So on May 8th, I made a list of things that I wanted and needed to get done. It looked something like this:
- Help Grandma check in to her flight electronically
- Catch up on the Podcast series I am listening to and listen to four episodes
- Re-do my self-enforced schedule so that I had homework in the afternoons instead of mornings, adding an hour of social media time for building my author platforms such as Twitter and Facebook interactions, and finally, adding an hour to use the language learning software I bought a year ago but haven’t used since
- Update the social media links in the author bios for the West Oak, OR character blog
- Write at least one blog post on either this blog, Coffee House Writers, or Functionally Fictional.
- Work towards getting myself out of the rut I am in on my WIP novel and start an extensive character questionnaire for the main character
- Read 15 pages of the AP Stylebook Reference for my editing class. It is probably a mix of the most interesting little tidbits and the worst, most boring entries on a whole bunch of topics you will ever find. It is work to try and read seven pages, let alone 15!
- Read two out of four articles we had to read for the editing class. A mix of boring and interesting topics
- Do it all by 6 p.m. so that I could drive Grandma to the airport an hour away and see her off
I only focused on the task at hand. One task at a time. Not only did I listen to four podcast episodes, I listened to a total of five. I also wrote two blog posts on this blog instead of one.
By having that looming deadline, it helped focus me to get things done and get them done, now. I used it as a motivator to get my butt in gear and start working on the things I needed to work on. And I ended up having a super productive day.
So, how does this work with long-term projects? All of the projects I mentioned were short term.
Step one: set mini-deadlines for yourself. I will have scenes X, Y, and Z written by tomorrow at 9 p.m. I will write 500 words on my WIP today by 10 a.m. I will write 10,000 words of my novel done by the end of this month. I will write 100 pages of my novel by September 30th of this year.
All of these goals set a specific deadline. Step two of using deadlines to motivate yourself is to treat them as sacred. If you keep moving the deadlines around or not meeting them then your brain won’t motivate you to do anything. It will treat the deadline as flexible and give you permission to procrastinate.
Step three is to schedule in procrastination. If you miss a day, just make sure you can make up that day’s goal the next day.
Finally, step four: be realistic. Set your deadlines far enough away that you give yourself the time to get it done. Work in some wiggle room. If you miss a day, make sure that the ability to make up for it is possible the next day. If you set your bar low enough, you will be pleasantly surprised when you surpass the goal.
Use deadlines as motivators to help you reach your goals and maximize your productivity. I promise, with the right mindset, it will help.