit has been picked and completed. The easy parts have been done and now you are faced with the hard detail. The real, in depth content of your project. This could be the words you have write in your report, it could be the laying of the bricks and building the wall. The foundations are done, the sketches are drawn and now the hard work of laying bricks, pouring concrete and heavy lifting has to be done. It’s hell, it’s boring, but it has to be done if you are going to build what you want to build. this is where the majority of great ideas and projects die. The resilience and perseverance required to see the project through falters and slowly ebbs away. This is where you need to persevere, to push through and to be determined to finish what you started.

Once you get past the middle, it’s plain sailing

Once you get past the 40,000 word mark things get easy. New ideas have come and your opus is beginning to take shape. You are proud of what you have written, if not the content, certainly the amount you have written. The writing process becomes easier again and you plough on. Very soon you have written 50,000 words and the end is in sight your enthusiasm returns.

As with almost any big project, once you get past the middle it really is all down hill. Your mind now tells you that you have spent so much time and effort on your work you really must push on and finish.

As the end gets in sight you experience a renewed sense of purpose and enthusiasm

Once you go through the 50,000 word mark you find your enthusiasm returns you can see the end closing in. New ideas begin coming in and you are consumed with a strong desire to write again. The fun of writing down your ideas returns and you start to feel excited about finishing the book.

I find I experience the same feelings whenever I am close to finishing a project. Whether that is an exercise programme or the development of a workshop. As I get to the closing stages of the project, I experience a renewed energy and the end comes much more quickly.

It’s not about how many you sell, it’s about creating something that will last far longer than you ever will.

Writing books has never been about breaking sales records for me. Writing books to me has always been about helping people. I don’t analyse sales or royalty payments. For me writing books is about helping people to improve their lives and to help them see that they can achieve great things. If I can help just one person, then I am happy. But there is something else too. The chance to create something that is published is creating something that will live long past my lifetime. That thought really inspires me. No matter when my life ends, the books I have published and will publish in the future will live on and, I hope, enrich other people’s lives. That is the biggest motivator for me.

The chance to create something that is published is creating something that will live long past my lifetime

So, go on write that book, paint that picture, create that photography portfolio you have always dreamed of creating and publish it. Our lives may be relatively short, but your work can live on for centuries.