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My discipline needs a tune-up

“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…

  1. Write 1,500+ net words/day at least 5 days/week (I track this in a file in Scrivener)
  2. Finish daily goals on to-do list (e.g. write query letter or synopsis, submit contest entry, critique for partner, etc.)
  3. Only check email three times/day (mid-morning, lunch, before bed) unless daily goals are met
  4. Work out early, or wait until afternoon slump
  5. Limit Facebook and blog visits to once/day unless daily goals are met
  6. 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.

Tell your friends!


  1. Christine


    I totally agree with this post as well. One reason why I believe I am so freaked about the GH is that I deliberately set an earlier deadline. This is forcing me to squeeze in writing whenever I can regardless of the conflicts (like daughter’s toe breaking Friday afternoon).

    I find if I set goals for the year, break them down into monthly tasks, and then shift the focus to daily tasks I accomplish most of what is on my list.

    As an unpublished writer, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that daily productivity is the only way you will become published.

    Now, the rest of my world takes a dive when I am completely focused on the writing. I have a general household goal/task timeline alongside the writing goals timeline to help focus on long range goals and monthly goals. Its the daily chores and mundane errands that slip by the wayside. I tend to cringe and hide from the in-box for the family and all the necessary filing of paperwork. However, I do manage to cook and do laundry. Deep cleaning has fallen by the wayside till the 21st. Triage is in place.

    Onward ho!

  2. Pingback: High Resolution « The Edited Life

  3. Reply

    I love the Aristotle quote, since I’m a big fan of excellence. I feel too many people feel they are only successful when they reach perfection, which is why so many are disappointed.

    I think your daily strategy is a good plan, and I’m curious how well you’ve been able to keep that pace up. I did notice on your 1 Jan post a revision to 1,000 words a day. That is still pretty amazing.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Reply

      Thanks, Rob. That Aristotle quote is my all-time favorite. I even used it in my grad school graduation speech (which I only survived thanks to 3 years of Toastmasters).

      I agree with you about excellence vs. perfection. My younger son struggles with his desire to be perfect out of the gate with every new sport he tries. Very frustrating for us as parents.

      As far as the 1000 wpd goal, that seems to be a good number for me right now. Occasionally I write less, but usually more. Currently, I’m in edit mode, so I can’t measure my productivity the same way, but I’m getting ready to start a new MS. Usually I write closer to 2-3000 wpd in the beginning because it’s fresh and exciting. My record is 9K.

      I met an author recently that used to write 15K/day! If only. Just think how many books I could write in a year!

      Thanks for popping in, and good luck with your own writing!

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