There’s a lot of advice available about productivity, but the idea of switching projects has been one of the most useful for me lately. This year, I find myself in the midst of a large writing project–my third book. Yet, here I am, writing a blog post on a different topic. It turns out, the best way to maintain productivity is to mix up projects, working first on one then another, to ward off the mental sluggishness that can come along with grueling “do it until it’s done” sessions.

As Theresa MacPhail writes in “Code-Switching to Improve Your Writing and Productivity” for the Chronicle blog Vitae, “Here’s the counterintuitive thing I discovered far too late into my own career: Spending all your time on one project— working on it day after grueling day without a break — can backfire. Massively. It can completely stall your writing. You’re much better off taking a break and coming back to it a couple of days later than slaving over it continuously for many unproductive weeks or months.”

MacPhail’s tips to get started with this method:

  • “Start Small” Start a journal not directly connected to your work topic. Write longhand, beginning with simple statements, and let yourself get into a state of flow. You may find yourself generating new ideas.
  • “Branch Out” Write brief op-ed pieces geared for the non-academic audience, which can result in progress in work-related writing.
  • “Really Go for It” Consider attempting a longer nonfiction piece that can help diversify your style and kindle joy in writing.
  • “Always Alternate” Once you have projects in these new arenas, continue shifting from one to another after each segment or time box is complete.

Trust me, these tips represent valuable, hard-won advice. As I reach milestones in my own work, I too am switching–between blog writing, speechwriting, and manuscript writing to maximize my productivity. This method really works, and I hope you’ll give it a chance and see your output and joy increase as mine has.