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Secret of 2 Lists: Writer Productivity, Jill Kemerer

Secret of 2 Lists: Productivity

My writing productivity has exploded in the past two years. My work ethic isn’t the reason. Nor can it be attributed to my personality type. Sure, I’m self-motivated, which is good, but I also get locked into a one project mindset, meaning I tend to focus exclusively on the most important task in front of me to the exclusion of everything else.

This means that anything I don’t deem important gets pushed aside. Sometimes permanently.

A few years ago, I got discouraged because I had all these writing-related things I wanted to tackle, yet I wasn’t doing any of them. I felt like I had no time. Concentrating for hours on a writing project left me exhausted at the end of the day.

I wanted to flesh out ideas for future projects, study more writing craft books, take an online class, research subjects unrelated to my current WIP, write articles, you name it! But none of these things ever got bumped up to my most important project list, so they didn’t get done.

It was ironic, too, because I’d just hit the sweet spot of being a work-at-home mom. My kids were self-reliant. I finally had an open schedule–no carpools or helping with homework–and I still couldn’t find time to get everything done.

The secret of 2 lists happened by accident.

Frustrated by the way my days were playing out, I decided to create a block schedule–you can read what I did in Get More Done with a Plan (linked) to streamline my week. I wrote down my Must Do list. Then I jotted down all the other things I wanted to tackle. And that monster of a list depressed me. Why? I’d been making lists FOR YEARS.

Why would this time be any different?

Having everything on one list wasn’t working for me. The important stuff was getting done, no problem, but the minor tasks got shoved to next week. Then next week. So I took a deep breath and blocked off a chunk of time every weekday to devote only to the minor tasks.

I called the chunk of time Block 3 since it was the third block of time in my working day–genius, I know! The first two blocks of time are reserved for my A Project.

The block schedule worked better than I could have imagined, so every week I created 2 lists. I still do. One is for A Project tasks. The other is for Block 3 tasks. Obviously, I devote the bulk of my time for the A Project I’m working on. Even so, I’m continuously amazed at how much I’m able to cram into Block 3.

Compiling two lists has single-handedly increased my production in all areas of my writing life. I finish my A Project tasks in a more timely manner, and I look forward to switching gears to my Block 3 items each day. If you tend to focus on only the most important thing, give the two lists method a try.

The key to increasing my writer productivity was setting major and minor goals for myself and blocking out specific times to do them.

*If you’d like to learn more about block scheduling and how it might work for you, I recommend this article at Lifehack, “What is Block Scheduling? (And How it Boosts Productivity)” by Ayetakin Tank.*

What secret helps you stay productive?

Have a great week!


Jill Kemerer is a Publishers Weekly bestselling author of heartwarming, emotional, small-town romance novels often featuring cowboys. She hopes to encourage readers through her books the way so many books have encouraged her. Jill's essentials include coffee, caramels, a stack of books, her mini-doxie, and long walks outdoors. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. For more information, visit her website,

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