There is some magical thing that happens when you put something out into the world. We get what we focus on, what we work on. I have lots of specific goals for this year, but only one firm resolution.
It’s not to get my first novel (A Hill of Beans) ready to show to an agent or editor or get self-published.
It’s not to get my easy-start-business-for-writers course (The Thriving Writer) completed and ready for you to join, and have The Thriving Writer book self-published.
It’s not to have a website for my second book (Bridget Larkin’s Journey) completed, with her journal, images, and the first draft of her story done.
It’s not to get my Larkin Chronicles newsletter up and running, with monthly – or more often.
My #1 resolution for 2015 was to begin a writing production schedule and to FOCUS on that schedule. My schedule will include priorities and sub-priorities:
- Fiction writing first, with Hill of Beans my top priority, then Bridget Larkin’s Journey
- Then, because I need to make money in order to continue, The Thriving Writer – book and online course.
- Then my blog and the Bridget Larkin’s Journey blog.
- And, finally, planning for the future novels in the Larkin Chronicles series.
Notice these are not goals. This is a system. So, what’s the difference?
Goals vs Systems
James Clear, writing in Entrepreneur in December 2013, says we should forget goals and concentrate on what he calls our “system.” For example, my goal might be to write a book. My system is the daily/weekly/monthly writing schedule that will get me there. Clear says that by focusing on the goal we cause ourselves too much stress, not reaching a goal causes us unhappiness, and reaching a goal causes us to quit.
As Clear suggests, I’m thinking long-term. By setting up my writing system, I’ll be more productive in 2015, and future years. My specific goals may be in my head, and they will be replaced by other goals (new novels, different marketing efforts). But the system will continue.
My biggest problem with creating a writing system is the ups and downs of daily life. How, for example, do I account for personal and family commitments, getting together with friends, doctor visits, meetings for the volunteer group I’m a part of, and vacations/holidays?
Here’s what I’ve figured out: Using Steven Covey’s analogy of “big rocks, little rocks,” writing is my big rocks. I have to put my fiction writing into my system first, along with a (very) few personal commitments. Then smaller and smaller rocks, until I’ve accounted for my time.
Yes, I still need to make writing my top priority every day, and I need to do my writing first before I get stuck in the minutia (the emails, checking Facebook, cleaning up around the house). But having a system will allow me some flexibility.
For a long time, I’ve been a big believer in metrics (checking in to see how I’m doing, based on some specific numbers). Clear also suggests the concept of feedback loops (he uses a spreadsheet). He says:
Feedback loops are important for building good systems because they allow you to keep track of many different pieces without feeling the pressure to predict what is going to happen with everything.
I try to keep it simple:
(1) I have a to-do list for each area I’m working in because I like to check things off when they are done. By the way, I keep my lists in Evernote, so I can see them anywhere and in any of my devices.
(2) I have started using a writing production worksheet (thanks, Jamie Raintree!) to mark my progress on writing (words, usually, or time editing), marketing, and other writing-related tasks.
That’s all I need to keep me focused and keep track of my progress.
Onward and upward. For 2015, my suggestion is to think in systems, rather than goals or resolutions. You know mine now, so what are yours?
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