Want to Boost Your Writing Productivity? Have a Baby!

Baby Boy

As writers, many of us love to create, but not on someone else’s schedule.

For me, I get random bursts of inspiration at the strangest hours. Often in the middle of the night I can pump out some really thought provoking work.

But here’s the problem: If you’re a professional writer, you’re expected to finish each writing project on a given schedule.

I have rarely met a writer that can bang out excellent content, on schedule, all the time.

So the real question is this: How do you force yourself to regularly produce high quality written work?

Before I introduce my strategy, I want to revisit a related yet important topic.

A while back, I wrote about the importance of finding your “writing zone.” The idea here is simple. Just figure out when you are most productive and do EVERYTHING to make sure you only write during that time.

Writing in the zone is the absolute most basic first step to assuring you crank quality writing.

Now to my new approach…

So we recently added a new member to our family. Our daughter is now about 6 weeks old. Her joyous arrival has forced me to rearrange my schedule and jump outside my comfort zone.

My old schedule was go to the gym around 8:00am and hook up with my trainer. Then I would hobble to work and begin writing, usually from about 9am until 11am.

At the start of the year I needed to alter the schedule. The new baby means I now take one of my other children to school every day. This conflicted with the workout schedule, forcing me to move my time at the gym to 11:30am.

The blessing here (other than the baby, of course) was that I was forced into a new situation that resulted in something amazing. The change that propelled my writing productivity to new heights is this: By putting a fixed appointment on my schedule that occurred AFTER my writing zone, I was forced to be productive.

Before I would do other things while in my zone, like read email, surf the web and take phone calls.

Now that I know I must leave the office by 11:15am, I am highly motivated to get work done while in that writing zone. This helps me hunker down and get writing very quickly.

So, if you want to really take your writing volume to a new level, get into your zone and give yourself a real deadline (like the baby waking up from a nap). Of course, it’s not necessary to actually have a new baby in the house, but sometimes the things we see as writing obstacles turn out to be blessings (in more ways than one).

How have unexpected life turns changed your writing habits for the better? Do you have any advice to help writers continue to create?

About the author: Michael Stelzner helps businesses write white papers AND teaches regular online classes on writing and marketing topics.

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Comments

  1. Don’t you find weird that many bloggers are actually having babies. I think that the extra time at home can drive a new baby boom generation. Check out this title for a blog post, Blogger’s Baby Boom. That’s cute.

  2. Luis – You might be onto something. By the way, I had a girl. – Mike

  3. Heh heh… I was looking for a picture of a baby girl for this post, but that little boy looking up at the headline was just too perfect. :-)

  4. Michael– I discovered this general idea when writing my doctoral dissertation. For me, it wasn’t having a child; it was working two jobs to make ends meets. Once I had a set time scheduled that couldn’t change, my productivity increased dramatically.

  5. Congrats on your new daughter, Mike – but I just had to laugh. I have 3 kids – now 15, 10 and 9. In these 15 or so years, I’ve learned to be productive in 15-20 minute spurts, like whenever I’m sitting at my desk.

    For example, I started my day at 5am, kiss hubby g’bye, drive to the gym, 45-minute workout/listen to audio book, back home.

    Review hw with daughter #1, go to office, review email, pull orders. Back upstairs, shower, get 2 other kids up. Dress/make-up (I’m almost 53, I need a little make-up), get kids breakfast.

    Son doesn’t feel well, throws up. Guess he stays home. Walk daughter #2 to bus stop. Come home, check on son. Back to office.

    Oh, and I forgot sorting laundry and starting 2 more loads.

    That takes us up to 9:05am. Having kids hasn’t made me a more productive writer, merely a more efficient one who’s learned to trust her instincts because I don’t have time to second guess myself. :)

  6. Mike, I am in the same situation that you are, even though my son is 9 months old now. I had to find a way to really crack down during his nap times since I am the “Mr. Mom” (work from home) and my wife goes into work. The baby has really forced me to be on top of my game and concentrate on efficient time management.

    I have to say that you definitely hit the nail on the head with this one!

