There are worlds of advice out there, and sometimes I feel like I’ve read them all.
But really? If we distill them all down, no fluff, most of them are saying the same thing.
How to simplify your life when it comes to writing and productivity:
1. Sit down at the same place, at the same time, and do it every day*
* or every other day, or whatever works for your life; something regular and consistent.
That really is it.
I know it seems overly simple, but let me ask you: have you actually given it a shot, long term?
A strange thing happens if you do it consistently enough. You don’t have to write the Great American Novel, you don’t have to finish X number of words everyday, and you don’t even have to make marked progress on one single, coherent thing. Just write something.
You merely have to be present to win.
Your brain physically rewires its neurons that this is WRITING TIME (capital everything), and after enough exposures to the distinction, your mind will take over for you on the willpower part.
That’s the magic of it. There won’t be any willpower battles. The urge for humans — in anything — is to keep doing the usual thing they always do.
Resistance is always to change, not to sameness.
So, make your regular, old “normal” into having a set, this-is-when-I-perch-at-my-desk-with-my-hands-on-the-keyboard time.
That’s the real trick to keeping resolutions. If you’re planning to resolve for a consistent writing schedule for the New Year, or for a new project deadline, or whatever other benchmark you’ve set for yourself, NOW is the perfect time to start.
How much easier will that resolution be to keep each day if you’ve already defeated the wobbly startup phase?
Be awesome at it BEFORE then. Stop putting that pressure on yourself.
(And yes, the same advice applies whenever you’re reading this. I don’t care if it’s July.)
Just start. And keep a schedule. The end.
The rest will take care of itself.
I speak from personal experience in telling you this really works. One year, I printed out a daily chain as a resolution aid (I like this free one) and marked off each day with an X. It eventually made a cool pattern. Each day, I thought about how I didn’t want TODAY to be the day I ruined the whole thing. (FYI, HabitBull is a good digital version of something similar.)
After about two months of showing up at my keyboard at 10pm, whether I had any motivation or not, I noticed a major shift in my head and my work.
I couldn’t skip the sitting-there part without feeling weird. When my husband walked in and said, “Hey, do you want to watch an episode of [whatever our Netflix binge was then] with me?” I did.
But without thinking, I heard myself say, “Sure, sounds good. Give me about a half hour.”
There wasn’t a big sigh. There wasn’t an implied groan and an Eeyore-like, “Yeah, but I haaaaaave to do this first….”
I wasn’t irritated, forcing myself, or trying to prove something, even to that silly paper daily chain. It just became the new default to DO it, and felt awkward if I didn’t. If I tried to skip it, the urge would sit there in the ether and bug me, like when you eat something sticky and you can feel it on your teeth and all you can think about is darting off to brush them.
And the quality of the work?
Yeah, that matters. But it improved on its own. My first two or three weeks, the text files were pissy rants about how I didn’t feel like being there, or diatribes about how much my writing sucks, or depressing lists of all the things I had ideas for but hadn’t followed through on.
That’s okay. Let yourself do that.
Eventually, I was working with my brain instead of against it, and that sucker shaped up. I started getting real results, and I didn’t feel like I was giving up anything or working at it. It just became that thing I did everyday, and nothing more fancy than that.
The genius will come.
But first, you have to show up.
Here are a few links to more freebies, tools, and resources to help you out:
“Don’t Break the Chain!” free printable — My personal favorite, and starts on any day you’d like.
One-Year Habit Tracker — Another free printable; works like the daily chain, but more colorful; also starts on any day.
Habit Bull — A free mobile habit app with easy daily check-ins; available for both IOS and Android.
How Simple Mini Habits Can Change Your Life — An article by Stephen Guise; I’ve used his “Mini Habits” method for lots of lifestyle changes. (Good stuff.)
Printable rainbow habit stickers for your notebook or planner — This one’s not free, but it’s too cute not to include.
30-Day Habit Tracker — Free printable download, and the article at the link is motivating, too!
If you use any of these or have suggestions for more tools, please let me know in the comments!
(Image credit: Olexandr Martinyuk)
One Response to “How to get your rebellious monkey brain to write every day”
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