Saturday, January 25, 2020

One Word At A Time: The Art of Single-Tasking and Writing Your Book

by Cathy Fyock @CathyFyock

Some time ago I spoke at the Greater Cincinnati ATD (Association for Talent Development) Conference and had the chance to attend a session led by Michael Goeke of Priority Management. In his session Michael talked about the myths of multi-tasking and how we actually work more slowly when we switch between one task and another.

I got to thinking about how that applied to us as writers, and I came up with these ideas for keeping a single focus while we write so that we can ramp up our productivity (and finish our books!).
  1. Don’t mix creative writing with editing. Brain science tells us that writing and editing are two distinct brain functions, and it actually wears us out as we are trying to write and edit simultaneously. Write, write, write! Don’t edit. Don’t stop. Just keep those fingers moving.
  2. Develop a very detailed TOC (table of contents), then work only on a tiny segment of the outline at a time. By focusing on very distinct, tiny chunks of writing we can move quickly through the outline and achieve higher productivity in our writing.
  3. Keep your files for your book together in one place. You might even need to catalogue your various articles and blogs from which you’ll reference your writing, but having it together in one place will allow you to both repurpose your writing and eliminate time in searching for that article or detail.
  4. Clear all distractions. File papers on your desk. Turn off email notification. Hold your calls or turn off your phone. Remember, you can only do one thing well at a time.
  5. Work on one chapter at a time so that you can stay focused and get it checked off your list. You’ll feel good about achieving this milestone which will keep you fueled for more successes.
  6. When you have an idea that doesn’t go in the piece you are writing, make a quick note of the idea in a central place (perhaps one you’ve designated for such purposes) and let it go. Remember that you need to work on one piece of writing at a time.
  7. When you schedule time for writing, write. Don’t conduct interviews, schedule research, or organize your chapters. Writing time is for writing.
  8. Set a time each week to plan for your writing. Block off chunks of time, prioritize your writing tasks, and put the specific assignment on your calendar.

Remember, you will become a far more productive writer if you keep a singular focus and forget about multi-tasking. One. Word. At. A. Time.


Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write as a business development strategy. She is the author of nine books, including her most recent with coauthor Lois Creamer, The Speaker Author: Sell More Books and Book More Speeches. Since starting her business in 2014 she's helped more than 150 professionals become published authors. You can reach her at


  1. These suggestions are all spot on and wise, Cathy. The time we “gain” by multitasking is time we lose later as our brain has to struggle to refocus from switching from one direction to another. But trying to maintain a focus is so hard in this day of interruptions!

  2. I was reading your article and wondered if you had considered creating an ebook on this subject. Your writing would sell it fast. You have a lot of writing talent. خبير سيو

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  3. Actually, I have three books on writing that are all available as Ebooks. They are On Your Mark: From First Word to First Draft in Six Weeks, Blog2Book: Repurposing Content to Discover the Book You've Already Written, and my most recent, The Speaker Author with coauthor Lois Creamer.

  4. Great advice Ms. Cathy. It's sort of like knowing how to eat an elephant my friend. A book is much like a meal or any task that is too large to digest/consume in one setting. We accomplish it by taking one bite at a time. Well said my friend. God's blessings.

  5. I've been having trouble coming up with a good routine to get a novel done. Thanks for the advice!