A Year of Gifts
Today’s post is a bit of an experiment. At this point, I’m not sure if I’ll even have anything decent to post at the end of it, but here it goes. I just set my timer. Read on to find out why.
How often do you exercise your power to focus? In today’s world, a world full of distractions and one where we hold unparalleled technology in the palm of our hands (a.k.a. smartphones), it can be incredibly challenging to focus. But I also think it can be the secret to accomplishing more than you ever thought possible.
How? Keep it simple. For me, forty-minute blocks of time and a timer may be my new best friend.
Our days have been full this summer. It’s hard to find time to work on my writing, but sitting down to spin tales gives me great joy. Add to that an ambitious goal of publishing two books in 2019 and a self-imposed deadline to get the manuscript for my holiday novel off to my editor before the end of August, and I was having serious doubts whether I’d be able to pull it off.
I still have a few lingering doubts, but more importantly, I may have found a system that works, and I’m sticking with it.
Here is what I want to get across today: You can do anything for forty minutes at a time!
Layer those forty minutes in throughout your day, and you can make real progress.
If I sit down at my desk, or on the porch, or in a coffee shop, with the intent of writing, but I don’t set a timer, I can be a bit like a squirrel…easily distracted by a wide variety of things that snag my attention (but don’t move me any closer to my goal). Can you relate?
But if I make it a game, set my timer, put in my headphones to provide the white noise of rain, and focus, I have the time to go deep into my imagination and let the words flow. When I’m in my forty-minute focus time, I fight the urge to self-edit. If I struggle to find a particular word or need to make up a name for a new character that has found his or her way into the story, I use a “____” to mark it, and I’ll come back later. I can’t let anything derail the flow.
I realize many of you have no desire to sit down and write anything. But I bet there are things you’d love to accomplish, although you struggle to find the time. Maybe forty minutes isn’t right for you. That’s all right. The beauty isn’t in the length of time you choose, it’s in the knowing that you can do anything for a short amount of time and then actually doing it.
It is a bit like the tortoise and the hare, I suppose. Dedicated, focused work, combined over time, makes for real progress.
I even take it so far as to track my progress when I work through these sprints. When I’m writing using my forty-minute blocks, I’ll have a spreadsheet open in addition to my word document. I’ll notate my start time and my starting word count. I’ll turn my computer to airplane mode, hide my phone (literally), and turn the timer on. Then I get busy.
As of August 1st, I had 41,711 words written in the first draft of my holiday story. I knew this would be less than half of what I'd need. I also knew we’d be busy getting both of our girls ready to leave for college during August. This would include both fun time together (a non-negotiable) as well as time to shop, pack, and do paperwork. How in the heck did I think I could also pound out another forty-five or fifty thousand good words and self-edit them?
It felt impossible. Was it even worth the effort?
But here’s the thing. I had committed to doing it. My editor is waiting, and he’s a busy man. My awesome readers have been told I’ll have a holiday-themed book out yet this year. Plus, writing a Christmas novel is on my bucket list, and those lists should not be ignored.
So, I had a non-negotiable goal coupled with something that felt insurmountable. What exactly is a girl to do?
It isn’t complicated. I had to figure out how to make it happen. I know, I’m a nerd. I sat down and figured out how many days I had between now and the deadline to write and edit. I typed it up in a spreadsheet. I noted days with other significant, fun commitments (like celebrating our thirtieth wedding anniversary). Five out of seven days of the week, I also work full-time, so that is another time limitation.
Once I had the number of days, I needed to figure out how many words I’d need to write each day (more on the weekends), how early I’d need to get up, and any other detail I needed to take into consideration.
I’ve tried writing sprints before. I know they work. But I’d never attempted to apply them consistently, over an extended period.
I’m happy to report, with ten days to go until I plan to send my rough draft off, that I have a good chance of making it! If you’d have asked me if I thought I’d be able to pull it off back on August 1st, you’d have heard a tinge of panic when I answered.
You may wonder why I felt compelled to share this with all of you. Most of you have no desire to write books in the nooks and crannies of your days (although I’m surprised at the number of people that do tell me they want to write a book, a topic for another day). I wanted to share it because the one thing I do know is that each and every one of you has something you’d love to accomplish, but you struggle to find the time to make it happen.
Commit to focus on whatever that thing is, set aside reasonably small chunks of time, and get to it. Don't over complicate it.
Maybe you have a room in your house you’ve always wanted to fix up, but you never make the time. Or you want to fit more exercise into your day. It can feel daunting, so you put it off. You tell yourself you’ll get started tomorrow. And maybe you will. But, more than likely, you won't.
Unless you make it a priority and commit.
Give yourself the gift of focus and see what you can accomplish.
You probably can’t commit full days to the pursuit of something that has been weighing on your heart, something you long to pursue, but I’m going to call BS on you if you say you can’t even find forty minutes to focus on it. Or maybe it’ll be twenty minutes. Any amount of time will move you in the right direction. Procrastination will leave you stuck right where you are at today. I don’t want that for you.
I worried I wouldn’t find the time to write a blog post today. I need to keep going hard on my book as the clock is ticking. But I gave it forty minutes. Because it was worth the time commitment. Having the opportunity to encourage YOU to make progress on your own goals lights my heart. I have a blast chasing mine, and I’d love nothing more than to bring you along with me.
And here is what forty minutes of focused writing gave me: a block of 1,350 words that can hopefully inspire at least one person to try this same approach. Start today, then be sure to let me know what you were able to accomplish by the end of August! After that, there are still four full months left in 2019. Can you imagine what you’ll be able to achieve by then if you just start focusing right now?!
You can accomplish anything you set your mind to if you just put in the work. Now GO!!
Always cheering you on, Kim
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a self-published fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!