February is here, and if you’re familiar with any of my posts, you know that it’s a big month for me in that I get to see 2Cellos live at The Fox, as well as attend my first writing conference, including a pitch session with an agent! You can, of course, expect posts about each in the future, BUT first! It’s time to review my Productivity Challenge, which was the attempt to implement a schedule and writing routine with hopes of increasing my productivity.
So, how did it go?
Well, I think it’s safe to say that I may never be a writer with a precise schedule, and I’m okay with that!
I had some mixed results the first week. The New Year began on a Friday, which means it was in that awkward limbo land of holidays where some places celebrate and have the day off and others do not; it’s a very confusing time.
Either way, as so often happens with the writing life, I didn’t take a holiday, I spent most of the day in a state of partially focused work also known as multitasking; this means I had Netflix on with something I was mildly interested in and had my laptop open, or other work to do at my fingertips, the entire day. This resulted in a slow, but somewhat steady stream of content being created in one form or another, whether it was writing posts, brainstorming, research, submitting, writing short stories or poetry, or reading a book for review, things were slowly being accomplished.
I did this throughout the weekend, not wanting to take a break because I was still itching to work…I mean come on, every day is a writing day, am I write? 😉 (I know, that was horrible, it should be *right, that was so wrong…but anyway)
So, come Monday morning, I basically hadn’t had a weekend because I had a “working weekend”, as it were. I may not have been completely focused on work, but from the time I woke up until going to sleep, I was thinking about working, and often enough, was making it happen, even if it was in spurts.
But Monday, I had my schedule, and I was planning to keep to it….did you catch that? Planning to? Yeah…that didn’t work out so much. I had every intention to keep to something resembling my schedule for the day, and I did, except for the fact that I did more than twice the hours on each of the areas I had designated to focus on that day.
This left for an extremely productive Monday, but unfortunately, the rest of the week suffered. Tuesday was a half-hearted attempt to work half as long as I had Monday, but by the afternoon I was over it. This week also happened to be the week I attempted to try a new medication for my fibromyalgia, and instead of being of help, by the end of the week I found myself in a rather deep depression, and very much lacking in motivation.
The week of the 10th did not start off well; I stopped the new medication because of how depressed and off I felt, but then, I got news that a cousin of mine passed away. She’d been fighting cancer, and when I say fighting, I mean it, she was amazing. Needless to say, that did not start off my week well, and then of course, the world lost David Bowie and Alan Rickman as well.
For so many reasons, this trinity made for a week of barely passable productivity. Not much got done, though I did manage to keep up some kind of stream of progress, no matter how incremental it may have been. It was something!
By the end of week two, I had more done than the beginning of the week, which is always the ultimate goal. I didn’t keep to my proposed daily schedule, but I keep up with some of my monthly/weekly goals. And so, on to…
Going into the final half of the month, it was safe to say that I hadn’t really kept to my daily schedule….really at all by this point, but still, I intended to.
What came of week three was more of the same, steady, slow progress. I managed to submit some of my work, even had a guest blog post accepted (yay! And stay tuned!!). The biggest issue I faced, honestly, was myself (isn’t it always?)
By the end of the week, and after a careful review, I realized part of my problem, and it’s not a new issue; I overwhelm myself with all of the things I want to do.
I love lists, seriously, I collect notebooks that are perfect for my plethora of lists. So when I write out a list of to-do’s of the week…I tend to be…a bit overzealous….you know, like having 20 things on the “get done this week” list, literally, and another 20 on the “extra to-dos”…you know, for when I need more to do….If the sheer number isn’t enough for you to understand just how badly I drown myself, let me explain that at least half of the items on that list require at least 3-6 hours of work…I scheduled for 5-6 hours a day on the schedule.
This, obviously results in a mountain of things to dive into, which I enjoy, but not when my I somehow expect myself to deliver on all of them. The biggest issue is that I end up doing nothing because I am not able to settle down and focus on one, or even two things to get done before moving on to the next; this is something I have been working on all my life. I get so excited that I want to work on EVERYTHING at once, which usually results in little to nothing getting done. I will start to work on one thing, but feel guilty about not working on something else, and so I switch, and repeat. It’s a mindset and a practice I’m actively working on correcting.
