This year I’m getting focused.
My word for 2017 is focus. As with my previous years’ words, it came to me out of nowhere, but once it did I knew it was exactly what I needed.
I’m at the stage in my writing career (can I call it that?), where I need to concentrate, work harder, and put every energy into moving forward. Although I realise the last few years of writing and spending on my manuscripts is a necessary part of the process, I know that if I don’t see them through to the end, there will be no end. I’ll simply keep plodding along, revising, rewriting, and not getting anywhere.
But putting focus into action isn’t as easy as just deciding that’s what needs to happen. Focus requires planning and strict dedication. So I need a plan. But first things first..
What are my goals?
I have three goals this year. In order of priority they are:
1. Have manuscript 2 out on submission to agents by the end of the year
2. Have manuscript 1 in the final stages of a copy edit in readiness for submission.
3. Work on redrafting manuscript 3.
What is my plan?
Start the day right
If there’s one thing I know, it’s if my day doesn’t start right, I can write off the entire day. Starting the day right for me looks like this:
– Alarm goes off at 6am
– 30-40 minutes of exercise (either spin bike, aerobics, weights, or walking)
– 15 minutes shower, dress, make the bed (making the bed is essential)
– 10 minutes writing prompt
– 15 minutes breakfast and catching up on social media
This brings me through to around 7:30 am when the kids get out of bed and the morning school routine begins. After the school run, I will either walk the dog or go to my clinical Pilates session. By 10am I aim to be at my desk ready to begin my working day.
I’m a list maker. I feel calm and organized when I know what needs to be done. And when it’s done, I get a huge pay off by crossing it off my list.
I’ve tried many ways to manage my to do list. From a simple list, to organizing things into areas (our business, writing, blogging, personal). Each of these worked for a while, but I still felt things could be more orderly. This year I’m trying a version of bullet journaling.
If you aren’t sure what bullet journaling is, read this.
As I mentioned, I’m doing my own version. I feel more comfortable using a daily planner and when I came across the Write Your Own Adventure planner, I fell in love. I love the simplicity, the white space, and I knew it would compliment the bullet journal method perfectly.
Bullet journaling works on a system of codes so you can see at a glance what needs to be done, what’s been done, events, tasks scheduled, re-schedule etc. This is the code:
And this is how I’m incorporating into my daily planner:
It’s only early days, and I’m still getting used to the code, but so far I’m loving it. I feel calmer, organized, and focused. I am finding I’m procrastinating less, and using my time more effectively (read as: not wasting time on social media getting distracted).
I’m also trying to take advantage of the month planner for an overview of each month
Put my writing first
Like so many writers, I always felt I had to have things in order to begin my writing day. The kitchen needed to be clean, house tidied, and washing done, and I made sure I put my paid work for our business first on the list. What ended up happening is, before I knew it, it was two o’clock in the afternoon and I only had an hour and a half of my working day left for writing. That in itself led to the train of thought, ‘it’s not enough time to write!’, so I’d end up faffing (yes that is a word) away the last hour.
This year I’m making writing/editing my priority. When I sit at my desk at 10am, I will be sitting down for two and half hours to write each day. Everything else will come after that. And the good thing is, I can quite easily work on business/housework stuff when the kids are home afterschool – writing I can’t. So this works for me.
Make best use of my writing time
I’ve been interested in trying the Pomodoro method for a while, and now seems to be as good a time as any. I’m using an iPhone app called Focus Keeper, but you don’t need a fancy app, you can simply use a timer. I’ve been setting the focus time to 25.00 minutes, with a five minute break in between to do housework, or have a mindful break. I’m Loving it with a capital L! I never knew I could be so productive! Why haven’t I tried this sooner? If you haven’t tried it – you really must!
I’ve done a half-hearted attempt at meal planning for years but this year I’m going hard core. Monday to Friday meals will be planned on a Saturday for the following week, and I’m making use of online shopping and home delivery to save time (and sanity!).
I’ve started using Nicole Avery’s Planning With Kids Menu App to help me. It’s a fairly basic app with some really good recipes, all of which I’ve tried so far have been a hit with the whole family. Most meals are also easily adaptable for intolerances or fussy eaters. The best thing about the app is you choose your meals for the week and it automatically does a shopping list! Love, love, love it! Then all I need to do is log on to order my groceries and my week is complete. I can’t tell you how much time this is saving me already.
Put your hand up if you’re a little bit OCD. Or is it just me? I’m a minimalist at heart, a neat freak, and a perfectionist. That means I love a neat and tidy house, no mess, and everything in it’s place. Reality is, with kids, work, and well, life in general, it’s not always, okay, not anytime possible. And it sends my stress levels skyrocketing!
This year I’m trying to relax my OCD tendencies. If the house isn’t perfectly clean – it’s okay. If the washing basket’s piling up – it’s not the end of the world. If the kids don’t put away their shoes – the sky won’t fall down. It doesn’t mean I’m going to totally turn into living in a pigsty, but just a little more in reality. To breathe and know a few things out of place isn’t what’s important.
I’m also going to try and relax a little more in the self-care way. Take time to read, to go to bed at the same time each night, and to eat more healthily. And to just take minutes throughout the day to just be, and just breathe.
There’s a difference between saying you’ll do something and committing to it. This year I’m putting my commitment where my mouth is. I’m investing in my dream to be a published writer by attending Fiona McIntosh’s week long Masterclass. This is a huge thing for me, as it’s in Adelaide and means I will be away from my family for six days. I’ve only ever been away from hubby and the kids for two days at the most!. Hubby’s not totally on board with it, but I’m doing something I rarely do – putting myself first. It’s hard to say, even harder to do. I get the guilts about being selfish – a lot. But doing the masterclass is an opportunity too good to miss. I know I will gain so much knowledge from Fiona, and invaluable advice and feedback on my writing. By the end of the masterclass I’m hoping I have a clear picture of where my manuscript needs work, and how to go about improving it to a publishable standard.
So there you have it! My Focus 2017 Plan. It’s only the start of the year so I’m mega excited and super motivated. I just hope I feel the same way mid-year. I’ll keep you posted.
What’s the best thing you like about my plan?
What’s something you need to tackle head on to make your 2017 goals a reality?