The problem with trying to get stuff done, especially when you’re working in a solitary career like that of a writer, is that almost everything is up to you and you alone. For many writers, that means that things get pushed into ‘tomorrow’ perpetually, and you often end up with things not getting done at all.
In life, there are usually some things that absolutely must get done in the coming week —appointments, interviews, deadlines, and so on. These things are normally set up by other people or involve others, and so there’s a penalty attached if they don’t get done — you’re letting someone down, or messing something up that’s not yours. But if a set of goals have been entirely set by you, and are to do with your writing and not much else, they frequently tend to get shoved along like snow in front of a snow-plough and are never actually tackled or completed.
So what should you do?
Well, one of the things I do is establish some ground rules for myself. These rules are totally to do with producing my stuff, but have an outward face so that there is some apparency of loss of repute if they don’t happen.
Example? My daily blog.
I’ve been posting a daily blog now since October 2015. That’s every day, day in day out, including weekends and public holidays (yes, even Christmas) for over four and a half years (at this writing). In 2015, I said to myself ‘I will produce a daily blog item of one kind or another and never miss a day’ and I’ve managed to stick to it, even when I was in hospital earlier this year. This serves several purposes:
1. It forces me to write. Though the bulk of the blog items are non-fiction, the practice of writing so much has been like that of a musician practising an instrument — you get better and better the more hours you put in. And if your blog topic is wide enough, you can fit all kinds of writing under its umbrella, so you get tons of actual work done over the course of time. (There’s nothing stopping you, by the way, setting up a fiction blog and actually posting your work chapter by chapter on a regular basis. Worked for Dickens.)
2. It produces material which can then be turned into books. I’ve written nearly three million words in this way over the course of the last few years, and many of those words have been revised and revamped to become published works.
3. It sets a standard I must keep to. Yes, it’s entirely up to me to keep to this standard or not, but when you’ve managed to keep a daily blog going for almost 2,000 days, it acts as an incentive not to spoil the record, if you see what I mean.
Another tip is to take a weekly and monthly (and yearly, if you can) view of what you want to accomplish and then work that backwards into each week and day. Having some idea of where I’m heading over the next few months, I make a little list of things to get finished in a particular week. The trick is to not make this too long (you’ll get overwhelmed and fail and lose self confidence) or too short (you’ll have time on your hands and your attention will wander when you could be getting much more done).
Go for five do-able things. Things that you know you can accomplish if you work steadily.
Then put that list on your phone, or whatever gadget you carry around with you all the time.
As you do each thing, tick it off on that day’s list and on the week’s list as soon as possible.
After a couple of weeks of doing this, you’ll see how well it works and you’ll carry on getting stuff done. Your morale will go up and you'll get closer and closer to achieving major life goals.
Think you need more? Stay tuned for Part Two soon.