Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Writer's Mind: Staying on Track

Welcome to April!

Camp NaNo, exams, papers, warm-weather triggered distraction, and the strange, Springtime urge to run have all hit me like a freight train that's been taking jiu-jitsu lessons from Chuck Norris.

I thought I'd share with you today how I attempt to stay on track in spite of the craziness that is college life. Maybe you'll find it useful. Maybe you'll find it stupid. I don't know, but it's what the post is for today.

Enter my handy-dandy whiteboard.

I apologize for the fuzziness of this picture.
You can see what's really important, though--
the color coding!
Of course, it's color coded (why wouldn't it be?). Blue means schoolwork, which is why it takes up far too much space on the board. Since purple is my favorite color, I use it for the fun stuff--my writing. Black is chores, because it reminds me if the chores don't get done, everything's going to look really gross and dirty.

I typically list weekly goals at the top. These are things that take more than two days to complete. Common items here include the number of times I want to exercise that week, my word count or novel planning goal for the week, and goals for papers or large projects I'm working on.

Some of these goals will get broken up into smaller goals in the two-day section below. I tried doing one day goals, but then I would get frustrated when life threw curve-balls my way and I didn't accomplish a lot on my to-do list.

It also gives me more options. If I don't feel like cleaning on Friday, I can clean on Saturday. But it ensures that the room will get cleaned at least every two days (in theory). If I really am interested in Parasitology, I can make new note cards, draw out parasite life cycles, and make online review materials on Friday and then push my History homework off until Saturday.

Why do I like my whiteboard?

It's easy to clean off and change what I need to do, while also giving me the satisfaction of crossing something off my to-do list.

Nothing lights a fire under my backside like seeing a list of twenty things to do in the two-day section. On those days, I don't even need to turn on my Facebook-blocking app; I'm glued to my work.

It also makes sure I remember to do (almost) everything. Sometimes I have a brain fart and forget to write something down on the whiteboard. Then I'm really lucky if the task gets done.

How do I decide what to do first?

Some of it is by mood, especially if it's something simple, like making review materials for myself. However, for the most part, I try to think of what absolutely needs done within one day, then within two days, and so on. I do the stuff that's coming up quickly first. Schoolwork trumps pretty much everything else, except eating and (sometimes) sleep.

This is all great, but what does it have to do with writing?

If I didn't write down what I wanted to write, it would never get done.

I'm serious. By putting writing activities down on my white board, I legitimize my writing time. It's just as important as taking out the trash and putting my laundry in my drawers. Since my primary vocation is that of a student, it has to sit behind academic activities, but it's still something that I've decided to make a priority.

What tools do you use to prioritize and stay on track? How's Camp NaNo going for all of you brave campers out there? 

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