Oh, internet, you wonderful, terrible beast you. We all love the internet for the vast wealth of information it can provide in a moments notice, but for me, it can also be a colossal time suck. You know what I mean. You hope online to check your notifications real quick and before you know it, several hours have passed. It’s like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole some days.
As an indie author, we set our own writing schedules, and I thought mine was decent. Not great, but decent. Since I’m only part-time, I devoted two days a week to writing. I wake up around 4am (thanks bladder) then putter around on the internet, then, somewhere around 8:00 or so I start to work until about 2:00 or 3:00 when my brain turned to mush. I would get a few thousand words in, or a few chapters edited. It was progress, but it was slow.
In January, I heard a podcast that intrigued me. Of course, now I can’t remember the author or the podcast, but the gist was that this major selling author only worked 4 hours a day. She spent the rest of her time with her family, and just living her life. 4 hours? That’s it? Impossible. Or was it.
What she did, that was different than me? She didn’t open her social media/emails, nothing but the projects she was working on. She had a list of tasks to do and she ticked them off first thing in the morning.
With that podcast still in my noggin, I tasked myself with changing up my norm. The first thing I did was set myself a daily word count goal of 500 words a day, no excuses. A small, but realistic goal. So far, so good there. Some days I fail, but I try again the next morning.
Then I tried the no social media/email, because honestly, stopping and restarting my thought process to reply to every ding on my phone is probably not the best way to work. Instead of goofing off when I woke up online doing things I thought mattered, (like checking sales stats, social media pages, etc.) I turned my computer wifi off. I used my author planner (yes, I have a planner for just my author tasks because I am a nerd) and I mapped out the number of chapters I’d needed to edit/write/read in January to meet February goals (this meant having firm release months in mind so I could work backward.) I did this mapping out for 4 different books that all needed time to be worked on in January. They all had different deadlines and were at different stages of development. It looked great on paper. Now, I had to put it to the test.
I started on Monday, January 14. Instead of checking Facebook at 4 am, as was my usual, I poured my coffee and sat on my couch, far away from my laptop, to read over a draft. I scribbled notes. Grabbed my Neo and wrote blog entries, started new chapters. I set a timer for 4 hours (my estimated normal ‘productive work hours’) before I was allowed to turn on my wifi.
The result of the test? Reaching my goals. Crushing my goals. I was done with my to-do list before most people were having their breakfast. It felt indulgent…I could sit down and read a book, just for fun. I could not feel guilty for doing the laundry because I’d already finished my writing for the day. I wondered if I should try to do more since I finished so early, but I didn’t. I respected the process. It was a surreal experience.
It’s been a month now since that day and have I kept the new plan up? Um…parts of it. On some days…Ha! It’s still a mental struggle not to log on to my computer and run to social media on writing days. I won’t lie, sometimes it wins. Scrolling aimlessly is the easy road, the path of least resistance because writing is HARD work.
What has stuck with me after this experiment is setting goals on my calendar. I look at the days ‘to-do’ list with my coffee. My 500 words a day, every day, is still in motion even if there are days I’m not successful at it. I haven’t abandoned the practice but have given myself permission to be human and to slip up. Sometimes for several days in a row because life happens.
Am I holding to that same strict four-hour timer when I sit down to work? No. Should I? Probably…but I’m trying. I’m giving myself the opportunities to find my rhythm, experiment with new techniques to find my flow. I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all?
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go sit with my March calendar for a few minutes to see what goals I need to reach next month. (Psst, I’ll give you a hint…it has to do with a certain release coming up!