January 4, 2012

Eyes on the Prize: ROW 80 Check In

It's easy to get psyched up about a new year and new goals. The adrenaline of change is pumping through my veins. I know I can do it. But the trick is feeling that way in February, March, April... heck even by the end of January.
I want to go the distance this year, and not run out of steam because I sprinted out of the gate. Focus is always a problem for me, so I'm determined to sterilize my workspace. To that end, I've decided to:


When my desk is overly cluttered, I see piles of things that need to be done. I'll look up to think of a word, and this happens more than I care to admit, and the checkbook will start screaming at me to pay bills. Now I have a three-tier tray system, and I've organized papers there in order of priority. The checkbook is hiding in the desk drawer.


I always have my water bottle, phone, paper, pens, etc. surrounding me when I sit down to work. Nothing is more distracting than having to get up to get something. As soon as I walk away from my desk, I notice the clothes in the dryer need folding, the dog needs water, etc. I'd ditch the phone, but if it rings, I have to know if it's a child puking at school, and getting up to find out wastes valuable time.


The Internet and social media sites are so provocative. They suck me in. I'm like a small child in a toy store, it's sad. I sit down to write, but tell myself I'll take a quick look at email, Facebook, Twitter, blah, blah, blah. Problem is... there is no such thing as a quick look. I'm trying to stick to a new rule this year: check email/social media for an hour first thing in the morning, mid-day (just before the kids come tearing in the house), and in the evening. I'm currently suffering withdrawal symptoms, so we'll see how this goes.


I'm breaking down work into manageable time chunks. I'll set my phone to beep after an hour on task, and I'll take a break. The break might be lunch or it might be thirty minutes checking social media or switching over to reading/editing. I even time my breaks.


This might all sound a bit overkill, but I know how easily distracted I am from tasks by other tasks. I tend to overcommit myself. Since I'm flitting from obligation to obligation (it's not like I'm rushing off to do something fun), I think I'm accomplishing more. In fact, I accomplish less because I never finish one thing before heading to the other. Some finishing points are obvious: post is done, edited a chapter, paid bills. Others I try to predefine, like write until the scene's done or the chapter's finished.

(Note: more times than I care to admit, my husband comes home from work to find the dishwasher half-emptied, half the groceries put away, half the dry clothes folded, etc.)

If you are a focused individual, I'm jealous. If you are more like me, I hope some of these tips help you with all those freshly made New Year's Resolutions.

What's your best tip for maintaining focus?

My ROW80 Update

Checking in only one day after posting my goals is a bit of a letdown. It would be like getting on the scale one day after starting a diet. Not much to report, and I want to be able to shout my achievements from the rooftops because I'm stoked to get going. But it's a start...

Writing: I wrote just over 500 words today and yesterday. Definitely heading in the right track.

Blogging: Posting daily here and posted Monday and Wednesday on Mom in Love with Fiction, so meeting my goals. I have been getting around to comment on the ROW80 goals posts. So excited to see 120+ participants. Wow!

Editing: Getting my stuff together. I have four projects going on right now, and all are stretching me in wonderful ways. I've even managed not to edit my own words (except for blog posts).

Exercise: Two for two. Sugar, well...

And, I'm adding a social media goal. My goal is to actually spend LESS time on social media, but use my time more effectively. See reasoning above.

Hope everyone is off to a great start!


Kim Switzer said...

I'm so glad you wrote about the focus stuff! I'm a flitterer, too. I've been trying to limit my time on the internet in general, but it isn't going as well during the day as I would like it to. I have a very boring day job, but I can be online as much as I want, so the internet really sucks me in. Working to break free though. I'm doing really well at stepping away from it after I get home at least.

I've been using a timer to keep myself focused, too. I actually use 10 minute increments because that way if I've accidentally wandered away from what I meant to be doing, the timer going off will call me back. Thank goodness for timers!

It sounds like you're moving right along. This is good stuff! Here's to both of us keeping that focus. See you at the next check-in!

Julie Glover said...

I agree with you on the half-done tasks. I'm starting to call it my RTS - Rabbit Trail Syndrome. I want to go down every rabbit trail I see, but I never reach my actual destination that way. I'm fabulous with ideas and starting projects, but no one ever published half a great novel. So I need to get with the program!

Best wishes for ROW80! So excited to be back. Now where are my goals...?

Unknown said...

I changed my own goals for this year, to stop my own fluttering, I think. Focus is the key I need to take hold of. Thanks for posting this.