I often tend to bite off more than I can chew because I love being busy, I really do. I love having a list of things to do that I can check off, it probably feeds into my OCD, but I choose to focus on the good it does. I just need to stop getting in my own way and find the line for myself and stick to it. So, with this little realization in mind…
Started off the week with some work, but I had a busy week outside of my home too. I was feeling a bit off early on, which should have been an indicator but I shook it off (even now, nearly 10 years later…anyway). By Wednesday evening, I really was not feeling well, and not much happened that day.
Turns out I had strep, and thankfully I had antibiotics by Thursday (moms are amazing), but needless to say, I was allowed a break.
But as happens with me, too much lying about doing nothing makes me feel weird, so I finished my second edit after a month away from my manuscript by Saturday, which made me feel a bit better. Though I did rest, by Sunday, I was ready to do a bit more, so I did a few things to my Home Page, including a Giveaway!
I also submitted a couple of pieces and hope to hear back soon. I wanted to enter February with vigor and momentum. I have so much to prepare for, and it’s honestly time I stop letting myself get in the way, so, we shall see. And thus ends my interesting attempt at a more determined writing schedule.
Take Aways and Moving Forward
I definitely learned a lot about myself, and relearned a few things too. Something really great about this challenge was that it showed me that I am capable of keeping to some kind of schedule, as long as it is VERY flexible and broad, which means I need to revamp how I look at my weeks (more on that in a minute).
As always, I’m too hard on myself, I set impossible limits and then get angry when I can’t deliver, and honestly, when I stop and ask myself why, it’s very easy to find the answer. It’s overcompensating for the things that aren’t as easy for me to physically do, even the things I can’t do, or that I need assistance to do, things that are simple for most adults. It’s a horrible habit left over from my teenage years…and well, pure stubbornness.
I plan smart, but I don’t actually keep to it. Instead of keeping to the hours proposed, I give myself reasons to keep going, saying I haven’t been focused enough, and just not realizing that it means adapting how I work or evaluate my progress. I won’t give myself a break, and if, by chance, I do pick up my book, even one slated for a review or a post (so it’s definitely still considered work too), my inner voice is berating me for all of the things I haven’t yet accomplished. You know that voice, and oh, can it be vicious.
The point is, I need to find a way to keep up my productivity, but lose some of the hours, and quiet the peanut gallery.
Some other things I learned I need to highlight and focus on in moving forward:
- Big Picture- focusing on things that needed to be done by the end of the week so that I could ultimately keep to my monthly goals became how I focused. Now, I haven’t kept every weekly or monthly goal so far, but I hit a few and that’s a start!! This is the first month I’ve ever tried to dedicatedly work on my writing like this. It’s very easy for my mean side to point all of the things I haven’t done, but that would belittle everything that I have done, which is a lot, and deserves to be appreciated by myself. But the point, is that this slightly bigger picture view is what helped me focus and act, which equals productivity.
- Realistic Weekly Goals- Realistic being the operative word. I’ve since reworked how I “categorize” certain lists in my head…I mentioned OCD, right? These things are important!…anyway, I leaned to focus on realistic goals, allowing myself to make a “just in case” list is fine too, but make them attainable; that’s goal setting 101.
- Subject by day- Going back to The Productive Writer by Sage Cohen it seems I do a bit better with a subject for the day to focus on instead of breaking it up in to bits a day. I tend to dive deep into what I’m focusing on, which serves better for taking up most of the day than only hours; switching to subjects by day means I can do that a bit easier, and perhaps will results in more productivity in the future.
- Hierarchy of What is most important- This essentially boils down to what I would be working on if nothing else mattered, which is fiction- writing novels and short stories. This is important, because it means that when I’m not sure what project to focus on, I can more easily find my answer by reaching for some fiction.
What this means for future scheduling
So, will I be utilizing a schedule in the future? Sure…it just won’t be quite the same. I’m definitely not a writer with a routine in the sense of sitting down at the same time every day to put something to paper. My life is a series of dice rolls and flexibility can be key, as can be giving myself a break, seriously, I’m bad about it. So many writers are entirely too hard on themselves and I’m certainly among these, though I am trying to wean myself of such unhelpful ways.
I know what goals I need to meet weekly so that I can meet my monthly goals, and in turn meet my yearly goals, and so on and so forth. The point is to build and make steady progress. By tweaking some of the parameters, I’m hopeful for my future productivity and success.
Tell me something you’ve learned from scheduling or not scheduling? How has it helped or hindered your writing progress and productivity?