10 inspirational prompts for writers: #productivity

Here are ten prompts I came up with to help you write about productivity.

Posted on:Oct 18, 2023

1. Getting motivated

Introduce a speech that motivates you when you’re feeling uninspired. Who gets you fired up and why?

Here is the first and second most viewed motivational videos of all time. They essentially say the same thing: stop complaining and work, work, work!

Personally, I prefer motivational speeches that get me thinking. One of my favourites is the last scene from Charlie Chaplin’s inimitable 1940 film, The Great Dictator.

2. Productive workspaces

Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to places that help them do their best work. What is your favourite space and what is special about it? Tell your audience what it is about your space that helps you maximize output.

Let me show you mine

It’s a tiny room that measures 4.5 tatami mats (that’s how interior space is measured in Japan). It includes my pine wood desk, my Norwegian Stokke kneeling chair (I swear by these), my Macbook, my noise-cancelling headphones and my plant “Hank.” What’s special about the space? It has lots of light thanks to two good-sized windows. The window above my desk looks out onto my neighbourhood. It is quiet in the daytime. Other than the things I described, it has nothing in it. In that sense, it is like an empty canvas that I can paint ideas onto.

3. Workflow

Introduce the tools that make your workflow more efficient. It could be apps on your phone, software on your computer, analogue tech like a kitchen timer to time writing sessions, or it could be a particular workflow model that you use. People are always looking for new ways to organise their work, so this is potentially one of the most sought after topics.

Personally, I put reusable sticky notes (Amazon link) on the window just above my desk. I have a pack of six. You can wipe them clean. They’re like mini white boards and just more eco-friendly than post-its.

4. Time keeping

What sort of calendar or diary system do you use to manage your time? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How do you break down your working day? Do you time your writing sessions? Do you use a particular technique?

I love seeing how other people work and I often borrow ideas that way. Like workflow, this is another popular perennial topic. People are always looking for ways to make the most of their time.

5. Work ethic

What tips can you give your readers about your work ethic? Productivity is all about how to work more efficiently and with greater focus. Having a strong work ethic doesn’t necessarily mean working 16 hours a day, it can also mean finding the right balance between work and other pursuits in your life.

It’s interesting to approach the topic of productivity from a non-work perspective. What do you do outside of your work that creates a balance or contrast to help you make the most of your work? For example, I like hiking. It’s good exercise. It connects me with nature. It grounds my frustrations and anxieties. It clears my mind. I find my work ethic increases significantly after a weekend hike.

6. Collaboration

Describe a project you worked on which involved collaboration. What challenges did you face? What was rewarding about it? What would you have done differently in hindsight?

Collaboration is a fascinating topic. As writers on Medium, we rarely collaborate with other writers. I think that’s a shame. If anyone is interested in a collaborative project of some kind, let me know. I’m open for business :)

Go back to Shakespeare’s time in the late 1500s and collaborative writing was common practice in theatre. Playwrights would work on each others’ scripts, adding and erasing elements. Shakespeare worked with John Fletcher on The Two Noble Kinsmen, for example.

7. Smartphone apps

Which smartphone apps help increase your productivity? Be self-critical with this one. If you were to choose 3 apps you couldn’t do your work without, what would they be and why are they so important?

Variation: Which apps seemed to be productive at first, but later turned out to be a drag?

8. Mentors

Influence! We get influence from many places. So who are the influences/mentors in your work? What impact did they have on your work regimen? Share some of the key lessons you took from them with your readers.

9. Break down

In 2001, British artist Michael Landy famously destroyed all his personal possessions in a London art installation called “Break Down.”

Documentary by ArtAngel on Michael Landy’s 2001 installation, Break Down.

Drawing on this idea, make a list of all the actions/operations you perform in your work (even things that seem insignificant). Which items on that list can you “break down”? Share the results with your readers.

10. Doubling down

Take a step back from your life. If you can, go for a walk in the park, by the river or down the road. If you can’t go for a walk in your mind. Most ideas start with a walk.

Think about the things you’re really good at in your working life. Small things, big things. Both. Then think about the things you struggle with. Get back to your desk and write those lists in a “T” chart: good at, bad at.

For the good at list, circle the things you expand and develop. For the bad at list, strikethrough the things you can get rid of.

Shift the words in circles to a new page. Now flesh out how you will develop each thing, and how it will contribute to more efficient work and higher revenue. So what can you double down on?

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