Getting Into the Flow
August 21, 2017
I have been asked numerous times how I am able to publish nine and have two more books in the editing process in seven years. It seemed a lot harder when I first started than it does now. It is really not easy even now, but I have discovered some tricks over the past few years that not only writers can use, but anyone can if they want to make better use of the time that they have.
Finding time to write is no different than finding time to exercise, time to make from scratch meals, garden, or even take care of livestock. Everyone is given the same twenty-four hours every day. It’s how we spend that twenty-four hours that determines what we make of it.
I discovered that once I did the thing that I wanted to do and did it regularly, I was able to get into what experts call “the flow” much easier than I was able to do at first. Here are some of the key ingredients.
The first thing I had to do was decide what I really wanted to do.
I once read in Stephen Covey’s Book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that having goals is “starting with the end in mind”. I remember being told that having a goal is like having a destination. Imagine deciding that you wanted to go on a trip, but didn’t know where you were going. How would you know when you got there?
One of my first writing goals was to write a book. That first time was most difficult. As I tell others, it took me twenty years to write that first book, If you go back to when I first had the goal of writing a publishable book, I could take you back forty years. Now I have written eleven books. More are on the way. I wouldn’t have finished any of them if I did not have writing them as a goal.
Having a goal is not enough. You need a plan too. Having a goal without a plan is like knowing where you want to go, but not having ordered the tickets for the flight or rented the car, and put gas in it for the trip. Without a plan to make something happen, a goal is nothing more than a dream.
Another old saying says that we need to “plan our work and work our plan”. These same people will also say that the plan itself is worthless, it is the planning that is the necessary part. Again we can use the trip analogy. How often have you gone on a trip and found that road construction caused a detour or your flight was canceled? You still made it to your destination, and you had to make adjustments along the way.
My own plans changed. My original plan had been to publish using a traditional publisher, however, as I did my research about publishing I discovered the advantages of self-publishing.
I have often said that if a person writes new words for fifteen minutes every day, that person can write an entire book in a year. I personally write every day, but I don’t write all day long either. However, I do write consistently every day, and as a result I finish my books. I don’t write a lot every day, but with consistent action every day, I get the job done.
No habit stands alone. The habit of writing every day is surrounded by other habits that are arranged into a routine. Recently I discovered a planner that helps me put all of this into perspective. I am learning that I am more than just a writer. I wear a lot of different hats and have a lot of responsibility, not only to myself, but to those around me. Because I am a human being, I have to take care of my body. Because I am a wife and mother, I have to take care of my home and develop relationships with them. Because I am also a teacher, I have responsibilities there regarding keeping up with certifications and my own education. I have civic responsibilities as well.
In order to “get it all done” I have learned that I have an order of doing things so that I don’t miss anything.
Mindfulness and Willpower
There’s a saying that goes “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. Having a routine is beneficial to getting things done, but having a routine that never changes can be detrimental. Over the past year or so I developed a great morning routine. Most mornings I get up at 5 am and begin my day. I am a morning person, so I find that I function best if I start new projects and write new work in the morning. Also I add new habits to my morning routine because my will power is highest in the morning. I am aware of this because I am mindful of what I am doing, especially at this time of day.
I am also mindful of the fact that on weekends I also get a lot done because of the routines I developed during that time too. However, I would like to optimize after work and evening hours so I am trying to move more automated aspects of my day from the morning hours and the weekends to make better use of those times when my willpower is not as keen.
Besides the usual things I do for getting ready for the day, some of the things that I was doing every morning was to write a gratitude list, read an affirmation, write in my journal, and write a to-do list for the day and put it my list on the website, “Trello”. I then do one lesson in “Duolingo” which an online language course. All this took up about a half hour every morning that I could just as well use to write new material. I also want to do more Duolingo in that I want to not just work on Spanish, but French as well. Therefore, I am moving some of this to the evening. Because I know Spanish better than I know French, I’ll move the Spanish to the evening hours and do French in the morning. I’ll keep reading the affirmation in the morning, but move writing the gratitude list organizing the to-do list in the evening. For journaling, I plan to write a question at night and answer it in the morning so that I can be pondering while I sleep. (I have done this before with great results.)
In addition, because much of my routine on the weekends involves housecleaning, I am trying to incorporate more of that type of work into my afternoons especially doing the laundry and some vacuuming. This week for instance on Thursday, I washed my sheets and vacuumed upstairs. On Friday I did the rest of the laundry and I divided the rest of the weekly housework between Saturday and Sunday.
Housework isn’t all that I do on the weekends. I do all of my weekly projects on the weekend. I write this blog, set up my newsletter, and post this blog to my website on the weekend. I am currently doing an online business course where I do most of the work on the weekend. I also try to spend extra time working on my current project in the Locket Saga during this time.
I do all this on top of working a full time job and spending time with my family.
I am able to do all of this because I have goals that I want to accomplish, a plan to accomplish those goals, habits that make it easier to start working my plan and routines so that I can fit it all in. I am purposely mindful of the fact that there are always better ways to do things.
oday, The Power of Now
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If it’s a job then you find time. If it’s a passion then you find time and desire. 🙂
You don’t really have to find “desire” with something you’re passionate about do you? The desire should already be there or am I just doing an exercise in semantics?