So glad to have you with us at the dawn of a new year. Which, actually, isn’t really since we’ve arbitrarily made “time demarcations” and created calendars, but WHATEVER! We’ll just keep going along with the whole new year thang!
With that in mind, I’ve been looking at my own calendar and I’m all WTF with this crazy? I try to stay on top of things, and keep projects moving and make deadlines, but when I lay it all out, it can be a little daunting.
Here are five things I do to get my writing
crap stuff organized at the start of a new year. These tips include some health things I pay attention to because being healthy also helps my writing. Even if you aren’t a writer-type, these tips might work for you, too!
1. OL’ SKOOL CALENDAR. Go ahead. Laugh. I do. But the ol’ skool still works best for me and I’ll tell you why. The act of writing something down actually helps you remember and can help you store that info in a place you can retrieve it. Not just in the calendar, but in your BRAIN calendar. To that end, writing it down physically not only locks that in there, but encourages you to meet the goal because you physically manifested the act of scheduling it. Seriously. This ain’t no damn woo-woo stuff. Because SCIENCE!
So I keep wall calendars and a pocket calendar to write my writing deadlines and goals down, in accordance with schedules I’ve arranged with my publisher(s) and editors and all of that. For doctor’s appointments or dinner engagements or whatever, I put those into my phone calendar. My pocket calendar usually has the most stuff in it. The wall calendars have some other stuff that’s not as pressing and besides, I like to look at the pictures. ULTERIOR MOTIVE, PEOPLE!
2. Check in with all my peeps. Some of you may do this, but I try to make it a habit to check in around the beginning of the year with all the people with whom I’ve got projects going on to see if there’s anything that’s come up that we need to think about or whatever. A lot of times, my peeps have the same idea and they contact me before I get off my ass to do it, and BOOM. I already have a Skype session scheduled for this weekend to talk about projects. You want to get that stuff taken care of ASAP before deadlines creep up on you. Don’t wait for somebody else to do it. Just get on the email or the phone or whatever you use and schedule something! Even if all you do is sit around and chat about various nutty things you’ve come across (not that Jove and I do that… ::cough cough::).
3. CLEAN YOUR OFFICE. In this regard, I mean your home office. Even if you’re not a writer, it helps your state of mind to clear out the clutter and get your files in order. I recommend doing this at your work office, too. Back to the home office — it’s tax time, folks. And for those of us who write and publish, we have to file our writing earnings for taxes, too. I try to do this as soon as I receive my last tax form, because then I have them all and I sit down and go through my receipts and files (I’ve gotten much better about keeping those organized since I started writing seriously) and I send it all off to my accountant. Doing my own taxes would save some money, but not much, in the great scheme of things, and I want to make sure my taxes are done through an accountant because it’s a pain in the butt to do my own.
And NO. That is not my office. How horrifying that would be. I’d be too embarrassed to post a photo of my office if it looked like that. I don’t know how anybody gets work done in there. See how distracting the clutter is? YIKES!
NOTE: This tax filing stuff applies to US folks. I know it doesn’t work the same in other countries. Too bad. You’re all missing out on the stress and freak-out of tax season here in the US.
Anyway, getting your office in order not only helps you organize, but it also helps clear your mind, and you can actually focus on work rather than all the crazy piled up in your workspace. Clutter can actually create stress. Even WebMD notes that! So think about getting things in order.
4. EXERCISE. I don’t do resolutions because if I need to change something about my life, I just do it. I don’t need a new year to shoot for. But some of you do, and if you have made a resolution to that end, well, here’s your chance. Do it. Get a FitBit or some other watch thingie that keeps track of your steps. Get a workout/walking partner. I have to exercise regularly because if I don’t, I feel cranky and stagnant and I can’t be a productive writer. Exercise doesn’t have to be crossfit or Navy Seal training or whatever the hell. It can be a walk outside for half a mile. Take the dog with you. Or the kids. Or both. How about your spouse/partner? Go for a walk every day or every other day. If the weather’s crappy — too crappy to walk, well, there are alternatives. I have weights, resistance bands, and an exercise ball at home and I can do some pretty cool core workouts with those. Which I do almost every day in addition to a walk and cardio.
Point being, do something active. It doesn’t have to be hardcore. Studies show that some activity is better than none and pretty darn good for you. And getting outside is really therapeutic and helps your emotional and psychological health, too.
TIP: Don’t fling yourself into a new exercise program all gung-ho. If you haven’t been exercising, start slow. Take a walk a day for a week. Go a little farther the next week and add some other exercises. Do the same thing the week after. Change up your routines. Americans are a HOLY CRAP IT’S BEEN A WEEK WHY DO I NOT HAVE A BODY LIKE [insert celebrity here] culture. Well, because you probably don’t have a personal trainer and a personal chef and you don’t have 5 hours a day to do nothing but work out. Think of exercise as a way to unburden your soul and lighten your mood and feel better and healthier. It’s a habit to encourage, not something icky to do and then throw away because you don’t get results within a week. You won’t notice results for a while, and the way you will is that you’ll be able to walk farther and do more reps and — most important — YOU’LL FEEL GOOD. It’s slow, incremental change and the most important thing about it is it becomes habitual, so that you incorporate it into your life.
5. Change one thing with your diet. Unless your diet is awesome and healthy, in which case, keep it up! I have to pay attention to my diet because if I don’t, I feel icky. I don’t like feeling icky because it doesn’t lend itself to writing. And life in general, actually. So if you drink a lot of soda, stop. Or cut back and slowly stop, if that works for you. I drink a lot of sparkling water and herbal and decaf teas. I’ve been off caffeine (though I do still do decaf) for about 5 years now. I don’t miss it. If you eat too many sweets, reach for the nuts instead of the sweets next time. Try cooking differently and more healthfully. Have a chat with a foodie friend to find out how to do that. It’s not that hard and it’s fun to cook with a spouse or partner and try new things and new ways of fooding, if you will.
TIP: When I went off caffeine, that means I went off pretty much all soda, because a lot of different sodas are loaded with caffeine. Sure, there’s diet lemon-lime stuff, but whatever. I drink sparkling water and get the fizz without all the sugar and caffeine. So quitting caffeine was one thing I did that helped with TWO things. I stopped being irritable and cranky without it (I really like waking up and not needing caffeine to get going) AND I quit soda.
These are things that help me get organized for a new year of writing. Some are things I have to be vigilant about and things I do all the time. Others are part of a schedule I keep with regard to organizing my office and the like. Hopefully, they can help you, too.