Writing Advice from an Unlikely Source

In the Sunday New York Times from yesterday Oct. 7 I read an article in the Sunday Business section about productivity and hours worked. You can find it here. I thought the writer raised some interested questions about how an eight hour work day can actually limit productivity by putting emphasis on being in the office rather then meeting specific benchmarks. I’m not teaching this semester, but having the whole day to work is killing me. I always feel like I should get more done, even though I do work steadily everyday. I’m trying to think about productivity through meeting goals rather than hours worked. So I didn’t beat myself up today when I sat down and watched TV for an hour and a half this morning. Anyway, to that end I have made a semester plan and I’m working to meet my goals. I did like the writing advice offered in the column and I thought it was worthwhile to share it here:

WRITE FASTER Even if you need to create A-plus work for a project, it needn’t be perfect right off the bat. When some people sit down to write a long memo, they insist on perfecting each sentence before moving to the next one. They want to complete all the stages of the writing process at the same time — a most difficult task. In my experience, this leads to very slow writing.

A better approach separates the main steps in the writing process. First, compose an outline for what you are going to say, and in what order. Then write a rough draft, knowing it will be highly imperfect. Then go back over your work and revise as needed. This is the time to perfect the phrasing of those sentences.

In general, don’t waste your time creating A-plus work when B-plus is good enough. Use the extra time to create A-plus work where it matters most.

I normally don’t read the business section of the New York Times, but I’m glad I stumbled upon this yesterday. Now I can get on with the business of writing.

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