  7. I had twins and what a tremendous productivity boost! :)

  8. Great post. Never underestimate the power of a deadline to get your a** in gear :-)

  9. I have a teen and a toddler – 11 years difference. I thought my life of freedom was upcoming when the teen hit ten (yay!), and then… uh, whoops.

    I realized I had to find a different way to work when I was falling asleep at 8pm reading Cinderalla each and every night. (“DaaaDEEE! Wa’kup!”) I’d stumble through the rest of the story and drag my ass to the computer to finish working.

    Let’s just say I wasn’t always coherent.

    Sleep retraining. Bedtime for boyo is now 9pm and I’m up before the sun rises – and my toddler as well. I burn through about 4 hours of work and then have the time to be with my girl in the morning. After she goes to daycare, I can do the rest of the stuff that doesn’t need such sharp attention.

    The teen? She takes care of herself, these days ;)

  10. Well, I’m glad I don’t actually need to have another baby to increase my writing productivity.

    I found that I began to get more done when I switched from begin a night person to a morning person.

    It wasn’t easy at first but I soon discovered that perform really well if I go to bed early and get up at 4am, so that is what I do 4 or 5 days of the week.

  11. I had all 3 of my kids whilst pursuing my undergrad English degree and I can absolutely vouch for the productivity benefits of having babies! I’m now in my final year of my phd and people still ask me how I manage to get as much done as they do, when I have 3 kids to look after and all they have to do is look after themselves. Great post!

  12. Congratulations on your new baby.

    Those unexpected life turns often force you into finding a way to make your writing schedule happen…regardless.

  13. I have three Heee…..

  14. I write while in the office. I also field technical calls. A bad combination! When I write, the phone gets shut off for two hours. When people call for me they’re told I’m in a meeting. They don’t need to know it’s with myself :). The point? Focus! Just like your time to stop writing is when you go to the gym, my time to stop is when the phones get turned back on. You’re absolutely right! Getting to your next event on time forces productivity! Great post!

  15. Great Article! I have a baby on the way and right now I find myself so scattered with my time and thoughts. And I’m freaking out because I know when my baby girl arrives this won’t be a luxury I have anymore.

    But I tend to agree with you it’s going to force me to be a lot more focused and organized with my writing time and just overall life.

    Again, thanks for this post. It really hit home for me! lol

    Eddy Salomon

  16. I had a 6 week old when I started my undergrad degree. Fun.

    If anyone is interested, I can lend out a 4 year old who gets up at 6am and a 7 year old who isn’t tired until 10pm. Free to good home.

  17. One of the biggest time eaters (into your writing time or otherwise can be meetings). I try to schedule something on the other end of a meeting. Then if the meeting is running long, I have a solid reason to excuse myself from the productivity drain. Your writing time could even be that next appointment.

  18. Great to see you here, Michael. Nice work.

    Brian, excellent choice of post image. Love it.

  19. Not only babies… Shake it up a bit and come out of any comfort zone for a while. It’s like the “can you hear me now” commercials. Can you do it now? Can you do it now? Or a page from Go Dog Go.. Not only will you increase focus, you’ll increase confidence that , yes, indeed I can do it now… test yourself. Congrats on all babies by the way, been there done that…like herding kittens…they really have their own ideas about schedules…on demand profession, the parenting thing. Requires extreme agility…is that an Olympic Event yet?
    All best, Jan

  20. Gosh , can’t believe I mis-referenced my Seuss! I meant Green Eggs And Ham…would you, could you…? Any way, would like to know the most unusual places, conditions, crunch, or unexpected situation or schedule anyone has actually been in and successfully found their productivity sky rocket. Anyone?

  21. I find that I’m most productive when under the gun. I can see how having a baby can really force you to buckle down and maximize your time.

  22. what happened to you guys today?!
    I’ve done my daily RSS scan and found out it is wholly “Baby blogging” Monday on few blogs.
    :)
    Loved the topic! Love my daughters – they definitely make me work under fire [@ Shane Kane – I totally agree with you]. That makes me seek for new productivity methods to stay productive.

