Nancy: You Say You Want a Resolution

Time to write the pages!

As regular readers of the blog know, we Ladies have spent some time this January talking about our New Year’s resolutions or lack thereof. Many of us have chosen to go the route of using the dawn of 2014 to recalibrate and update e our goals instead of making official declarations. I am one of those in the goals camp. One of the upsides of that approach is that things I haven’t accomplished thus far aren’t lost resolutions or chances. Even if I miss a deadline for a goal, I can reset it and come up with a plan to do better starting now. Technically, the same can be said of resolutions, but words have certain connotations, and failing at a resolution just makes me feel worse than recalibrating a goal.

While some of my goals are specific to finishing drafts and submitting manuscripts for publishing consideration, one is the granddaddy of them all, because if I manage to achieve it, it will make my other writing career goals possible. And that goal doesn’t come with uprights* or a finish line. It’s a process! In a word, it’s prioritization.

Getting the balance right between family, friends, work, health, and leisure is a struggle for many, in fact for most people I know, but I feel like I’m particularly bad at it. Is that because I chose a high-stress, deadline-driven, time-intensive day job? Or did I choose that career path because I can adapt to imbalance (read: too much work) in my life? Either way, I find myself at a crossroads. This past month alone, the things I have sacrificed for the day job include multiple date nights with my husband, hang-out time with my daughter during her last week home over the holidays, at least half of my workouts per week, and my precious few daily hours of writing time (nearly all of them). If I were to make a priority list based on the way I am currently living my life, it would look something like this:

1. Work
2. Work
3. Work
4. Work
5. Loved ones (family/fur babies/friends)
6. Writing
7. Health (fitness/healthy cooking/sleep)
8. Reading/other fun stuff

In that list lies much suckitude. So, what’s a writer to do when the day job becomes the day, evening, weekend, holiday, and vacation day job? I haven’t found an answer to that question yet, so for now, I’m looking for ways to re-prioritize around it, based on my priority wish list:

1. Loves ones
2. Writing
3. Reading/other fun stuff
4. Health
5. Work

Yeah, that’s probably not realistic unless and until I find a much less stressful and intensive day job. Trust me, after a month like this past one, it’s under serious consideration. In the meantime, I can work on the somewhat achievable goal of restructuring my day. Some of the other Ladies have talked about getting up (or attempting to do so) at 5AM to write for two hours before starting my workday. I could do that. Maybe. At least some days. And twice a week, I could cut that back to one hour of writing and throw in an hour of workout time.

When I get to writing and workouts first thing in the morning, I approach both with much more energy and enthusiasm than I can ever muster after a long day at work. And it’s a great feeling to sit down to dinner with my husband knowing that, even if I have to get back on my computer and continue working the ‘day’ job late into the evening, I have a sense of accomplishment regarding my true priorities. Thus far, I’ve only joined the ranks of the 5AM writers a few times in this new year, but as I said earlier, and we’ve said here many times on the blog (as it’s one of our McD class mottos), it’s a process! It’s a goal, and instead of feeling like I’ve already failed to do something I’d resolved to do before January even ends, I will continue to work toward that goal, until I’m getting up at 5AM five days a week.

What are your priorities, and how do you make time for them? For those trying the 5AM writing schedule, how is it working for you? And do you have any tricks or tips to get yourself out of bed at that hour on these cold, dark winter mornings?

*gratuitous post-season football reference

17 thoughts on “Nancy: You Say You Want a Resolution

  1. Wow, Nancy, if I were you, I think instead of finding strategies to get up at 5am, I’d be looking for ways to stay in bed. How did you write 60K words during NaNo? My hat’s off to you!

    I’ve been feeling embarrassed about not writing more. I have few commitments and pressures, and yet, I don’t seem to get it done—I’m just lazy. I wondered if I could shame myself into writing more, and it turns out, I can. I read the site of Hillary Rettig, a time management expert. She has a new book out, The 7 Secrets of the Prolific. Available for download are some time sheets where you write down how you spend every half-hour of every day for a while, then assess with your family if that’s the best way to spend your time. I live alone, but I wondered about how I would feel if I had to show a time sheet to anyone, calling myself a writer, on a day when I didn’t write. And every day since I started the time sheets, I’ve put in at least two hours. Whatever works! As you say, it’s a process.

    • I have seen Ms. Retting mentioned three different times this past week. I think the universe is trying to tell me something! I am going to check out her site – thanks!

      A friend of mine has also taken to using a timer on many tasks so she feels the pressure to focus and finish, and doesn’t spend too much time on less important tasks. I’m not sure if that’s part of the Rettig strategy, but my friend now swears by it. If I do that, I’ll need to take my timer to work and throw people out of my office when their time is up :-)!

      Nancy

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  2. You are getting tons of stuff done! It’s amazing! But it’s really hard to squeeze 25 hours out of 24. It sounds like your sleep cycle has already given some of its share to the rest of your life.

    The only real trick I have for getting up early is that one must go to bed at a reasonable time — depends on the person. Stealing from your sleep time will make your life shorter, and it’s a false economy.

    That said, I was diagnosed almost 20 years ago with CFS, so I’m always on the lookout for “wake-me-up” energy tips. I swear that some D-ribose and Coenzyme Q-10 is helping me. It may be placebo effect, but if the placebo works . . . .

    That said, it doesn’t work if I don’t get at least 7 hours of sleep at night. The more energetic I feel, the more I’m tempted to push boundaries, and then I fall back into a collapse and zombie-ness.

