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A lot of press is given this time of year to goal-setting and reviewing.  If you’re like most people, you’re taking the turning of the year to take stock of your life and think forward about how you want to live it.

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But while a lot of attention is paid to the recent past or the near future, that kind of short sighted view can be discouraging, to say the least.  For example, imagine you have a graph of your weight-loss progress.  If you look just over the past week or the past month, unless you’re crash dieting, you probably don’t notice much difference.  But if you look over the past six months, or year, you’ll notice much more of a gradual change.

Taking the long view puts progress in perspective.

When you look into the distant past, you see how far you’ve come.  You see how the incremental progress of a glacier carves lakes and builds up mountains.  You’re encouraged by the big changes you have made by applying a small change in your daily habits.  You see how you can write a book a page, a paragraph, a word at a time.

When you look into the distant future, you see dreams you couldn’t possibly achieve in the next month or year.  But you can identify the steps that will build that dream, one day at a time, and feel assured that you can achieve that goal if you keep working, like the proverbial tortoise.

But the long view doesn’t just apply to hindsight and foresight.  Getting that distance, that big-picture perspective, gives you a more accurate picture of where you are right now.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the daily grind, drowning at times in the sea of overwhelm.  But if you can get that bird’s eye view of your situation, sometimes you see that the shore is not far away, or that the water is not as deep as you thought.

So take that long view, as you see the year stretching out before you, and be encouraged.

If you’re serious about being a writer, you’ve already discovered that writing works better when you do it consistently.  The best way to get consistent is to have a schedule.  But with our busy lives, this can be easier said than done.  Here are a few tips to develop a writing schedule.

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1. When do you write best?

Look at times when you’ve been successful with writing before.  What time of day works best for your creative juices?  Are you a night owl?  A morning person?  Or do you function best, like me, between 10 am and 2 pm?  Do your best to carve out time during these peak times for writing, and you’ll find your output is better in both quantity and quality.

2. What time is available to you?

Sometimes you can’t always spare time for writing during your best times.  You might have to look at what time you have.  Do you have a chunk of downtime at a certain point of the day?  Do you have little 15 minute breaks peppered through your day?  Use those times.

3.  How will you remember?

It’s all well and good to decide on a good writing time.  But when it comes down to it, if you’re anything like me, you’ll arrive at that designated time and completely forget what you planned it for.  Make a date in your daytimer, or set a reminder on your phone or computer.  Then stick to it.  The more consecutive days you keep this date with your keyboard, the more ingrained your writing habit will become.

4. How will you spend your writing time?

Raw output is great thing, and until you get this well established, it’s all you really need to do.  But once you’ve got a draft down, you’ll need to set aside some of your writing time for editing and revising.  This shouldn’t completely displace your writing time, but you’ll need to spend some of it this way.  Then, when you’ve got a polished manuscript ready to go, you’ll need to set aside some time for agent / publisher hunting.  Then when you have a book published, you’ll need to set aside time for social media and other marketing.  See how this can pile up?  If you follow the above steps each time you need to add another level to your writing / publishing process, then you won’t get overwhelmed.

Good luck with your scheduling.  Happy writing! 🙂 

My to-do list is my best friend, but it can also be my worst enemy.

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There is nothing better than crossing a bunch of things off a list – it really feels like you’ve accomplished something.  (And in my house, I need that tiny little affirming checkmark, cause most of the time the things I do aren’t noticeable and don’t last.)

There is also nothing worse than a to-do list that just keeps getting longer and longer, when I feel like I’m in a sinking ship, bailing water with a teaspoon.  Can you relate?

Here are a few tips I’ve gathered for mastering the to-do list:

1. Baby Steps

Break up big tasks into small, manageable steps.  It’s better to have five defined items on your list that you can cross off quickly than to have one big one that you have sitting there for weeks.

2. Simplify

I first heard the concept of the “Stubby” to-do list from Judith Kolberg and Kathleen Nadeau’s book ADD-friendly ways to organize your life.  The idea is that you choose no more than 5 goals to accomplish (ideally around 3) for the day so you don’t get overwhelmed.

3. Keep it Close

Your to-do list won’t do you any good if you don’t check it.  Keep it somewhere handy and make it part of your routine – first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and at intervals through the day.  Make it a habit to check your list any time you have time to get something done, even if it’s as little as 15 minutes.  I like to use the reminders app on my iPhone, because I have it on me all the time and I can use Siri to add to my list.

4. Make it Matter

If you don’t get an intrinsic reward from checking off a box – like strange little me – make sure you reward yourself in some other small way.  You might want to weight the rewards according to the difficulty or desirability of the task.  Whatever it is that you choose, make sure you are motivated to check off those tasks.

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I hope these tips have helped you tap into the power of using a to-do list.  Let me know how this helps you, or share your own tips, too! 🙂