Right Now: 5 decisions I made so I can be more productive in 2022

I have a huge backlog of work to get done this year. Why I have this backlog is a long story, worthy of a thick novel or at least a dramedy mini-series, but let’s just leave it at: Other Things Claimed Front Burner.

This backlog includes ideas that have been tinkered with and expanded into “viability” status as well as some I’ve started and – for various reasons – stopped over the past few months. Wait, did I say months? Haha, I meant to say years. And, sad to say, a few of these have been sitting on my “get this done” list for a decade or more.

These projects include scripts (features, shorts, and TV series), novels (including sequels and 5+-book series), script-to-novel conversions, nonfiction books, ebooks, and guided journals. And then there are various production projects: booklets, calendars, coloring books, greeting cards, jewelry lines, and hand-sewn crafts. Not kidding about those last two. I love handcraft work.

That’s a lot to aim for this year, and I have every intention of blasting through this backlog. But the question is: What’s the best way, short of scheduling my headaches? (Which, by the way, I am perfectly willing to do in the interest of efficiency.)

I bent thought on this matter and came up with the following five decisions – call them resolutions if you must, though I intensely dislike the term – to ramp up my productivity in Year Double-Two. Feel free to borrow any or all of these decisions for your own backlog.

  1. Unplug. When I say “unplug,” I don’t mean never going online. That’s not even doable. Seriously, how would the bills get paid? No, I mean just spending less time scrolling through posts that, by and large, add nothing to my life. Oh sure, there’s the occasional brilliant insight I wouldn’t want to miss, not to mention keeping up with family and friends. Those are the exact reasons I got involved with social media to begin with. But we all know what a time-suck social media can be. My plan is to check twice a day – morning and evening – and otherwise put my computer on airplane mode.
  2. Track My Progress. How do I know if I’m getting ahead unless I keep track and do a review? Well, that question answers itself. And it does so with charts and checklists, most of which are simple (the best!) and effective. I’ll share those in the coming weeks.
  3. Practice Flexible Pivoting. Many of my projects are long-term (novels and scripts don’t get done in a week unless you’re Sylvester Stallone*), and sometimes it’s hard to immerse into one project through its entirety. At least it is for me. So, what I need to do is be able to turn attention to another project (short- or long-term) and work on that. Then, when I get sparked on the previous project again, I can turn back to it. The key is to stay as productive as I can for as long as I can – and to be able to jump from one to the other with ease. This might take some practice, which I’ll note in my progress charts (see #2 above).
  4. Take Naps. Not kidding about this one. Daily R&R is a great way to get refreshed and renewed, at least until the powers-that-be determine we can board cruise ships again. An afternoon snooze has been determined – scientifically, I mean, not just from me doing surveys with myself – to be beneficial. Besides, I’m a morning person, and here’s the cool thing: When I take a nap, I get two mornings out of a day. Quite efficient.
  5. Celebrate Every Little Thing. This might be the most important of all efforts to be productive. No need to wait until “The End” or “Fade Out” – I’m going to dance around my office when I finish a scene or complete the prototype of an earring design. If I set a goal of writing 1,000 words per day, but can complete only 250 one day – so what? I won’t beat myself up for not hitting 1,000. (I don’t work well for someone who beats me up on a bad day, even if it’s me I’m working for.) I’ll high-five myself for getting those 250 words done.

I’ll share my progress, good and bad, throughout this year, along with charts, checklists, and other cool tools I come across or create. Stay tuned for updates.

* Word has it Stallone finished “Rocky” (the first one) in nine days. I salute him.

I Do Declare: Adjusting expectations and pace does wonders for productivity

This is my preferred pace for novel writing.

This time last year I did a mid-year check-in proclaiming that the year was half over and it wasn’t anything close to what I thought it would be.

That was mostly because I didn’t foresee a worldwide pandemic and shutdown, which threw all my carefully laid plans into a whirlwind state.

This year it’s different. Mostly because I lowered my expectations. No, that’s not right. My expectations weren’t lowered – that would imply that my standards were lessened, and that’s not happening – as much as adjusted.

I used to have a massive to-do list with calendar pages filled in and check boxes next to each item, all of which were color-coded according to media, genre, and due date. I threw everything I had into getting those boxes checked, and I got frustrated if I didn’t meet the goals I’d set. I then would spend time trying to figure out how to get back on track. Back in the fast lane.

But after spending a year in a forced slow-down, I decided to revise the way I do things. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t immediate. There were lots of fits and starts and some aggravation along the way. But I finally came to “new and improved” methods for productivity.

Nowadays, I set my big-picture goals and work my system (butt in chair every day; finish what I started; write first, then edit) in a way that will get things accomplished. I found out that if I work the system, I’ll reach the goals.

I adjusted my pace too. Last year the plan was to hit the ground running, go at full pace, and get stuff done. Yeah, and we know how that went, don’t we? Screeching halt followed by a reassessment of … well, just about everything.

Over the course of the year, I slowed down – there was no alternative, really – and worked at a more determined pace. More focused. More deliberate.

Instead of pedal to the metal all the time, with my motor running even when I took breaks, I stopped the vehicle and took time to look around and take stock of where I was, where I wanted to be, and what I needed to do to get there.

Instead of go-go-go, it was look-ponder-plan. And that felt good. So much better than the frantic pace I’d been on before.

All that said, what have this different pace and adjusted expectations helped me accomplish?

  • A book deal
  • A screenplay that tied for 1st runner up in a prestigious competition
  • A line of journal books into production
  • A line of crafts into production
  • More clarity in my work and my plans
  • A calmer mind and spirit
  • A consistently better mood

That last bullet point is reason enough to consider changing how to go about getting things done.

I’m glad I did.

I Do Declare: Summer is upon us and growth is everywhere

Tomato growth is a piece of cake compared to personal growth.

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice – the first day of Summer, the longest day (in daylight hours) of the year – and once again I’m reminded of the song “Turn” by the Byrds, which starts this way:

To everything
Turn, turn, turn
There is a season
Turn, turn, turn

I delved into this in a previous post, noting some of the eternal truths about the passing of time: namely, that it’s fleeting, that the current state (whether good or bad) shall pass eventually, that there’s a season for everything.

Seasons change. But while they’re here, they have something to teach us.

In the Summer season, it’s all about growth.

This season is when the corn stalks get taller, the watermelons get fatter, and most produce (the seasonal crop, anyway) is ready to be picked.

The seeds that were planted weeks or months ago have grown into the fruits and vegetables and flowers that we enjoy now.

Of course, it wasn’t instantaneous. A lot happens between seed in the ground and tomato on the vine. Cultivating. Planting. Fertilizing. Weeding. Some seeds don’t make it and you try again. Because the growth is worth it.

I love the Summer analogy applied to life. I find it fascinating to ponder the moments I’ve spent cultivating relationships and opportunities, watching seeds of ideas come to fruition, laboring over fertilizing the good and enduring the painful weeding out of the bad.

Just like the berries and cucumbers and roses and tomatoes and gardenias and squash and hydrangeas I’ve been tending lately, the meticulous efforts of growth in my life are a lot of work. But so worth it.