Eden Mabee said...

You sound so "ready to take on the world", Tia. I know what you mean about having the first check-in so early, but at least you get to add to your blogging goal as well as connect with fellow ROWers.

Love the title Depression Cookies, btw.

(UGH, third time I hit enter out of the comment box... keeps resetting the capcha)

Breezy said...

I really enjoyed reading your goals...And I know what you mean about the social media sucking you in... I tried to focus on my health goals too and man am I feeling it.. Sore.. EVERYWHERE!... Made me laugh when I read the bit about sprinting out of the gate.. lets hope i can keep it up as well!!
Good luck! See you at next check in!
Love the title by the way!

Tia Bach said...

Kim, Timers are wonderful. Who knew I wouldn't just use them to bake and kid timeouts. ;-)

Julie, I love RTS! So true.

Hunter, You are welcome. I'm trying to keep myself focused, too. Although to be fair I spent longer writing this Focus post than writing on my WIP yesterday.

Eden, Thanks. Depression Cookies is a family tradition, so it feels good as the title.

Sorry about the capcha problems!

Breezy, I know. I'm sore, too, but it's a good reminder that I need to exercise.

Thanks everyone for stopping by and offering encouragement. Let's hope 2012 is a productive year for us all.

Natalie Hartford said...

Love your ideas on how to get more focused. I could definitely use some help in staying on point. For me, a big one is turning off the TV and getting stuff done with the idea that I can do TV when everything is complete. Same with going online because I totally get sucked into twitter etc. Great suggestions.
I know, I felt the same when I went to check in. LOL! But you are doing great out of the gate Tia! Keep up the fab momentum!!

Tia Bach said...

Natalie, I totally agree about TV as a distraction, too. I am so grateful for DVR. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by. I so appreciate all the comments. It makes me determined to kick it this year.

Taslim Jaffer said...

Oh my goodness...just yesterday I told my cousin that I desperately needed to find FOCUS! Of your goals, declutter and unplug are huge for me...especially unplug. It's so easy to eat away an hour on social media going from one link to another. I like the idea of regulating that. I'm sure I'll suffer withdrawal as well ;) But hopefully being more productive will make me feel better!

Lisa Carter said...

Hi, Tia! Happy New Year...

These are great tips to help you stay focused well into the New Year and beyond. Like you and many of your other commenters, I can fritter hours away on social media. It's important to be connected but not let it take over. So, like you, I spend time in allotted chunks. Do I miss stuff? Yes. But do I get more work done? Yes! ;-) It's all a trade-off. Good luck with all that you do!

Tia Bach said...

Thanks, Lisa! Great to see you stopping by. Happy New Year. Hope you had a wonderful holiday season.

I lose focus the more I have to do, which is so self-defeating. Once I get overwhelmed I want to get things done, but I overstretch.

I have a timer set right now for 45 minutes of catching up on emails and social media. Wish me luck!

Bridgette Booth said...

I'm going to follow your progress on spending less time on social media, but use it more effectively.

I'm very interested in learning how to do this!!! I've learned not to even check email until certain tasks are completed. For me, that's getting my morning writing done. I've also set aside a time in the afternoon for doing "social media" so that I know I will have time for doing all of it. It's like chips for me, because I can't stop once the bag is opened.

See you at the next check-in!

Tia Bach said...

Bridgette, Great advice. I'm going to write for an hour before I even let myself check email. I'm so easily sucked in to just "checking."

I'll definitely keep you updated on my progress with social media.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wendy Jane said...

Ahh, I'm not the only one with a half-emptied dishwasher and a few over-look groceries. I didn't use to be this way. Now it's a running joke in our house. Either the cat stole it or Wendy forgot what she was doing with it. It's really getting on my nerves as of late. Notepads are not just for my WIPs anymore. The internet is also a huge time vacuum for me. I'm trying to take a different approach and not lose myself online so often. I'm trying to find the balance between no internet and too much. There's lots I'm hoping to improve on this time around. Maybe I'll figure out a trick to this before too much longer :)

Very good work. You're my hero!

Ruth Nestvold said...

Those sound like great goals, Tia - especially the "unplug" part! Tough one there: you can't write with social media and you can't write without ...

Good luck and have a great week!

mauishopgirl said...

Yes! I've been thinking of doing more writing on my iPad to force me out of the house. I only have the wifi iPad, not 3G so if I camp out somewhere, I'll have no choice but to write without abandon without SM distraction. Well written...from a fellow easily distracted gal.