The Nitty-Gritty AKA The Daily Grind

So. In the last two weeks, I revealed my master five-year plan, then how I broke that down into monthly goals. Now we’ve got to talk nitty-gritty daily goals. Yes. I said daily. I’m planning my career, not my hobby. That means it’s a job and in my book, a job = 40 hours a week. Writing is not an indulgence or something I do for me as a reward once I’ve done everything else for everyone else.

Now, unfortunately, they were all out of writing patrons at the store near me, so unless you’ve found one, chances are we all have to do other stuff beside write to pay the bills. I get that. I really do. You still have to write daily regardless, even if you’re sick or don’t feel like it, just like you do at your job where they actually pay you. I like to think of writing as an unpaid internship and that’s what I tell my family. I’m working, not sitting at my computer surfing the internet. (I’m really not. I spent a lot of time in the last year figuring out how to discipline myself away from chatty time wasters. If I’m on the internet, I’m researching or checking in with my support group until I’ve met my goals for the day. Period.)

With all the disclaimers out of the way, you have to set daily goals that work for you. It’s hard. I still don’t do it well, but what I have found is that wishing you can write two hours a day, every day, doesn’t magically produce the time. YOU have to produce the time if that’s your goal. Give up TV. Don’t volunteer as much. Train your kids to play nice by themselves. I personally had to give up reading. I read at least two hours a day before I got serious about writing. Now I’m down to about ten minutes a day three or four times a week and yes, it does take me three months to read a book. Them’s the breaks.

What do my daily goals look like, you ask? Good question. Keeping SMART in mind (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based), I almost always do things in chunks because I can’t switch back and forth between projects and tasks. My brain is not wired that way. I know people who like to work on one thing for thirty minutes and then do something else. There’s nothing wrong with that, I just can’t. It’s too hard for me to find my focus and then when I do, I’d like to keep it on the thing I’m doing until I am forced to stop by Real Life.

So my goal for today was to write and post my blog. Nothing else. I picked Saturday (I know you’re reading this on Monday – bear with me) for writing my blog post because it’s a day with a lot of running around and tripping over family. I can be interrupted while writing a blog post and find the flow again pretty easily. Adding word count to my manuscript is not a Saturday kind of task. I reserve Tuesday and Thursday for the heavy writing because there are fewer interruptions those days.

The point is – figure out what you want to do this week, then look at your obligations for the week, and slot tasks into certain days. Write it down somewhere, like a calendar. Then do those things on those days. Don’t leave it all till the end of the week and don’t let yourself watch TV if you haven’t done your work for the day. Keep track of what you’ve done so you can track your progress. I LOVE to cross things off a list cuz I’m just weird that way, so I actually do both. I have a list of tasks in a word document for the week, which I cross off as I do them.

Then I also keep an Excel spreadsheet that acts as a calendar where I note what’s coming up and what I’ve done for the day. I include Real Life things as well so I can easily see that today (the real today – Monday the 17th) is a holiday and know right away I’ll have the kids home from school, so I better not plan any heavy writing. I mark off vacations, upcoming contests I might want to enter, a deadline, dentist’s appointments, all of it. Yes, it’s detailed, yes, it can be a pain and YES, I get stuff done.

I have eight columns, two each for Writing, Career, Submissions, and Real Life. One column is for the goal, one is for the actual.

Oh, I’ll just show it to you:

     

WRITING

CAREER

SUBMISSION

LIFE

   JAN

GOAL

ACTUAL

GOAL

ACTUAL

GOAL

ACTUAL

GOAL

ACTUAL

SAT

1

               

SUN

2

               

 The real spreadsheet is divided into quarters, with one line for each day of the three months, so I have a natural place to break. I do a check against my yearly goals at the quarter and reevaluate where I’m at. No, I don’t have goals in all four areas EVERY DAY. In fact, most days, I only have one – Writing. You know, because none of the rest of it is necessary if I don’t have a manuscript, right? J
 

I’m going to stop here so you can absorb. Questions? Comments?

4 thoughts on “The Nitty-Gritty AKA The Daily Grind

  1. It’s amazing how much the internet can eat away at my writing time if I’m not careful. That’s probably my short term goal this quarter: to just be aware of how much of that time is being spent. It makes it so much easier to close the browser and just write if I’m keeping an eye on the clock.

    • Thanks for coming by Julia! I set a timer on my internet procrastinating too (and kept track in a spreadsheet) and eventually, I didn’t need it anymore. The other thing that helped was setting a goal of spending one hour a week on learning about the industry. That way I had an excuse to surf the web and I learned stuff at the same time. 🙂

  2. Incisive and brutal and utterly necessary points you have in there, Kat. 🙂

    I too get sucked in the Internet. It’s my version of watching TV, since I don’t watch TV. Also, just sitting down and forcing myself to write would be helpful. Ha. I mostly enjoy your point about actually having the manuscript. If you don’t have one, you don’t have much else going on, do you? Too true!

    *heading off to write now*

    • Hi Jesi – I sincerely hope you’re *not* reading my blog right now and you’re writing! Yeah, the thing about having a manuscript…I went down an industry rabbit-hole last year where I spent like 50 percent of my time on career oriented stuff to the detriment of my writing. I really think until you have something ready to submit to an editor or agent, it should be more like 75% on writing and maybe 15 on craft and 10 on career (You do need to keep a finger on it so you’re not writing something that forty publishers have said they’ve got too much of). Once you’re submitting things, then I think it can shift, and probably should because you want to do your research. Thanks for coming by!

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