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Monday, January 28, 2013

Maintaining Focus

As we near the end of January, and resolutions are falling to the wayside faster than people can line up to sue Lance Armstrong, I've found myself struggling to maintain focus. I feel like I'm wandering around in a murky fog instead of charging up the proverbial mountain.

Part of the problem is the cold, dark days of January. (Yes, I know that the days are now actually getting longer again, but the frigid temps have meant I've gotten outside less than usual, hence, less light in my life.)

Another part of the problem is that life has been fraught with stumbling blocks. These are swallowing up the emotional energy I usually use to keep myself motivated.

Lastly, I'm overwhelmed by the goals I've set for myself. I hope to accomplish more this year than ever before.

I've been using a few methods to keep myself focused and I thought I'd pass along what's worked for me in the hopes they might help someone else.

1) I'm publicly blogging my progress on my personal blog.  It probably sounds like the most narcissistic activity imaginable, but I find that "putting it out there" is making me more accountable.

2) I've planned out my work schedule for the year.  In the past I've plotted it out for 3 months at a time. Seeing it all laid out over the course of the year is helping me to remember how important it is to finish things on time.

3) I'm making it a point to try new things. I've started posting timed free-writes at Ten Minutes to the Universe. I hiked with new people in a new place (fun!).  I ran with a running group (epic fail, but at least I tried).  I'm doing a TON of new stuff in terms of my writing career (like the Confessions Blog Tour I did to market Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman).

All the little jolts of excitement/fear that accompany saying "yes" to new things, is helping to combat my overall malaise.

So how are you doing with your resolutions? What tips do you have for staying focused?  Share! (Pretty please, because I need all the help I can get!)


Janet said...

Print it out! I have my running schedule printed out and on my desk where I can see it every day! That way I know I have to get my runs in so I can check them off (I'm very visual). Same with any writing goals - I print off the goal and put it somewhere visible, a constant reminder of what I said I was going to do.

Good point, JB, about the "...little jolts of excitement/fear..." - those certainly do help with the motivation :)

B.E. Sanderson said...

I wish I had tips, but you're way more focused than I am. These days I'm just trying to keep my head above water. All of your suggestions sound great, though.

Good luck finding and maintaining your focus! =o)

Toni Anderson said...

JB, January is HARD, especially with life's stumbling blocks. I have schedules written out but generally things happen to mess it up. What I do try to do (when not editing) is write my words first thing in the morning. This is my advice. Write First :)

Marcelle Dubé said...

Oh, JB, I so sympathize. January is hell on my motivation -- and it doesn't help that it's minus 34C out here, with a wind chill of minus 43C. All I want to do is hunker down and eat chocolate. But I'm going to try your idea of setting out your goals for the year, and Janet's idea of printing them out. I'm very visual, too.

JB Lynn said...

Janet -- I've got my running schedule printed out too. It definitely helps, but only so much since I'm NOT a visual person. Thanks for stopping by!

JB Lynn said...

B.E. -- Keeping your head above water beats the alternative@

JB Lynn said...

Toni -- I like Write First! I wish I could schedule life too, lol

Marcelle --- Brrrrrrr! I think my brain would freeze. I hope these tips are helping everyone. Good luck!

Cynthia Valero said...

Thanks for sharing your struggle, JB, AND for motivating us.

The struggle of my focus seems to be with the transitioning state of the publishing world. It used to be easy to just focus on that beacon on the hill ... publishing with a major house (or even signing with an agent). Just keep pushing in that one direction and eventually we'll get closer, closer ...

Now it's harder than ever to reach that light, and now it's uncertain if that light is even the best light for us. There are many other options open to us ... it's hard to know the right thing to do ... where to spend our time. Because it ALL takes so much time, even as everything is speeding up. It's like being forced to stand still while everything is tugging at us to hurry up. Or is it just me?

I continue to focus only on writing the best story that I can. But the approaching choices of who to query and how to publish looms and I hope I make the right ones. Sigh.

I'm still going to push forward, but I've never seen so many publishing forks in the road!

Donna H said...

January is just so long (particularly after having most of December off).

I have a widget on the home page of my tablet with my calendar and to do list. So as soon as I turn on the tablet I'm confronted with what needs to be done (keeps me from just playing games on my tablet).

I've also downloaded Active Inbox for gmail. I just have the free version, but it is helping greatly. Since I read my email on the go a lot I can mark things action and the next time I sit down at the computer I can quickly go to that list and get things done.

Now that I've written a post here I think I'll talk more about it on Thursday. Thanks for giving me a topic for this weeks tips post!

Anne Marie Becker said...

Okay, I'm going to sound mega-Type-A here (probably because I am), but the way I stay on task, and feel like I'm succeeding even when there are things left undone, is keeping daily track of my goals and to-do's. I re-evaluate every Sunday. It helps me see how far I've come and what I need to hunker down and face in the coming week.

Oh! And one thing my sister taught me is to write each day's schedule out on scrap paper and then don't just cross things off, but rip them off or fold it over as you complete them. Feels SO good to see that paper getting smaller (and the ripping feels good too!). ;)

Love your idea of trying new things - especially since many of them are exercise-related, which is so good for us during these "dark" days.

Elise Warner said...

Haven't made a resolution in years. but I do sit down at my computer first thing in the morning. The darkness of January does make me sleep longer though and I always hope that life won't stop me from returning in the afternoon. On sleepless nights, I try to think about the characters--sometimes it's worth losing the sleep.

JB Lynn said...

Cynthia -- Yes, the publishing landscape has morphed into a're never quite sure where you are or where you're headed. Focusing on the story makes sense! Keep it up!

Donna -- Oooh, the app and Active Inbox are great tips. Thanks for sharing! I love your Thursday tips....I always glean a nugget or two of info.

JB Lynn said...

Anne Marie -- I've never tried the "tearing paper" method. What a great visual prompt. Thanks for sharing the idea! I think exercise (esp during the winter) helps me stay energized for my mental tasks.

Elise - I lose sleep over characters too, but I'm not sure it's a method I'd recommend, lol.

Rita said...

I’ve heard so many people/writers say they are having a problem this year. What’s the deal? Anyhow I am not able to talk publicly about my goals. I’ve found if I talk about them too much I don’t DO them. Like Anne Marie I have daily goals. What I call my teeny tiny lists that add up to big totals. When I turn out the lights at night I repeat 5 things I have to do the next day. Before I get out of bed in the morning I repeat those 5 things. I can’t go to bed until they are done. Some days I have more but never less than 5

JB Lynn said...

Rita -- Wow, if I did that, I'd never sleep. I'd just worry about my list all night. I'm glad you've found something that works for you!

Jean Harrington said...

Hi All, My resolution isn't to run this year but to justkeep on walking. That doesn't sound too sexy, but it's me. I am going back to exercising three days a week, though(yup, just 3), and I do write every morning first thing. So my head is held proudly above water.

Shelley Munro said...

Lists and my diary keep me focused, but I don't usually plan out my projects unless I'm on a deadline.

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