It’s a new year. A new slate. Time to make time for what you really want to do. Resolutions and bucket lists.
But will you really accomplish what you want to?
Statistics are against you: 45% of Americans make New Years Resolutions. Of that 45%, only 8% are successful.
My small critique group has decided to go against statistics and make productivity and accountability our focus for 2013. We’re trying to accomplish our goals together with a simple almost child-like method. Gold stars. Yes, those pretty little stickers you got for being good in grade school or getting your chores done at home.
We bought ourselves some pocket calendars and we’re keeping track of our writing in them. Nothing fancy. Wrote today. Wrote 400 words today. Wrote for 20 minutes today. Submit your work.
Then we show each other our calendars when we meet weekly and get more stickers and encouragement for whatever efforts we’ve made towards moving forward in our writing. If we hit bigger goals we might even get a Hello Kitty sticker.
Last year my goal was to read through the Bible in a year. A big year-long goal is usually not the kind of thing I’ll accomplish, just because of my perfectionistic tendencies. If I don’t follow the plan perfectly, I get frustrated too quickly and give up. I used two accountability and productivity tools to help me. YouVersion offers a daily email reminder for my bible reading, and I gave myself visual encouragement with a simple trick made famous by Jerry Seinfeld.
Take a calendar and each day that you complete the task you want to make a habit, you make an x in that calendar day. The next day when you complete the task, place another x and connect the two. The goal is to connect each x and make chains. The more chains, the more you are establishing your task and making it a habit. Seeing the chains across the calendar is surprisingly motivating. Habits give you the ability to reach your goals. Step by step. Here’s my calendar for my bible reading.
I got behind a few times, but marking it on the calendar helped me to not throw out what I’d already accomplished and keep going.
As writers we usually have plenty of writing-related goals: write consistently, finish that novel, submit more, build that platform.
What keeps us from accomplishing these worthy goals?
Busy life, overwhelming day jobs, crisis situations, perfectionistic attitudes, making our goals too big to start out with.
How can we overcome the age-old problem of starting out the year gung-ho, then slowly losing the momentum for it?
The key: incremental consistency
Small consistent steps can make big changes over time. Every writer can make writing a daily habit with simple techniques.
Here are 5 others you might try:
Use an ABC priority to-do list – Give you daily list an ABC designation. A-1, the first thing you need to accomplish, A-2, and so on. B’s are things you need to accomplish, but not necessarily right away. C’s are things you want to accomplish soon, but are not an urgent priority, you just don’t want to forget about them. Make sure your writing lands in the A’s.
Kitchen timer – Old-fashioned but it works. Set a timer for a certain amount of time and work on your writing goals only during that time. Try 15 minutes. You’d be surprised how much you can accomplish in only 15 minutes.
Do one thing at a time – Begin practicing intentionality. Do one thing at a time, until it is done. If your one thing is to write a page a day, do that until it is done, then move on to the next thing. Multi-tasking may be what’s in, but it’s not always what it most productive or gives the highest quality return.
Find a writing buddy – Having another person to be accountable to, commiserate with when there’s setbacks, and celebrate milestones can go a long way to helping to keep you on track with your writing goals. When you know you have to share what you’ve accomplished or not, is a good motivator
Strategic notebooks – Keep notebooks in strategic places to motivate you to fill them. Different sizes, different kinds, placed all around your home or workspace, in your purse. Whatever gives you an incentive: plain student theme books, pretty leather journals, writing phone apps. Don’t forget the pens, and happy writing!
What techniques do you use to help you focus on writing goals? What are your writing goals for 2013?
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