“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
According to success guru, Brian Tracy, it takes 21 days of repetition to form a good habit–although bad ones seem to require a much shorter period! So, how does one form a habit of excellence?
Discipline! I've heard that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to be an expert at something. But continued practice requires discipline. I think my discipline needs a tune-up.
Over the years, Brian Tracy's books (try Eat That Frog!) and seminars (Try Psychology of Achievement or How to Master Your Time) have helped me increase my productivity with effective time management strategies, ideas for overcoming procrastination, and goal-setting techniques.
I applied these ideas regularly when I worked in the business world, but somehow when I started writing, I threw it all out the window. Other than a to-do list with deadlines, I haven't been as disciplined or productive as I'd like.
Why? No clue.
So, after a less-than-productive day/week/month (although I did manage to pound out 1,000 words today), I've decided to make a daily plan/productivity strategy. It looks something like this…
- Write 1,500+ net words/day at least 5 days/week (I track this in a file in Scrivener)
- Finish daily goals on to-do list (e.g. write query letter or synopsis, submit contest entry, critique for partner, etc.)
- Only check email three times/day (mid-morning, lunch, before bed) unless daily goals are met
- Work out early, or wait until afternoon slump
- Limit Facebook and blog visits to once/day unless daily goals are met
- No reading for fun unless daily goals are met
I'm trying to pay attention to my best times of day to tackle different tasks. For example, I know I am better at writing before 10:30 in the morning, and again in the late afternoon/evening. Other things, like educational reading, working out, or running errands, are best handled during my less productive hours.
My daily plan is a work in progress–like my manuscript–but if I keep working on it, hopefully I can move closer to excellence.