Tuesday Ten: Deadline Tricks to Boost Productivity

Last week, I wrote about the power of deadlines to improve your writing productivity. And that’s great—if you have an editor waiting for your finished manuscript. But what if you don’t? How can you make deadlines work for you?


Here are some tactics that have worked for me:

Step 1: Find Motivation/Inspiration

1. Participate in a goal-setting group, such as Book-in-a-Week.

2. Join a Twitter conversation such as #writegoal or #amwriting to find encouragement—and writing “sprint” buddies.

3. Participate in something even bigger. NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenges participants to pen (or type) 50,000 words during the month of November. It’s a fantastic exercise—read more here

Step 2: Prepare for Success

4. Adjust your schedule: don’t just expect to meet your goal by working in your spare time. Put it on your calendar.

5. Plan bonus writing time. Can you get away a night a week? Can you spend a weekend in a hotel room? An afternoon in the library? Get creative and find extra time slots that will help you push toward that deadline.

6. Institute short-term “extreme measures” to reduce distractions during your writing time, such as renting an office space or disconnecting phone or internet.

7. Create a back-up plan. You know it will happen: your sprinklers will spring a leak or the dog will throw up or you’ll face a sudden crisis at work…or something will get between you and success. So, what are you gonna do about it? Chances are, you’d find a way to meet your deadline if you were working for someone other than yourself; apply that problem-solving mentality and find solutions and options before a crisis strikes.

Step 3: Get Accountable

8. Make your deadline public. Post it to Twitter, Facebook, your blog, your website, wherever people will see and help to keep you accountable. Check out the Write or Die website for motivational evil cackles.

9. Give your deadline meaning: attach rewards for success!

10. Give your deadline meaning: attach negative consequences for failure. Randy Ingermanson (the “Snowflake Guy”) wrote an article on this in his December, 2009 newsletter

Motivation + Preparation + Accountability = Success!

What about you? Any tools or tricks to share?

The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]


  1. Sarah Pearson says

    I published my self-imposed deadline on my blog. Keeping it to myself just wasn't working :-)

  2. Kenda Turner says

    My writer's group helps keep me on task–our goal is to have something ready to be critiqued each time we meet…

  3. Cheryl Reif says

    Sarah–I think that's a GREAT idea. I'm going to have to do that…I'm having a hard time making progress on one of my projects.

    Kenda–Cool! My current critique group only critiques entire manuscripts, but I used to belong to one where I tried to have a chapter to share every week. That was motivating!

  4. K.T. Hanna says

    Every single point you post is a logical one. However, they seem much more real when I see them written down.

    I have a group of crit partners who not so gently remind me of my self imposed deadline. 2 first drafts down, 1 to go and then I can revise. WE'll see how good I'm feeling when I get to the revision stage lol.

    Thank you for posting this.

  5. Danyelle L. says

    Very nice list! And so true. I don't have official deadlines from editors or agents yet, but I'm very strict about the deadlines I set for myself. I figure it's good practice. 😀

  6. Jaime Theler says

    It must be deadline/goal day, because I started off the morning writing down my own goals and deadlines. I find that if I write it down I feel more accountable. Great post.

  7. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Danyelle & Jaime–Yep, definitely a deadline sort of day. I think I need them *especially* today, because the weather has turned cold and rainy on me…makes me want to curl up and read, not buckle down to work :)

  8. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi K.T., thanks for stopping by. It's so encouraging to hear everyone else's deadline struggles–and victories.

  9. Jacqvern says

    Great points :)

    I don't make my deadlines or progress public, but I think it works for many. I make use though, of some of the other points you mentioned.

    As for having your own space, I think that's an excellent move, I've mentioned that to you on Twitter.

  10. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi there–yeah, we've discussed the importance of having your own space. I rented an office for a while this summer. It was great, but I couldn't justify the continued expense…for the most part, working at home works for me, but I'm finding that I need to get out of the house when I'm writing that all-important first draft. I'm too easily distracted otherwise!

  11. Brenda Sills says

    Hey, you have great ideas there! Usually when people come up with lists of ideas, they sound like the same things I've heard before. Yours was fresh, inviting to read, and really got me thinking – and you even had great links!

    I'm a fellow campaigner – I'm not in your groups, but I wanted the fun of getting to know more writers. It's so great to meet you! I'm SO impressed at all the magazines you've written for! Fantastic!

  12. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Brenda–aww, thanks! You just made my day!

  13. Jessica Love says

    Good tips. I'm having trouble sticking to my own deadlines.

    I decided today to make my deadline actually a birthday gift to myself.

  14. kelworthfiles says

    Those all sound like good tips, and I'm going to bookmark the post, since I've set myself a goal to rewrite some short stories in September, and I'm a little bit behind so far.

    I'm a big believer in accomplishing big things by taking little moments during your day – like working on an alphasmart or netbook while riding the bus!

  15. Cheryl Reif says

    Hi Jessica–Happy (belated) birthday! That sounds like a lovely gift to yourself.

    Hi Chris–I'm a big believer in finding bits of time in which to write, too. I used to have an Alphasmart, but (alas) it finally died. I recently switched to an iPad, which is ridiculously pricey but oh-so-much-fun to write on, has a great battery life, and is portable enough that I can skip off to a coffee shop with it if I need to grab some writing time.

  16. Miranda "Sibo" Paul says

    Fantastic post! I'm so used to editor deadlines, that I find myself lost at times trying to impose my own for personal writing projects and books. Love the advice.