Prioritizing my Writing (and the Whippets)

“If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” ~Unknown

2017The end of the year is approaching, and as expected, I am getting reflective about the year that has passed and starting to plan for the one that is coming. The year 2016 was one of upheaval and change for me so many of my goals morphed into ones of survival – find a new job, find a new place to live, figure out how to change the batteries in the smoke alarms. My writing goals and dog training goals receded just enough into the background to leave me guilt ridden for ignoring them.

I tried to force adherence to goals by signing up for Nano, probably not the smartest thing to do while dealing with the ramifications of major life changes. I did make progress, however. Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I wrote 4,000 words. I congratulated myself and quickly shifted my focus to work, where year-end deadlines loomed. I worked some evenings and some weekends, writing and dog training pushed further down the list of important things to do.

Big mistake. The more I worked, the crankier I got. The crankier I got, the more the dogs reacted unfavorably to me, which caused me to be far less patient with them then I need to be when I walked them. I did not write. I did not play with the dogs, which is a surefire way to make me laugh. I find it an interesting quirk of human nature that for most of us, the things that matter most to us and the things that make us the happiest are often the first to give way.

Why do we constantly do this? Why do we put the things we love to do last on the list of things to get done? Rationally, I can say that without a job, I can’t pay for my house or food for my dogs so this is why, by default, a job becomes most important. I need to pay the bills to keep the lights on, to grocery shop to eat, to do laundry to have clean clothes. How then did I survive my incubator year, a year in which I rewrote an entire novel and read and critiqued eleven other novels, without going hungry, sitting in the dark, or walking around in dirt-stained shirts smelling of stale coffee and dirty dog? I worked constantly, and somehow -magically – things got done. So, for 2017 I am going to model my year on the year I spent incubating my book. I’m going to prioritize the things that matter most to me over everything else.

Here are my goals, in writing, publicly posted for me to be judged:

Goal #1: Prioritize my writing and the whippets above all else, even if it’s just for 15 to 30 minutes per day in the morning. I know that my work day becomes more enjoyable if I’ve managed to get some writing done first.

Goal #2: Be a little selfish. Embrace my new single status and set my schedule my way by prioritizing writing and the whippets over other things, which I can do guilt free with no obligation to a partner. I am free to do what I want when I want to. Take advantage of this.

Goal #3: Be patient. Realize that not everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW. I intend to set a schedule with doable monthly goals for my two loves: writing and whippets. Much of my problem with goal setting is that I set too many at once. This includes my novel. Yes, I’d like to get a draft done ASAP, but I also have some other things I will need to do, one of which is to move into a new condo. If I set measured goals for myself taking into consideration major life things, I will still feel like I’m striving toward the end goal and won’t beat myself up for not getting it done yesterday.

Goal #4: Embrace the idea of better living through technology. I’ve recently started using Evernote again. It is through this app that I will schedule out my monthly goals for each category. I have also created a long-term project list, which is place I can dump all of those things that I want to do yet can’t do all at once. It has freed the clutter in my mind greatly. I downloaded 1Password so as not to have long lists of passwords that I fret about losing. I intend to scan all of my important documents to store them online. I’m using Spotify and getting rid of boxes of CDs. If I declutter my space and my head, I’ll be able to more easily focus on what matters most.

So, for 2017 let’s all of us embrace Unknown’s words, be a little selfish, and focus on what’s most important to us, even if it’s just for fifteen minutes a day.

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