    Speaking of resolutions, Chinese New Year is coming up on the 31rst. Whole new chance for a new year! I like to press the re-set button several times a year. I find there’s such an energy to starting things that I’m a little addicted to having a New Year, no matter what the culture.

    • I like your philosophy about hitting the reset button. I agree, we have to be prepared to do that when things aren’t working. Right now, I feel like keeping this job means giving up everything else in my life when I’m crashing on deadlines, and for me, that’s definitely not working!

      Nancy

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  3. Hey Nancy, I’m one of the “Five a.m.” writers and so far it’s working better than when I tried to write after working all day, but nearly as well as I hoped. I’m alternating swim days with writing mornings and while the swim thing is working great–the writing isn’t. I’m not sure if that’s a lack of commitment to my writing (I tend to get distracted by pre-work stuff) or if it’s because I’m rolling up to Act III and I’ve lost my focus. Either way, I need to get unstuck–I’ve got nine weeks to my self-imposed “finish my draft” deadline!

    • I’m glad to hear the swimming h is going well – I really need to get to AM workouts because then I feel physically better all day. But I’m sorry the AM writing isn’t following suit. It worked well for me during NaNo when I could bring myself to do it, but I wasn’t on an impossible day job deadline in November. If I had been? I think I would have been lucky to get 10% of the word count that I did.

      Nancy

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  4. Hey Nancy, I know exactly what you’re going through, and I feel for you. My life was like this from the time I qualified as a chartered accountant (ahem years ago) until the end of 2011. If I’d hated it, I would have done something about it, but the work was interesting and challenging, there was just too much of it.

    I tried all sorts of tricks to streamline my workload and work time, and to force the things I cared about into my overcrowded schedule; some of them worked for a while, but in the end it only reduced my already too-short sleep time and increased my stress. After I tried everything else, I took the radical option. I quit my day job. Now for the first time in my life I have time for my family and friends, time to write, to cook, to go to the ballet, theatre and opera and to read. Obviously the thing I’ve given up is financial security but I can tell you I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

    Good luck with finding a better work/life balance. It’s a tough one!

    • That’s my fear, that no amount of reshuffling will really yield more time. As Michaelina said, you can’t get 25 hours out of a 25-hour day.

      I haven’t yet figured out how to get around the financial aspects of the day job, but have been giving serious consideration to going to work for a consulting company and capping the hours per year I am willing to work.

      Nancy

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      • Shuffling is tough, but if you really like your dayjob, it’s possible that you could be a seasonable writer — you write on weekends, and you write in November when there’s no deadline. Keep your hand in, get your financial security, and then when you are ready to quit, you can do it.

        I love my day job (for the most part), and I love having the extra money, and it’s also a job where I need to keep polishing my English (so I can justify a little writing on company time) — but it’s a job with no raises, so in a sense, if I want a decent retirement, I have to have a “side-hustle” — I’d really like to make that writing, since I enjoy it.

        @Rachel. (-: Blogging is a LOT easier when you have friends to do it with. There’s the buddy system at work, there (don’t want to let the team down), but also, I’ve gotten great ideas from reading other people’s posts. (And then there’s a weird synergy, where without consulting beforehand, we all start talking about conflict, or first scenes or something. Absolutely amazing, and I really feel like I’m part of something bigger.)

        I’m a little scared to start blogging by myself. I could possibly do it once a week, but I worry that my solitary little blog post will look lonely out there without friends to chat with . . . . I know that several of the Ladies are doing their own blogs, though. So, there’s inspiration there!

  5. All I can say is that I don’t know where you all find the energy to keep up this fantastic blog. I read your entries every day and always find them interesting, but don’t even seem to be able to find the energy to comment. I’m immersed in revising my first draft (slooooow progress), as well as busy day job (and two little children – I’ll just throw all the excuses in) and just find that my brain is too tired even to make the effort to say something in return. So, my point is that you should all congratulate yourselves on making the time to do this – it’s a real achievement – and I’m quite sure that the act of doing the thinking to write all the blog posts on various aspects of craft will help move your stories forward, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now!

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Rachel! But I have to say, the ‘two little kids’ thing is huge! I only had one, and she is all grown up now, but raising kids takes a whole other level of energy, so give yourself serious props, too :).

      Nancy

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  6. When I was working (o so long ago), I found myself in the workaholic rat race…part of that was my doing (I hated saying no and I hated doing things half-assed), and part was work — we had won some great contracts and the work began to pile up. After a time of mucho-work and zippo-life, I had a very frank discussion with my boss. I told him that I loved my job, but I didn’t like how hard I was working…I was burning out. I said to him that for me, this is a job, not a career. I’ll do it to the best of my ability, but I’m working to live, not living to work. I’m fortunate that he accepted that…he understood that every company needs spokes in the wheel, just as it needs the axle to hold the wheel up. It meant that I wouldn’t be considered for promotions, etc., but I was okay with that, because I knew in the long run that rising to the top of the corporate ladder wasn’t something I was striving for…and I was right. Here I am, six years later, a SAHM and aspiring writer, with only memories of my former job.

    Good luck in making the decision that’s right for you.

    • I should add that my boss thought I was working hard because I WANTED the promotions, etc., and when I told him that’s not what I had in mind career-wise, he adjust my work and responsibilities. I still did a good job, just not as much work.

    • I have been using that phrase, ‘I’m working to live, not living to work’ many times this past week. It needs to become my official motto.

      Nancy

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  7. Pingback: Nancy: The Intentional Writer | Eight Ladies Writing

  8. Pingback: Nancy: Changes Part 1 – The Office | Eight Ladies Writing

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