    Good article! Thanks

  23. Is there somewhere I can just rent a baby. I have 2 kids already and don’t want to do the diaper thing again full time.

    A part time rental just so I can get in the zone would be nice.

  24. I found having a baby helped my writing by removing about 20 IQ points, allowing me to relate better to my audience.

    I kid.

    Mostly.

  25. Yes, for some reason whenever I have a set deadline I’m not only more focused on getting my writing done, but also turn out consistently higher quality.

  26. I love it! It’s so perfect. My zone is during the nap time for my 2 year old. I can read e-mail, surf the web, and respond to posts while she’s awake. Not to mention maintain super-Mom status. But to truly write an article for one of my blogs that is actually worth something is done during the still quiet moments of nap time.

  27. Congrats on the new addition. We had our first child 11 months ago around the same time I started blogging and I must say that I haven’t had the same results as you. I’m lucky if I can get five minutes of alone time when I’m not watching a baby or at least hearing one screaming or playing. I think it’s time for a new office…because the baby is here to stay

  28. I have to agree with Roberta. L.O.L.

    Maybe this benefit is more concentrated for dads. I know after being up as many as eight times a night for a year after my son was born, my productivity wasn’t exactly at its peak. Plus, scientific studies seem to indicate that mothers lose brain cells after giving birth (a stat that we ALL just love to share).

  29. Great post, but with my 3 month old son, my writing has been DOA. Your post however is inspirational. Send more of it this way. I couldn’t be happier as a new Dad…having a blast even w/ the little sleep, but miss the writing and reading time. Need to take it on in much smaller steps.

  30. yes, babies can force you to be focused on writing when you get the chance, provided that you actually do get a chance to write. hell hath no fury like a stay-at-home writer mom whose toddler did not take a nap. :(

  31. There are people who will crack under pressure and those who have difficulties in changing their routines. I think they will have to come up with something else.

    My friend’s saying, ” You can only manage your time, if it’s not too much.” Hope it makes sense to you.
    Great post!!!

  32. Oddly enough, children had the opposite effect on my ‘productivity’.

    No, work isn’t counted in that statement. My job is eating my life.

    I love my kids, but wow…

  33. Children are great for creating growth through chaos. And they are a source of endless writing material.

  34. hehe . . . my zone-time is pretty much filled with my children playing in the background. When writing content on my site, I think I’ve learned to “zone” it all out! LOL.

    . . . ok, maybe not. Good post.

  35. Loved this post and the picture. I am a grandmother of 2 new grandsons age 2 and 1. It is a challenge to post when they are around. My zone seems to be at 3-5 am. This is the time that most of the writing was done for my book.

  36. I do 100% agree on that and the truth is- it’s just a matter of prioritizing your work, on how you manage to stay focus aside from the hindrance that comes along. These obstacles can make you productive in a way that all information will surely pop in your head. Through this, you can generate more ideas for that specific topic and its essence will certainly be relevant. The main key is just to be focus. Back then in collage, I’m always under pressure- I have to pass a certain paper at a given time. That gave me a roller coaster ride; but I got an A on that paper (lucky me)! I must admit that when I’m in a rush, that’s the time when ideas overflow my mind and produce a great work. Though it’s always like that, I’m focused to what I’m doing and that what matters most! Be focus and managing my time properly.

  37. I find a puppy works quite effectively. Except that there are never any quiet times.

  38. I have four and Im happy :)

  39. I have also experienced this type of improvement in my work habits. My son Leon-Ferris is now 5 months old.

    After I started working again, I was discussing matters with my boss. Now my workday starts 2 hours early so Leon-Ferris can see his dad while there still is some light over here in Germany ;-)

    The 2 hours that I am working alone in the office are incredibly well-suited for general GTD stuff and also for some real push-through projects where I need to get into the zone.

    So a child definitely is a big productivity booster (also think of the new purpose you got from having children in the first place)

  40. I would like to echo the congrats on the newborn. I also have been blessed with a new 6week old girl. Though I can’t say it has made me any more productive.

