The beginning of the new year is always a great time to step back and reevaluate our routines. Sure, we all have resolutions and goals for the coming year (finally finishing that book probably being one of them) but if we continue to approach our goals and resolutions in the same way we did last year, we'll likely find ourselves on December 31, 2015 in the same position we're in now--no finished book, disappointed in how little progress has been made, or maybe even with a finished product but not very happy about what it took to get there. If the previous tactics haven't worked, it's important to continue trying new things until you find the best system for you.
I actually got a lot accomplished this year. I'm proud of the progress I made, even though there were some setbacks along the way. I'm the kind of person that tends to stick to my commitments to a fault--even the self-imposed ones. It's a great way to get things done but it isn't always the best way to be happy while doing it. Yes, productivity is great, but how meaningful is that progress if the stress of chasing our dreams sucks the happiness out of our daily lives?
Is there a way to have both--productivity and happiness?
This year I'm trying out a new routine myself and I thought I'd share it with you. Here are 4 steps to think about incorporating into your routine for happy productivity:
The thing about planning is that even if you don't want to do it and don't like to do it, you still sort of have to. If you're not much of a planner, you might not recognize it as planning--it might show up as procrastination when you sit down at your desk to write as you try to figure out what to write next, how much you want to accomplish, etc. That's planning--it's just eating into your writing time now. Taking ten minutes to plan ahead of time--how much your want to write this week, which scene you want to write next, what might happen in that scene--will rescue your writing time because by the time you sit down, you'll be ready to go.
Trust is not easy for me. I stay at home with my toddler and preschooler all day, every single day, without a relative in a fifty mile radius. I have a lot of anxiety around the idea of accomplishing my writing each day. I spend so much time worrying about whether or not I'm going to hit my goal today, and when, and what it might look like, that by the time I sit down to work I'm out of energy. I build it up in my head so much that it becomes an insurmountable task. This year, I'm adding in trust as a step to my routine--trust that the time will present itself and because I have a plan, I'll be ready to jump on it when it happens.
That being said, some days it still just isn't going to happen. I know a lot of us have the habit of beating ourselves up about the days that life gets in the way or we're just flat tired and can't connect with our creativity. The problem with resenting ourselves about it is that we drag that into the next day's writing and then the day after that. Especially if that resentment prevents us from writing for days on end and it grows into this monster on our shoulders. Life happens. So does writing. Forgiveness and going with the flow gives each days' writing a fresh start.
Because writing a novel is such a long process, it's important to reward ourselves along the way for a job well done. Unfortunately, having a party for every 500 words isn't exactly feasible and a piece of chocolate for every 50 probably isn't advisable. Still, a daily pat on the back can spur us on to go at it again tomorrow. Rewarding yourself is not something to be ignored if you want your productivity to be happy productivity. The best reward I've found is tracking my progress. It could be something as simple as an X on a calendar to create the famous Seinfeld chain, writing down your word count in a notebook, or if you're visual like me, a pretty progress bar to keep track of the percentage completed. Find a way that gives you a little thrill at the end of the day and easily proves that your work today was meaningful. If you don't have your own way, I'm happy to share my Writing Progress Spreadsheet with you.
These are some steps that have already begun to make a difference in my productivity and happiness this year, but whatever works for you, don't let the New Year's excitement wear off before you take a look at your routines, assess them, and make them work for you. And may you have a fulfilling, prosperous, novel-filled year!
Jamie Raintree writes women's fiction about women searching for truth in life and love. She is currently working on revisions of her first novel in preparation for submission to publishers. In the meantime, she blogs about her journey toward a well-balanced life and a career in publishing--her struggles and successes along the way. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and two young daughters and is a Workshop Coordinator for the Women's Fiction Writers Association. Subscribe to her newsletter for more blogs, book news, and writer tools and other free downloads for dreamers. To find out more, visit her website below.