Time management step 4: Dealing with setbacks
So you’ve done everything right. You’ve cleared time in your busy schedule by identifying the activities that didn’t move you forward. You set long-term goals that were SMART – Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-specific. You filled the newly available time slots with productive habits that push you in the direction of your goals. You even found ways to make the most of your time.
But…things don’t always go as planned.
So now what?
Setback #1 – I can’t stay focused
It seems like oftentimes when we try to focus on writing, everything else in life suddenly demands our attention. Although this may manifest in reality (if so, review the tactics for dealing with distractions in the third article in this series), it often appears as endless thoughts of everything else we should be focused on. In other cases, the writing process is distracted by a constant need to edit as you go.
Keep a notebook for distractive thoughts. As distractive thoughts and other ideas come to mind, get them out. By writing them in a notebook, you have given the thought recognition of its importance, but have postponed its persistence. Address them quickly and move on.
Separate writing from editing. You’ve likely heard the quote “Write without fear. Edit without mercy.” By trying to edit as you write, you restrict the creative process and lose focus on the flow associated with your manuscript. Keeping the two processes separate (and allocating appropriate time in your schedule for each) can free your mind to focus on either writing or editing as the activity demands.
Setback #2 – I can’t maintain my routine
Habits are both hard to form and hard to break. There are many reasons why sticking to a desired routine or schedule can be difficult, but sometimes it’s as simple as the intended habit not meeting the desired goal.
In these cases, revise your habits. In the second article in this series, we addressed the process for setting long-term goals and developing associated routine habits that support those goals. When we do not see progress toward the goal as consequence to the habits, they can be hard to maintain or even start. Making appropriate revisions can get you back on track.
Setback #3 – I can’t do this
Nearly every author at some point questions their authority on their subject and feels like a fraud or amateur rather than the expert that their writing represents them as.
Silence the inner critic. The first thing you must do is believe in yourself. If necessary, learn more. Research more. Grow in your discipline. Prove to yourself that you are the authority on your subject. You are knowledgeable in your discipline. And your voice deserves to be heard.
Envision the long-term success. Picture the finish line. Keep your eye on the proverbial prize. Remember why you established the habits you put in place and trust the process.
Reflect on previous accomplishments and how far you’ve already come. Celebrate the milestones and measure them with reckless abandon. If you have published previous books or articles – celebrate that as demonstrated ability. If you have written at least one page a day for a week – celebrate that. If you outlined a chapter, wrote 100 words, decided on a title, wrote for ten minutes without interruption – celebrate! Every step along the way is one step closer to the goal.
Setbacks are inevitable
Unfortunately the process will not go as planned. Mistakes will be made. Routines will fail. But as the Japanese proverb, “Nanakorobi yaoki”, states – “Fall seven times and stand up eight”.