A writer has to be disciplined. Writing has to become a habit. Otherwise, deadlines pass by, standards slip, and our writing project gets tossed into the ‘too hard’ basket.
But it needn’t be, not with a little help from the 4 D’s:
- Do It – Active quadrant
- Defer It – ProActive quadrant
- Delegate It – DistrActive quadrant
- Dump It – InActive quadrant
Remembering the 4 D’s can help you get around your writing challenges and get your writing project back on track. Take a look at this graph below:
The x-axis (horizontal) indicates the level of importance of a designated task, and the y-axis (vertical) indicates the level of urgency of the task. On one end of the scale – Do It – the task is both important and urgent. At the other end of the scale – Dump It – the task is neither important nor urgent.
Let’s now discuss each quadrant in turn in relation to some of the tasks that may need to be attended to to complete your writing project.
1: Do It!
Some things just have to be done. These are the tasks that are both important and urgent – they fall into what I call the Active quadrant. There are no two ways about it – when tasks fall into the Active quadrant you have to roll up your sleeves and just do it.
When it comes to writing, Active quadrant tasks include:
- Writing – yes, you’re the best person to write your story. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?
- Research – if you’re writing a non-fiction book, then researching your material and supporting evidence to back your line of argument, such as facts, famous quotes and excerpts from other authors. Some writers and authors research extensively before they even put pen to paper and start their writing project.
- Physical health – keep yourself healthy! Eat well. Exercise. Go for walks. Go to the gym if you need to. Take breaks when you can. You can only do what you can do when you’re in good health, including writing. Make exercise as much a habit as your writing. Plus, some of the best ideas come when you’re exercising!
- Mental wellbeing – keep your mind fresh! An enthusiastic mind transfers into the written word. Readers can sense your passion through your writing. A bored writer bores her readers. An excited writer excites her readers. So keep mentally fresh and invigorated, especially when you’re writing.
Remember, though, not to get so lost in the ‘urgency’ of a situation that your tasks become overwhelmingly ReActive instead of stable and Active.
2: Defer It!
Some tasks are important, but not urgent. These are the tasks that fall into the ProActive quadrant and should be on your t0-do list but deferred until an appropriate time. Because these tasks are important, they should be done, just not urgently this minute.
When it comes to writing, ProActive quadrant tasks include:
- Planning – setting out a writing plan is a good idea to map out your journey toward your destination from start to finish. Like a good business plan, a good writing plan is set out 30-days, 60-days, 90-days and even 1-3 years in advance. What does your current writing plan look like?
- Goal setting – word count goals (e.g. 2000 words per week, 400 words per day) helps you to keep accountable to your project as well as keeping you motivated to continue writing.
- Review and Assessment – plans and goals also need to be reviewed to ensure you’re keeping on track. Your writing progress needs to be assessed and monitored. A good time to do this is at the beginning of each month, to review what progress has been made and what you need to achieve in the following 30 days.
One of the great benefits of assigning tasks in the ProActive quadrant is that you’ll find tasks in the Active quadrant becoming less stressful and more manageable because the planning, goal setting and reviewing that you’ve done help to lower the time pressure and ‘urgency’ that often turns ‘Active’ into ‘ReActive’.
3: Delegate It!
Some tasks are urgent but not important. These are the tasks that fall into the DistrActive quadrant and demand immediate action on your behalf. Urgency thought has a knack of getting in the way of importance, it can take the guise of importance and make you think it’s vital, but don’t let these tasks distract you from what you really need to do – write!
When it comes to writing, DistrActive quadrant tasks include:
- Emails – emails continually arrive in our inbox 24/7. They don’t have to be answered the very second they pop up on your screen. Depending on how many you get, you could spend the whole day just answering emails. If they were truly urgent, the person sending the email would probably call you to tell you how urgent it is. A good email routine is to have set times during the day in which you dedicate to answering your emails, such as first thing in the morning and/or last hour of the work day. Or is this a task you can delegate to somebody else?
- Administration – if your writing is truly a business and you’re earning a living (or endeavouring to) from your words, then administration tasks can certainly become distractive and take your attention away from your writing. Such things as finances (invoices, profit and loss, payroll, tax considerations, royalties, banking etc.), marketing (advertising, content development, meetings), and even secretarial tasks (letter writing, emails, answering phone calls etc.) can be assigned and delegated to others such as bookkeepers, accountants, marketers and PAs. It may be that the time has come to employ somebody else to look after these tasks.
- Writing-specific Tasks – these tasks include editing, proofreading, cover design, layout design, and all the things necessary for quality control of your writing project. They are important for the end result of your project, but are probably not important for you to do yourself. When deciding what tasks to delegate to others, ask yourself: am I really the best person for this task? Is it really that important I do this task, or can somebody else add value to this project?
Delegation is the skill of knowing that although a task is something you’re capable of doing yourself, it’s better to use your time and efforts on writing and let somebody else better qualified to handle the task.
4: Dump It!
Some tasks are simply not urgent and not important. These are the tasks that fall into the InActive quadrant and are perhaps best described as a waste of time.
When it comes to writing, InActive quadrant tasks include:
- Instant Messaging – SMS text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr and the myriad of other social media platforms more often than not are neither urgent nor important when it comes to your writing. Like emails, it’s a good habit to allocate a set time to reply to texts and social media, lest it devours all your set writing time.
- Friends, Family and Colleagues – like social media, sometimes your friends, family and work colleagues can be equally wasteful of your writing time. The husband that continually interrupts your writing space. The friend that has just ‘dropped in to have a chat’. The work colleague that ambles over to gossip about another colleague. Your writing time and space needs to be protected from unwanted time wasting, so be polite, but firm, when letting others know that you’re now ‘at work’ and writing.
- Housework – okay, housework needs to be done. The dishes need washing, the clothes need ironing, the lawn needs mowing, and the dog needs to go for a walk. But don’t let these tasks interfere with your writing time. Don’t use them as excuses why you can’t write. Don’t allow them to become reasons for procrastination.
Remember, your writing time is precious. Treat it as such. Protect it. Dump everything that’s not urgent and not important.
With these 4 D’s, your writing project can be completed on task and on time 🙂
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