The 2014 experiment – review and update!

Before I get into it, I’ve started a newsletter! It’ll be monthly, pretty brief, but alongside news and the usual bits it’ll feature some exclusive content, including giveaways, early sneak peaks at things, and even, perhaps, the chance to be a beta reader on various things. You can subscribe to my newsletter here – the first issue will be out in February!

At the end of last year, rather than make New Year resolutions, I more made a set of promises to myself. I’ve got a lot on in 2014, so I need to fine tune a few things about the way I work in order to get the most out of my time – which is the one thing we never have enough of.

Two weeks into 2014, it’s time to see how things are going. I know the general thing is to do something for 21 days – which seems to be the right amount of time for something to become a habit – but I’ve got a book deadline steadily approaching. Two weeks it is.

1. Work Harder

I’ve had some ups and downs with this. I can hit 4,000 words a day. I can hit 5,000 words a day. My problem is consistency. When I do 4,000 words, I tend to only do 1,000 the next day. Looking at my little progress tracking spreadsheet, it’s clear it would be better for me to do far fewer words each day and do that consistently.

But that’s not actually how I want to do it – I don’t want consistent writing days with smaller word counts, I want consistent writing days with larger word counts.

So, what’s the problem? Basically, it comes down to one thing: distraction.

But I’m not talking about Twitter, or the internet in general. With two books coming out in quick succession this year, I’ve got a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff and admin to deal with. Which is fine, but sometimes it tends to all come in at once, which means I spend four hours sorting stuff and organising stuff and replying to emails. So if I do any writing, I don’t start until after lunch, and I usually find that the day has sometimes vanished before I’ve got any words down.

All of which is just an elaborate excuse to say that I have terrible time management skills. I let myself get distracted by stuff which is not The Work. Sure, it supports The Work, and I have to do it – but it’s not The Work. And without The Work… well, I haven’t got a job in the first place.

The solution? I need to change a couple of habits. Firstly, writing needs to be the first thing I do each day. I’m an early riser, so it should be perfectly possible to get some good words down before anything else. I used to do it quite easily – when I worked in an office, I had to get up and get writing before I headed out the door, because that was the only time I had. Now that I’m more in control of my own daily schedule, it turns out I’m not great at figuring out what it should be.

And on the very busy days when I do get writing straight away, it all works out – I can hit 4,000 words, I can answer all my emails, I can do all that admin stuff no problem.

So – I need to Work Harder, yes, but I also need to shift my working day around a little and put in a couple of new rules, the most important of which is: Write First.

2. Blog Every Day

I’ve actually done better on this than I expected, but there have still been some days where I’ve lost all sense of time (see above!), or have been so flat-out with something else that the blog becomes an extremely minor consideration.

Weekends are also a problem. I write a bit on weekends, but I also do other weekendy stuff.

So – Blog Every Day becomes Blog Every Weekday. I can do five a week, Monday to Friday. Weekends off. Which is probably the way it should be.

3. Use Time Effectively

Tied in with the first point above, but this is more to do with my innate desire to do absolutely nothing if I can help it. Which means burning time on Twitter or the same three websites I find myself compulsively reloading without really knowing why.

I’m making an effort with this, and I’m getting better! This is an ongoing process – the internet is a vital tool, so I need to use it as such. But I need to be careful about how I manage that. But of my three 2014 promises, this one isn’t going too badly at all.

So, some adjustments, some tweaks, some fine-tuning, but having just three broad promises to myself makes it relatively easy to monitor and assess, which seems to work for me. Now, let’s see if I can improve on things for the second half of January.

  • Paul Weimer

    And so I’ve subscribed. 🙂

  • Subscribed! Look forward to getting the first one in Feb.

    As I was reading this I was reminded of a post I read recently from a lifestyle/success newsletter that talked about how much more effective a work day is if a person starts out by getting to work on specific, laid out tasks rather than diving straight into emails. Not surprising then to see you mention that you plan to start out the day writing. I imagine that, more than anything, will help you hit your targets once you make it a habit.

    There is always plenty to distract, isn’t there?

  • Certainly seems like the best method. And, as if to prove it, today I’ve been sidetracked by admin first thing and guess what happen? I’m behind on the words! Argh!

  • Purely a question, because I do not know the answer, but would it make a significant difference in your ability to promptly address admin duties if you chose to wait until, say, 10 a.m. each morning to open up your browser/email? Not sure how early you rise, but you might be getting 3-4 hours of writing in by that time and would still have a lot of the “business day” in which to address important emails.

  • Yes, it would. I’m up at 6, although have a variety of chores to do before my wife leaves for work at about 7.15. But you are completely correct, and that’s the key. The trouble is, because one of my publishers and my agent are both in the US, a lot of business stuff happens overnight, my time, so there is usually something interesting in my inbox when I wake up.

    Of course, I should still wait until 10am to pick it up, but my brain is rather persuasive on most days and insists I check immediately.

  • I know what you mean. There is something terribly drawing about the internet/email. Even when I have something I absolutely cannot wait to get to I feel myself drawn to just make a “quick” check on the email or Feedly and then I look up and much precious time has been lost.

  • Robert Mammone

    Which same three sites, Adam?

  • NPR, and Criminal Element, usually.