    Just late last night, as I was walking around the kitchen rocking my daughter to sleep, it dawned on me that I couldn’t remember actually waking up and picking up my daughter. All I can remember is suddenly she was in my hands and I was trying to calm her down.

    Often my writing seems to work the same way :-)

  41. Congrats to all of you with young ones! Take advantage of the small bursts of creative energy you have.

    Keep on writing!

  42. Hi Michael, just wanted to introduce myself as a first time reader. Wonderful blog! Thanks!

  43. Congratulations on your angel Mike! Mine is a year old.

    I work two jobs; one full time as a financial assistant, and one part time as a writer. Having her has forced me to drop the “Zone” mentality completely. Now I work whenever I can, and try to keep her on a regular schedule. Having her schedule set keeps mine sane.

    I have different sort of “zone triggers” I think. Rather than writing at the same time each day (which is not always possible) I put on a specific sweater/jacket and light a candle. That is what tells my mind it’s time to write.

    Anyway, congrats – life sure is fun with a baby!

  44. At the beginning of this post, you say you’ve rarely met a writer who bangs out good work all the time. Actually, that’s why some are professional freelance writers and some are hobbyists.

    This isn’t a slam. I just don’t want hobbyists who want to become pros to think it’s all about “the art.” Sometimes, it isn’t. I’m a published novelist, but my bread and butter (until I become a bestseller!), is copywriting. I drop the kids at school, then hunker down. The admin stuff, such as e-mail, gets done when they’re home and there is absolutely no way I can be creative! LOL

    You are so right when you say having a baby makes you more productive. You HAVE to work when you can, so you become more adaptable. That’s the mark of a pro.

    BTW, congrats on the little one.

  45. Congratulations again, Mike.

    Want to increase productivity? Have a baby. Want to decrease productivity? Have a kindergartener!

    The key for me is to block out specific work hours – a few hours before the rest of the house wakes, mornings when kindergarten is in session, and in the evening after stories and bed. I’m hoping that will change next year when school is a full day, but having kids definitely teaches you to work smarter with the time you have. Nice post.

    – Deb

  46. Congrats on the new addition. I have one myself.

  47. Great post!! Very fun and flowing.

    I agree with setting time parameters, helps productivity immensely. Thanks for sharing your story with us!

    Congratulations all!!

  48. Mike, I’m pretty certain your wife had the girl. You got a girl out of the deal, though.

    As for moving outside the writing comfort zone, I hear ya. I was a nightowl for 30+ years until we decided to homeschool our son. Now I’m up (by choice) by 5 a.m. six days a week to write before he gets up.

    I don’t like being awake that early. I don’t think I ever will like it, as a matter of fact. But I’m terribly productive as a result: if I’m going to be awake at that outrageous hour, I’d better have something to show for it.

  49. having good sex also helps. just don’t get to the baby stage :)

  50. Congrat for your baby and nice article.
    How do you start post a new article?
    For now, i still doesnt write any post, although i have a lot of idea in my mind. I am confuse where i have to start. Could you give me some advice?

  51. Tyler @ Building Camelot :

    Congrats! My daughter is a little over two and she is amazing. Just wait until she learns and understands who daddy is and starts reaching out for you…your heart will melt.

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time. My wife is about 12 weeks pregnant and my next blog post will be about the new baby.

    Kids have a funny way of putting things into perspective…in a good way of course.

    –TW

  52. Mike, I can appreciate the power of having deadlines … my daughter, who is 6 months old, usually naps from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm. But because I don’t know for sure when she’s going to wake up, I have to buckle down and get the work done. Congrats to you and your wife on your new addition. They grow too fast though; enjoy watching her grow and learn as much as you can. Babies are really amazing.

  53. nice post! I’m hoping that if we’re lucky enough to have a baby, it’ll boost my blog traffic as well as my own productivity – since baby makin’ is the topic of my blog. :)

    Love the idea of enforcing a time zone – I’m like you – usually nothing other than an outside appt will do the trick.

  54. Great post. Never underestimate the power of a deadline to get your a** in gear

  55. Michael, you are one amazing writer, thanks for sharing your thoughts :-)