Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sticking To A Schedule

I’m the type of person who will write out a schedule, accounting for every second of my life. Every moment I’m awake, I’m accomplishing something . . . or so the plan says. But, once the schedule is typed out and beautifully in place in my planner, I immediately find ways to sabotage it. Yes, I know it says that I need to get up at 5am and exercise, but I stayed up late writing and I’d rather sleep in a little long. I can exercise later in the day. I’ll just switch things around. It’ll be okay. The next day, more of the same. If I’m supposed to write from 10am to noon, I’ll find that I actually need to walk the dog, paint my walls, take the kids to get haircuts, or clean out the down stairs closet during that time. I just can’t stick to the schedule!

To make myself feel better, I tell myself that I’m too creative to be tied to a schedule. Or that I wasn’t realistic when I planed out how my week should progress. Or that life is just too unpredictable and schedules just don’t work.

But the truth is, for some reason, I don’t want the schedule to work. I’m sure there are some deep issues that I could invest millions of dollars and countless hours with a therapist to find out what my problem is. Why can’t I do what I’m supposed to do? But I decided that instead I was going to figure out how to stick to a schedule and just do it. I read a few books. Books hold all the answers after all. But, I’m sad to report that this is what I’ve learned.

In order to stick to my schedule, I have to:

1) Keep my plan in sight.

2) Read it everyday (thrilling)

3) Eliminate my limiting beliefs (I guess these are the issues that keep me from following through)

4) Remind myself daily that this schedule will help me reach the goals that matter most to me.

That’s it! I have to say that I was pretty disappointed with my findings. But after giving this some extended thought, I’ve come to understand what the experts are saying. Sticking to anything (whether a schedule, a diet, a relationship) takes only two things: discipline and focus. Focusing on the end result and the discipline to do it. There’s no magic.

So as we begin a new year, I will again draw up a schedule and discipline myself to stick to it. Short of buying myself one of those dog collars that zap you with an electric jolt when you are naughty (in my case, straying from the schedule), all I can do is try again. Unless, of course, one of you have some sticking-to-it success tips you’d like to share?


Anonymous said...

No suggestions, Lara, but if you happen to find one of those electronic dog collars for writers, let me know. LOL.


JoAnn Ross said...

It took me years to get my schedule/list guy sweetie to agree to ease up on vacations. The first time we went to NY, we had a schedule -- I swear I am not making this up -- that encompassed a six day trip in 30 minute increments. (Can you tell, perhaps, that he was a math major?) Midway through the trip, I got him to agree that we'd do each of the things on his to-do-and-see list, but perhaps not at the exact time or even the exact day he'd planned. Although I think he may have suffered a few hives initially, he's adapted enough over the years that when we went to Ireland for two weeks this October, except for the two flight days, we got up each morning with absolutely no plan or itinerary in mind. Which was heaven for each of us and the most relaxing vacation we've ever had.

Although I like to consider myself self-disciplined (it's hard to write 90+ books and manage a family life and career and not be) I'm so not a schedule girl. Other than writing nearly every day (with no set page or word count goal), I pretty much wing the rest of my life, prioritizing by order of importance. So far my system, which really isn't much of a system, has worked for me, so I guess I'll stick with it. :)

Sally MacKenzie said...

Rather than fit my life to a schedule, I'm trying to fit a schedule to my life. Here's my problem--I have to exercise and I have to write. Ideally, I'd like to do both first thing in the morning, but I can't multitask quite that much. So, I have to figure out what will work best for me...what I'll keep to...and then decide to keep to it. If that makes sense. I think it's sort of about balance, too...yesterday's post.

JoAnn Ross said...

Sally, I like that idea, fitting your schedule to your life. And you know, you can sort of multi-task that. I've always found exercise so boring, that I often end up thinking about my book, or if I'm on a bike or on my bowflex rower, reading a research book while doing it.

Nancy Morse said...

For me, it's hit or miss. I do what I can when I can, and by some miracle, it all gets done. But if the electronic dog collar doesn't work, try a taser every time you slack off. Of course, you'll have to get someone to zap you with it, unless you're bold enough to zap yourself. But once your body stops convulsing, I'm betting you won't be slacking off again any time soon.

Terry Z McDermid said...

I like schedules but I didn't realize until I read the comments above that I've always made my schedule fit my life. When I was teaching, I would break things down into small increments of time, based on what was already scheduled in for our day (lunch, recess, P.E.). Then I could fit things together like a puzzle (okay, semi-math major/accounting and business. ended up teaching kindergartne -- who knew?)

Now, without the teaching schedule, I'm still trying to fit pieces together. I take my son to school each morning and wear my exercise clothes so I can just stop at Curves before I return. Then I stay in my exercise clothes at home and write for about two hours before I shower and get dressed for the next part of my day.

I also use lists -- things I want to get done or that need to be done that day. I make my list the night before (or sometimes for a week at a time) in a brightly colored steno pad. I star the most important things or put a specific date/day on it. Then I can look through my list and find something that will fit my current mood -- tired of sitting? Let's pick up the drycleaning and run the other errands. That way, I'm not just spinning my wheels and I have a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day when I've crossed off most everything. And if something isn't finished, I just move it to the next day (or cross it off completely -- it didn't need to be done).

LaraRios said...

I like the idea of having a list without set times to get the things done. Hmmm, maybe I should try that. Without a schedule to "break" I can just concentrate on getting things done.

By the way, I was also a teacher and hated following my lesson plans -- and most of the time, I didn't. I would get everything done, but not the way I'd planned.

And Joann, you can row and read at the same time! Wow, I'm impressed!

JoAnn Ross said...

Lara, it's not that difficult, since the only thing you use on the bowflex rower is your legs, so I just hold the book and go back and forth. And forth and back. Sometimes I get so engrossed in a story, I'll look up and realize I've been rowing for an hour and never noticed.

I, too, btw, love lists and even color code them. (I color code everything in my life and have probably kept Rubbermaid in business all these years, lol) And if I do something that wasn't on the list, I add it on so I can cross it off. I just don't have a rigid schedule for WHEN things need to be done. Until crunch time comes. Which is where the prioritizing comes in.

Anonymous said...

A tip: I love to make a "tomorrow to-do list" just before bedtime. There's always more on it than I can possibly accomplish, but it really helps keep me on task.