Recipe for Productivity

2 Jun

[ETA: this post was written in June 2014—for more current news, please head to]

Over the past week or so, I’ve had a number of conversations with friends and critique partners that went something like this: May was a beast. I need to build momentum on my project again—like 30K-by-the-end-of-June levels of momentum. This, basically, was the heart of at least four separate conversations I’ve had recently. (Not just on my end—all of these friends felt the same way.)

It’s amazing, really, what can happen when you admit you need accountability.

After telling said friends my intentions of making June a month of EPIC PRODUCTIVITY (always all-capsed, btw—it makes it feel even more epic-slash-dire than it would otherwise, and thus, I find it all the more motivating), I basically assumed I’d start being productive again, well, on June 1. No pressure this week, I told myself. May threw some unpalatable curveballs—take the last few days of the month off, sit back and rest until it’s time to have EPIC levels of motivation! 

This is not what happened. I woke up last Tuesday feeling energized and determined—FIVE whole days before energy and determination were scheduled to arrive. (I credit my husband for suggesting we go to bed early the night before, and also for giving me an amazing coffee machine for Christmas.) All it took was a little optimism, a good night of sleep, an enticing pot of fresh brewed coffee, and—and this is the big thing for me—the willingness to sit down and write something even though I only had about twenty minutes before my toddler got out of bed for the day.

That twenty minutes kickstarted me for the whole week. The whole month, really.

But it isn’t just about a kickstart: it’s about sustaining that momentum. Therefore, I thought it might be fun and helpful to share my Triple-Whammy Productivity Recipe in case you, too, need an incredible June to make up for a beastly May.


If you are a person whose life evaporates during times you’ve set aside to work on your project (thank you, Twitter!)—or if you are simply a person who loves timers, bright colors, cute icons, and an app that dings when you’re scheduled to switch tasks—I highly recommend the app 30/30 (available for iProducts)(link here, or in their Twitter bio).

30/30 APP

Liza is only *one* of my productivity genies.

I use it every time I sit down to write. Though I’m a focused person by nature, 30/30 helps me pursue the task at hand with even more vigor than usual. When it tells me to write, I write hard. When it tells me it’s time for a tweet break, time to get some coffee, or time to text one of my accountability partners for a progress check-in—I relax a little and enjoy the break without feeling guilty. When it *dings* at me again, I know it’s time to get back to work. (You can customize the tasks however you want—you set the time length, the task title, and the order in which they circulate. I am very thorough, and include everything I might possibly do while working. See also: Tweet breaks.) In short, 30/30 is a very pretty, very effective little drill sergeant.


There are many reasons I love my computer-programming husband—one of those many reasons is the website he created in response to my intense love for tracking progress on my various projects. The beta site for myWriteClub—a progress-tracking social media website for writers—has been live since January of this year. I don’t know why it’s so motivating to see my progress bar inch closer to 100%, or to see my graph morph from plateau to Mount Kilimanjaro…but it totally is.

I’m definitely biased, since it was created for me by someone I love, but truly, it is fantastic. Reasons why:

➳You can connect with friends, see their progress, and leave comments to encourage each other. You can elect to receive email updates (or not) as they make progress toward reaching their goals. For people who are energized by other people’s energy, this is a really motivating feature.

You might notice I am not yet at Mount Kilimanjaro levels. This is what June is for.

You might notice I am not yet at Mount Kilimanjaro levels. This is what June is for.

➳You can customize your unit of measure: words written, pages read, percent complete, etc. The versatility makes it easy to use for tracking things like manuscript critiques or lines of poetry written.

➳People can see your progress, if you’re motivated by that, but if you prefer to track your goals without the whole world seeing, you can pick which goals you’d like to keep private.

➳Even when you don’t feel like you’re getting very far, every little bit of progress adds up. The progress bar and graph on myWriteClub are so effective at proving that you are, in fact, getting somewhere.

➳The progress bar turns green when you reach 100%. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s just something so satisfying about that!

If you decide to join myWriteClub (link above) and want to find me, my username is olsonkayla.


There is a certain sort of energy that comes from striving alongside other people who are equally dedicated to smashing their goals. When I say support network here, I’m not just talking about all nine gazillion of your Twitter followers. Rather, I’m talking about your 2–5 friends who plan to work diligently and frequently toward their own goals while *also* cheering you on toward yours (and/or challenging you to try when you feel oh so blah). Whenever I sit down to write, I shoot out some messages to those friends to see if they’re working—or, at least, to see if they’d be willing to check in on me in an hour to see what kind of progress I’ve made. I can be productive on my own, for sure, but why not form a support network? It takes a solitary pursuit and gives it a social aspect. That *fun* aspect—combined with people who legitimately do care about you and your progress—makes all the difference on days when your energy levels are trying to convince you to ditch your work session and sit back, eat chocolate, and pet your cat instead.

If you don’t have a support network, or don’t even know where to start, feel free to leave a comment here or say hi on Twitter. (Hi, I’m @olsonkayla, and it makes me unusually happy whenever I successfully manage to introduce people to their new best friends.)

Here’s to an EPICALLY PRODUCTIVE June for us all! *clinks coffee mug*



3 Responses to “Recipe for Productivity”

  1. J.C Monday / 2 June 14 at 9:55 pm #

    I feel like June is a wash already, maybe July?? lol that app sounds awesome, will have to see if there is something like that for Windows phones (but who am I kidding? Windows phones never have the cool stuff!). I feel like I need that thing that’s not me just telling myself that ‘for ten minutes I am going to write hard’, something that is outside of my head and not just the oven timer.
    You’ve passed on a little of your motivation, so thanks 🙂

    • Kayla Olson Monday / 2 June 14 at 10:18 pm #

      Yay, motivation!! You could search the Windows apps for “Pomodoro technique”—it probably wouldn’t be as flexible or customizable, but it’d do similar things. Here are a couple of Windows-based things I found during a two-second Pomodoro google search: and I know nothing about either of them, but perhaps they’d be helpful? Let me know if you try them out and like them, and I’ll make an official note in my post for all the Windows people. 🙂 Hope you have an awesome June (AND July!)!

  2. China Tuesday / 3 June 14 at 12:41 am #

    I love the “text Liza” reminder!

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