Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Reclaiming My Day-to-Day

It happened. Not the way I wanted it to, not the way I imagined. Not only against my will but in spite of it. At every turn I resisted, yet resistance was futile because it had to happen. And it did, happen, in a way that shook me to the core. Everything I thought I knew and all my ways of doing things called into question.

It happened ... My day-to-day routine fell apart, driving me to distraction. Maybe it was the universe's way of speaking to me, but now I'm working to rebuild my day-to-day routine, to find my footing again.

Sunday, 10 April 2016, was a big day for me. No, it wasn't my birthday. That was the day I finished the rewrite of a novel. According to my notes, I started the revision process on 22 September 2015, with an aim of finishing it by the end of December 2015. Obviously, that didn't happen.

However, working on this particular writing project showed me (even though I didn't want to see or acknowledge it) what I had long known. My daily routine was broken and in desperate need of a reboot.

I'm a morning person. I have always been at my best in the morning, and that was when I often tackled my most important projects. This project was no different in that each morning, after completing my Morning Pages, I'd set to work on it. What was different was how easily I let myself be distracted, losing my focus and unable to get it back.

I was writing with the TV on in the background. I took frequent breaks to check e-mail or see if there were any views/comments on my Facebook or Twitter posts. I'd “break” to flip through cookbooks to figure out want to cook for dinner. I told myself, “Get some fresh air, it'll do you good,” and went for extended coffee breaks. No surprise, my productivity plummeted. By lunchtime, on any given day, I was lucky to have written 200 words. I wasn't making progress, wasn't moving forward. And by early afternoon, I didn't have the energy or focus to do good work. Distraction ruled the day. I did have good days when the work flowed and I stayed focused; and it was those good days that allowed me to finish rewriting my novel. Those good days, however, became the exception, not the norm.

Sprinting towards the finish line of this last rewrite, my focus became unbendable, my mind alert. The end of the project was in sight. I could see it and was determined to finish it. These were good days where I had gone back to my good working habits that kept me focused, disciplined and productive. That was when it happened, when I realized that, if I wanted to actually finish something be creative — my day-to-day routine needed a hard reset.

So I've again hit the reset button, this time a little more forcefully. With insights from Manage Your Day-to-Day, edited by Jocelyn K. Glei, rebooting my daily routine means:

Making the best of the morning: Like I said, I'm a morning person, so I'm going to set aside the first part of my day to work on my most important projects.

Unplugging: I struggle with social media because it easily overwhelms me. Another bad habit I had was, as I rolled out of bed, reaching for my phone on the way to the bathroom to check e-mail. New goal: Check e-mail and social media sites after completing my morning work session. It wasn't just about when and how often I was using social media, but also about how I was using it. I want my use of social media to be purposeful and to not simply be a means of distraction.

Letting myself play: While I'm passionate about writing, I also love cooking, baking, running, reading and music. I will work to build those activities into my day as well. I don't want my life to be all about the work.

This is a start, and I hope that making these changes, to begin with, will help me to stay focused in what can be a chaotic and distracting world. After all, some of these changes aren't new; it's how I worked in some of my most productive periods over the years. Now, with this hard reset, I guess I'm just getting back to basics.

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