7 Tips to Focus Your Writing in the Final Months of the Year
By Christine Carron
Fall has arrived, a chill is in the air, and we are days away from the final quarter (Q4) of the year. That means we writers have three months left to play with when it comes to getting writerly work done this year.
Are you clear on what you want to get done? What you can realistically get done? If not, this is a great time to reset your writing goals for the remainder of the year.
Though October, November, and December are often fill with commitments and activities that can cut into our writing time, there is something afoot in autumn that can work in our favor when it comes to getting writerly work done: completion energy. From leaves falling to holidays arriving one after the other, a sense of things finishing up swirls around us in autumn.
Let’s harness that energy with some planning smarts.
There is a project management mantra that states: Slow down to speed up. All planning work falls into the “slow down” part of the mantra. When you slow down to plan the remainder of your writerly work for the year, you purposely step out of do-do-do mode to pause, reflect, and think about your priorities, what you want to accomplish, and what you can reasonably accomplish in light of all your extra end-of-year commitments and activities.
Here are 7 tips to help you rock an end-of-year planning reset for your writing work:
Tip #1: Start with your wish list
Write down the list of writing work that you really want to get done in Q4. It's always good to start with what you really want and then pare down only as needed. Once you have that list done, set it aside.
Tip #2: Make a list of all your end of year commitments
Include all the social, family, and non-writing work/professional activities and commitments you have made or expect to make.
Tip #3: Find the hidden/invisible work that goes with your commitments
From a project management perspective, work that's hidden or invisible is the work that is most dangerous to a plan. Why? Because it’s not accounted for, and no time or resources are allocated to it. So when it does surface, it immediately throws the plan off, causing stress and frustration.
For the commitments and activities you listed in Tip #2, there is most likely hidden or invisible work lurking below the surface.
For example, invisible or hidden work related to traveling might include:
- Pre-trip preparation: packing, organizing pet care, dropping the dog off at the kennel, etc.
- Work Surges: writers who have full- or part-time jobs may find themselves putting in extra hours at work to get things done before the trip and/or to catch up after the trip.
- Post-trip reintegration: unpacking, dealing with jet lag, getting the dog from the kennel, etc.
When you take time to surface work that usually stays hidden or invisible, you can smooth out bumps and blocks before they happen. That is the power of good planning.
Tip #4: Acknowledge Stressors
Stress, if significant enough, can get in the way of our writerly progress. Technically, stress is just another kind of invisible work that can pop up and mess with our best laid plans. It deserves its own mention in context of year-end planning, however, as the holiday season can be particularly fraught.
For some writers, it will be fraught due to interpersonal dynamics and expectations related to their social, family, and work-related commitments. On the flip side, other writers may have the stress of loneliness or loss or being far away from loved ones.
Acknowledging our stressors in advance (and with compassion) has two benefits. One we acknowledge their potentially negative impact on our focus and motivation and can adjust our Q4 writing work plan accordingly. Second, we can start planning now on how we might minimize or mitigate those stressors so they impact our plans (and equilibrium) less than they would have without any forethought.
Tip #5: Decide if you want a vacation from your writing work in Q4
Writers are often told they have to write daily to get the “I’m a real writer” badge. As a project manager, I disagree with that perspective. Some writers cannot write daily due to their life circumstances. Some writers don’t write daily because that is not how their creative process flows. And in the end, activity does not automatically equal productivity.
So vacations from writing are not verboten from a Goodjelly perspective. Plus, vacations can be renewing physically, emotionally, spiritually, and creatively. From a practical perspective though, (and to state the obvious,) a vacation from writing means no writing progress during the vacation. So you'll want your end-of-year plan to take any vacation time into account.
Tip #6: Create a revised plan
If you’ve followed the tips up to this point, you now have significantly more insight and data that you can use to revise your Q4 plan, i.e., your end of year writing goals. You may not be able to get everything done that was on your original wish list—the one you identified in Tip #1—but your updated plan will be more realistic and one you can tackle with confidence.
Tip #7: Remember the purpose of planning
The purpose of planning is not to make a perfect plan but to create easier progress. No plan will ever be perfect. So don’t let your Inner Critic or Inner Perfectionist take charge of creating or managing your Q4 writing plan. Instead, channel your Inner Project Manager to create a plan that is motivating and doable. That’s the kind of plan you want. And one that will allow you to be in full celebration come December 31, whooping and hollering at your writerly progress (and your planning prowess!)
Wishing you happy planning and buckets of completion energy for your writing goals in Q4. You’ve got this!
If you want more Goodjelly tips and tricks on planning check out: