Strategy Number Five: Organization and Structure
This is the last of a six-part post series on defeating resistance (with a small “r”). To start at the beginning of the series, click here.
Let’s get straight into the organization and structure hacks that will help you sit down and write when you say you want to, every time.
Scheduling and Deadlines
If you have not yet built a writing schedule and production schedule for yourself, you may want to consider doing it now. A schedule tells you when you should write and is one of the most powerful motivators for making sure you do write.
An appointment that says for the next two hours you are supposed to be writing opens a “loop” in your mind. It is an unfinished thing your subconscious will hold on to, until the loop is completed.
It is far more powerful once you have opened up your manuscript and moved to where you should start writing. For that reason, you may want to include as part of your writing ritual the act of opening the manuscript and scrolling to where you left off previously. You don’t have to launch into writing right then, but having manuscript open will help ensure you return to it.
Even if you tab away at this stage, there is still an internal pressure to return and pick up where you left off. This is why “just starting” is so powerful.
Deadlines provide their own pressure. Even self-imposed deadlines will act to motivate you to write when you should. This is especially true if you get behind or if you like cramming at the end.
For the record, most people who claim they like cramming at the end of a project usually think so because it’s the only way they ever get work done. Once you get used to an evenly balanced workload across a project period, cramming becomes a high stress exercise with no payoff, because even the finished project is sub-par.
This may be too woo-woo for you. However, the most simplistic type of meditation, where you strive only to clear your thoughts, will train you to focus for longer periods.
Meditation builds your focus muscle and lets you slip into flow far more easily. It de-stresses you and increases your creativity, because there is no excess cortisol to suppress your reasoning abilities. There is no downside to meditation. As little as a minute or two a day provides benefits.
Meditation works to increase your motivation to sit and write, by removing the stress of writing each day. It is far easier to bring yourself to the challenge of writing if you feel at peace, than when you are wound up and white-knuckling your way through the day.
Longer Writing Sessions
There is a twofold benefit to increasing the length of your writing session.
- You face the challenge of getting started less frequently.
- Longer writing sessions are highly immersive and give you a sense of achievement, which reinforces your motivation to do it all over again the next day.
You may have to build up to longer sessions if you’re not used to them. They definitely are a challenge, both physically and mentally.
My writing sessions are five hours long, first thing in the morning, six days a week. By lunch time, I am wiped. I am more than ready to roll over into boring admin and production work, which doesn’t require nearly as many decisions or heavy thinking.
Longer writing sessions increase your executive decision-making capacity, which is finite per day. Once you have drained it, you can’t write. But if you increase the length of your writing session, you are increasing your executive decision-making quotient.
Put simply, the longer you write per day, the longer you can write per day.
Plus, building your capacity for decision-making spills into all other areas of your life. You stop being stressed at the end of the day, because you have not yet run out of decision-making juice.
Stop Thinking of Tomorrow As a Good Place To Start Fresh
This is one of the hardest adjustments I had to make. It is very human to put something off and tell yourself you will get to it tomorrow. Because, after all, tomorrow is another day.
The idea of tomorrow being a good place to catch up is linked to decision fatigue. If you’ve already made too many decisions today, writing has little appeal.
Only, you slide into the habit of thinking that tomorrow will do and apply it to everything. And because tomorrow never gets here, you never write.
The other aspect of tomorrow-thinking is the perfectionist idea of the “perfect day”.
If you’ve already screwed up today by failing to do something, or you have messed up in some way, the temptation to blow off everything and do it tomorrow is severe. After all, today is now flawed, so why bother?
If you are a perfectionist, or have perfectionist tendencies, this trap is lethal.
I learned to get around this perfectionist sinkhole by thinking of my days as chunks.
I have my pre-work morning chunk. I have my writing chunk up until noon. I have my business administration, production and everything else chunk in the afternoon. Then I have family time, which is another discrete chunk. After that, I have evening activities, which includes spare time writing and catching up on work that didn’t get completed during the day.
This chunking of time is commonly referred to as buckets. You can think of your day as being divided up into buckets. A writing bucket. The production bucket. A day job bucket. And so on.
I have learned to think of all of those chunks, or buckets of time, as being discrete and whole onto themselves. If I screw up my morning routine and missed something, it has no impact on the writing session which follows. Each individual writing session is a clean slate. So, too, are my afternoon activities. If I blew off writing, then the afternoon is still not completely lost, because that is another chance to “be perfect”.
It is a trick of thinking that uses your perfectionist tendencies, instead of being slaughtered by them.
Especially, if you write in the evening, you may find your writing session never happen because the day has already been ruined for reasons which often have nothing to do with writing.
Learn to think of your writing sessions as being isolated, discrete and a chance to “be perfect” for that one little section of your day.
Then gradually extend that habit of thinking to the rest of your life.
This is the last post in this series. In future weeks I will dig more deeply into different aspects of motivation and resistance. The fact is, this is an endless subject. Your mind is capable of creating a new form of resistance every day.
Becoming aware of your patterns of thought, analysing and adjusting, and gently nudging yourself towards improved productivity each day is the only way to win this war.