Tag Archives: productivity

Be Ruthless In Pursuing Your Goals

When it comes to accomplishments, life seems to work against us.  Obstacles will always pop up in our way. Even more so when there are no deadlines and the desire is solely internal, like often happens with creative work.  It’s easy to let it slip another day, another day, and another day.

You must be ruthless in pursuing your goals.  This means two things.

  1. You will have to push past the laziness, the “meh,” the “I already worked 8 hours today and made dinner, what more do you want?”, the “I’ll start tomorrow,” and all the other excuses that will come up when it comes time to get to work.  This is pretty common stuff here.  Stuff that most “x help,” where x is whatever activity you’re trying to do, will talk about and help you beat.
  2. You will have to make sacrifices–and only you can deem what is an acceptable sacrifice and what isn’t.  This could mean cutting your TV time.  Or it could mean not going out with friends.  Or not taking on another commitment during the week.  It’s easy for us to get too involved in too many things and then find that we have no time for ourselves.  To yoink a phrase from Stephen King (with apologies), commitments are like dandelions: if you don’t keep them under control, you’ll soon find your lawn covered in them.  Note that the sacrifices could also be your other projects (see my post, “Murder Your Darlings“).

The hardest part of number 2 is the ability to say “no.”  I don’t enjoy telling friends that I can’t make it on a particular night or have to drop my commitment. But I have to be ruthless in ensuring I have the time necessary to get my work done.

“Isn’t that pretty self-centric?” some might ask.  To which I say: “Absolutely.”  You have to be.  The world will take whatever you give it and ask for more unless you put the brakes on.  Just like we don’t give away all our money so that we can pay rent/mortgage and so forth, don’t give away all your time.  Keep some for yourself and don’t feel guilty about it.

Life will encroach and the excuses will let it.  Stomp out the distractions without pity.  This is even more important at the beginning of any habit/process.  Later on, it’s easier to ease up a bit, but always be on the lookout for those stray commitments that pop up.  Don’t automatically say “yes” to them.

Be ruthless, and you’ll find that your goals are closer than you think.

Do It Every Day

One of the simplest secrets of what I’ve been able to accomplish so far–which, while not overwhelming, is at least something more than nothing–can be attributed to this paragraph I encountered years ago.

Do it every day.
Want to become a concert pianist? Do it every day.
Want to become a writer? Do it every day.
Want to become depressed? Think of depressing thoughts every day.
Want to become an optimist? Think of cheerful thoughts every day.
Do it every day.
–Robert Anton Wilson

It’s one of those things that’s simple but not necessarily easy.  I’ve kept a copy of that text in various places over the years.  It used to be my home location in my browser, so that I’d see it first thing when I sat down.  For a number of years, it hung on the wall by my work computer, so that I could see it every day and remind myself that my true work never happened at that desk.

Within it is the idea that we make ourselves.  That the outside only forms us up to a point–and the rest is up to us.  Also hidden in there is the idea that small effort, applied consistently over time, will get you where you want to go.

There are days when it’s hard.  And days when I missed it completely.  The important thing is to move on from there and make sure you do whatever-it-is the next day.  Don’t double up to make up for lost time.  Don’t let the guilt keep you from getting back to business the next day.  Just be there, do it.

Even if it was 500 words a day, I eventually ended up with stories.  Then there’s the whole “pyramids and bricks” thing.  Yadda-yadda.  You know the routine.

The only thing I would add to the above quoted text is this: every day, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing.  What makes it worthwhile?  Is it what you want to be doing?  This goes back to the mental aspects that Wilson included and can help you adjust your thinking.

The answer, along with the daily reminder to “do it every day,” will give you a good push in the direction you want to go.

Look At Your Past Without Guilt

A friend and I were talking yesterday, and she mentioned how so-and-so had done such-and-such by the age of somewhere-in-the-mid-20s.  This, she said, made her feel lame in comparison.

I replied with a few thoughts, and then, as usually happens, thought to myself, wait a minute.  That was a Thing. I usually forget stuff if I don’t write it down, so I tried to condense what I was thinking into a tweet:

Look at your past without guilt over what you haven’t accomplished. If you don’t like what you see, use that as fuel to change going forward.

The problem is that we often make the mistake of comparing ourselves to someone else and letting that form into a type of self-judgement, whether that someone is another person or some image of what we want to be or think we should be but aren’t.  What I was getting at in my responses to my friend and that tweet is that our past has passed, is water under the bridge, spilled milk, and so on.  When it comes to the accomplishments of yesterday, there’s no room for guilt. Any time spent sighing over what we could have or should have accomplished is a waste.

We also tend to underestimate our past accomplishments, but that’s the subject of another post.

What our past does give us, though, is fuel for changing our future.  If you look back and find yourself lacking in what you’d hoped you would accomplish, let that drive you to change what comes next.

Did you write that book / run that marathon / start that business?   No?   Then it comes down to the playground question: what are you gonna do about it?

Do you wish you would have painted more, photographed more, written more, traveled more, or, hell, I don’t know, collected more garden gnomes?

Now is your chance.

Our actions speak clearer than hopes and wishes. If you’re committed, you can do this.  It might hurt to give up whatever has consumed your time (ahhh, but something tells me you might not miss it as much as you think), but that’s where the whole fuel thing comes in.  Take that “Damnit, I wish I would have ________” feeling, and ride it like a rocket.  That “I wish I would have” feeling is what will help you cut loose from whatever holds you back.  Direct your efforts ruthlessly to your new pursuit.

Time will go by no matter what.  How will you spend it?

Time For Some Updates Around Here

I’ve become frustrated with the theme setup that I’m using one too many times, as well as the structure of the site, so expect some changes around here soon. This is the downside to using these huge, convoluted frameworks/systems (like wordpress, drupal, etc) coming from a programmer perspective: I have zero capability to fix it without plowing through who-knows-how-many lines of code.  Or I could fiddle with themes and plugins and hope I hit some magical combination.  I’ve been trying to resist rolling my own code for the sake of freeing up time for writing and composition, but sometimes….

Meanwhile, I have a few ideas for an ongoing series of posts, as well, and I’m excited to get those rolling now that Number Four is done.

I’m also about four months past-due for a new “About” blurb.  Once a year seems a pretty good time frame for writing them.

The Sound of “Finished”. A MOROCCO Update.

Today started like normal (though a little later than usual): coffee, breakfast, feeding the cat.

Writing work was difficult through most of the afternoon and early evening.  Ordered pizza so I could keep working.  Hit a stride after dinner and continued on until about 12:15 AM (15 or so minutes ago).

I stopped because I just finished my revision of MOROCCO.  Boo-yeah!  13 hours and many words later, I have a finished second draft.  Final word count: 37,418.

A far cry from the 16,000 of my rough draft “skeleton.”  37k almost puts it up into official novel-length.  I’ll have to see how it works out in the end.