I don’t think you need to have high output every day of the year, but if you have a big chunk of work to get done, a Productive Sprint can be very helpful.
I also do short writing sprints (most recently with my 21-year-old daughter) to make writing fun and focused. But the longer, sustained bursts are something else entirely.
Here’s what I recommend:
- Create the time pressure. Schedule something a week or two in the future, like a trip or a book celebration party, where you have to get your work done beforehand. If you don’t want to do a trip or event, just make a big public promise to friends that you’ll get your project done before a certain date or you’ll have to do something really embarrassing and they can film it. You won’t want to be embarrassed.
- Map out your work. I had each day planned out (loosely), so that I knew how much I had to write to get done before the trip. On days when I would slack off a bit, I knew I was putting more work on future Leo, and that future Leo would be mad about that, so I tried to do that as little as possible. Future Leo was usually grateful.
- Carve out your productive time. What time will you get the work done? You can’t leave this vague, because there are lots of other things you can be doing, distractions that come up, emails to answer. Block off a specific time and make this time sacred — nothing else should be able to be done during this time.
- Work in smaller sprints. If you’re going to work for a 4-hour block (for example), I recommend doing shorter sprints in this block, like 30 minutes each. This allows you to take breaks of about 5-10 minutes, and makes the 4 hours more doable.
- Tell people about it. At the end of each day, I really enjoyed bragging to Eva and the kids about how much writing I’d done. “I wrote more than 4,000 words today,” I’d exclaim with pride, and they would try their best to look impressed. I also had two people I had to send my chapters to each Friday, and I didn’t want to look like a total loser to them (well, not more than I usually do).
The huge pot of French press coffee is optional, but if you’re a coffee drinker, you’ll love the combo of high-intensity writing with thick coffee. Tea is a great alternative. And no, sports drink isn’t necessary.
May your Productive Sprints be filled with joy and a wild, towering passion.