What would you do with 96 hours all to yourself? My wife has decided to take our four children on a camping trip this coming Sunday. She knows me much better than to ask if I want to spend four days roughing it -- I most certainly do not, as the "great outdoors" is just not my thing -- but for the past few summers, she's taken our kids on an adventure all on her own, and this summer, she wants the adventure to be a camping trip. As a result, I'll have four free days to myself beginning on Sunday, with no obligations other than to care for our dog and teach my final MBA class of the term on Monday evening. My lazy-self wants to use those four days to sit on my couch and binge-watch Netflix, getting up only when nature screams for me to do so and when the pizza deliveries arrive. But my better-self has better intentions: I plan to spend my time writing. Not writing this newsletter, though; I hope you'll forgive my decision to take a two-issue sabbatical, which means the next newsletter you'll get from me will be one week from today. I plan to spend my time writing a book. Which book? I'm not sure yet. I actually have four very different books in my head right now, and I think they all have the potential to be quite good. The problem is that they're not eager to come out. I'm a master procrastinator, and I have been since I was a child. I've always done my best work under pressure, and you may recall from my newsletter last week that I don't use the word "always" lightly. But in this case, it's accurate. In my defence, if you stay up for all-nighters to start and finish assignments the day before they're due, and then consistently earn A+ grades for those last-minute efforts, you're not ever provided with an incentive to change. For many things in life, you have other people to hold you accountable and keep procrastination at bay. Your teacher at school. Your manager at work. Your partner in life. Your children. Your friends. But procrastination is a problem when you're doing anything for yourself because the things you decide to do for yourself -- like writing, or learning, or building -- rarely come with hard deadlines to meet. When you're attempting to write a book, you don't have a deadline unless you're working with a publisher -- and I'm not. So you write when you feel like it, somehow everything else becomes a more urgent priority... even those things that are not urgent at all. It's why I've been "working on" one of those four book ideas since my 39th birthday... which was three-and-a-half years ago. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid procrastination, some of which are outlined in this article. And here's how I'm going to put them to use: 1. Get organized Check! I have time set aside on Saturday to map out my book, chapter-by-chapter. 2. Set simple, achievable goals Check! I'm going to write 10,000 words a day. That sounds like a lot... and it is. But this post up until this point is 537 words long, and I’ve been writing for about 25 minutes. So... it's an ambitious target, but it's achievable. 3. Create a timeline/schedule Check! I have my calendar blocked off, and I'm committed to not doing anything else but writing during my designated blocks. 4. Set a deadline Check! I'm going to have a rough draft ready by Wednesday night when my family gets home. It's not going to be publishable, mind you... but it will be written. And I've always found editing easier than writing anyway. 5. Get rid of distractions This one will be tough because I do love Netflix. But tip #7 will come into play here. 6. Time yourself Check! I plan to use the Pomodoro Technique, writing for 25 uninterrupted minutes and then allowing myself a five-minute break. We'll see how that goes. 7. Take a break Check! See above. I'll give myself a bit longer for lunch. 8. Use incentives Check - I'm great at giving myself incentives! Google Docs has an option to "Display word count while typing." I'm going to turn that feature on, and as soon as I hit 10,000 words each day, I'm going to stop writing... then the rest of the day belongs to Netflix, with delicious snacks. Yes, I know I shouldn't use food as a reward. But let's address one character flaw at a time, shall we? 9. Get the hard stuff done first This one I'm going to ignore. Because if I try to start my writing with what I know is going to be my toughest chapter, I'll spend four days on that chapter. My goal is to produce a solid output, so I'm starting with something easy and letting myself build momentum. 10. Tell someone about your goal Check. It took me 837 words... but I'm using this post so that all of you can help keep me accountable.
Ideas are awesome. But they don't do anybody any good locked up in your brain. Plus, I suspect there's true power in being able to set and meet your own deadlines. We'll see. The fun starts on Sunday morning. Wish me luck. - dp