I recently posted on Facebook about how I was going to change my ways. Specifically, I mentioned that I intend to become a morning person. But it’s more than that. I’m talking a total life reboot, and this blog post today officially marks day one of my reboot plan.
I believe the goals I have laid out for myself–I’ll elaborate on them in just a bit–will make me a better, more productive, happier person.
So, what brings this on, you ask?
Last October, Wil posted on his blog about how he intended to reboot his life. Wil had fallen into a rut. He didn’t like the way he looked, the things he was doing, or the effect his choices were having on those around him. He didn’t like the way he felt on a daily basis.
Things needed to change.
To that end, Wil drew up a seven-point list of target goals: drink less beer, read more, write more, watch more movies, get better sleep, eat better food, and exercise more. Before you jump his case about watching more movies and reading more, understand that as an actor and a writer Wil is specifically interested in studying each medium to better himself in his chosen field. He goes on to explain each point and its importance to him.
Every month since his initial announcement he’s posted an update to let folks know how he’s doing, as well as to hold himself accountable.
He has inspired me to do the same.
My goals are slightly different and more specific to me, as yours should be if you decide to do a reboot as well. Writing these goals down and announcing them in this way is part of making the reboot an official action plan, not just an unvoiced wish to change things. Thus, here are my reboot goals:
- Become a morning person
- Exercise more
- Eat healthier
- Drink more water
- Spend less time online
- Have more fun
- Finish writing projects
Each goal interconnects, just as Wil’s goals did. They are equally important in relation to the total reboot equation. But if I had to put a priority on one goal above all the others, it would be to finish more writing projects. For me, that’s what this reboot is all about.
But, let’s look at each goal and I’ll offer an explanation or two as to why it is a vital goal.
Become a morning person
Those who know me know that I have always been a night owl. Late to bed, later to rise.
Much of that had to do with my former job as editor of a local newspaper. I’d often be at work scurrying to meet final deadlines at 11 or 12 at night, or later in some instances. By the time I got home, there was no way I could go straight to bed. I was too amped up and my mind was swirling with thoughts about the news of the day or thinking about the next day’s slate of news coverage. It would take a good hour to two hours to wind down so that I could get to sleep, which meant it was late morning by the time I woke up.
When the newspaper was “restructured” three years ago—Gannett employees or former employees know what I’m talking about—and I was unceremoniously sent packing despite my long tenure as an accomplished, well-regarded editor, my affinity for late nights stayed with me. I didn’t have anything to get up early for, after all.
I also mistakenly believed I could use the lateness of the hour to work on my writing, unfettered by TV and other distractions. But, honestly, whenever I did try to work on a story or novel into the wee hours of the morning, I grew immensely sleepy. My energy level had already been drained. Used up during the course of the day, though on what, exactly, it’s hard to say.
In short, my best intentions never seemed to be getting me anywhere. My novel stalled. My short stories went unfinished. I found myself spending more time surfing the net or watching late-night TV than using the time to write. Procrastination has me firmly clenched in its jaws.
Recently, I was listening to an online presentation by Jay Papasan, an author and motivational speaker as part of Chandler Bolt’s Self-Publishing Success Summit. He spoke about the advantages or being a morning person and how studies have proven that people who start their day earlier have more energy, more creativity, and more of a propensity to get things done. I’m sure there will be others who will argue against it, but from my personal standpoint, it’s clear the late-night schtick I’ve grown accustomed to isn’t working.
I know becoming a morning person isn’t going to be easy. Today, I got up at 8:30. That’s a good start, considering I often don’t wake up until 9:30, 10 or later. I’d like to get to the point where I can wake up at 6 every day. It certainly isn’t going to happen overnight. Papasan, in fact, says it will take 66 days before such an adjustment becomes a habit.
So consider this Day One.
Exercise more/eat healthier/drink more water
I’m lumping these three reboot goals together for obvious reasons. This is all about taking better care of my body, and as an offshoot of that, my mental outlook. I want to feel better about myself and that means losing weight, toning up, exercising more and eating better.
Writers are a somewhat lethargic lot. We’re more comfortable sitting in front of a computer than we are pounding the pavement or hitting the gym. But if I’m going to achieve better physical health, I’ve got to get physical too. I read somewhere that a good rule to follow is to work for 50 minutes, then take a 15- to 20-minute break. So if I walk the dog or go a few miles on my stationary bike in that window, I’ll get in more exercise and, hopefully, re-energize myself for another 50-minute writing block.
As for eating better, that means fewer fast-food combo meals. I’ve already cut back to some extent, but I know I can do better. It’s hard because my former job made me grow accustomed to that fast-food fix at any hour of the night. I plan to eat meals when meals are supposed to be eaten, including a good breakfast which I have tended to skip). Late-night snacks will hopefully become a thing of the past under this plan. And, when I do get a knack for fast food, I plan to stick with the smaller size rather than up-sizing to medium or large or king-size.
Along with that will be a change in drinking habits. While Wil had an affinity for beer, I have an affinity for diet colas. There’s ample evidence out there that diet drinks are less healthy than once believed, and can actually be detrimental to your waistline. I don’t plan to go back to drinking non-diet colas (I just don’t like the taste) because that isn’t healthy either. And, I don’t plan to go cold turkey. I’m an addict to diet colas, so I’m going to have to ween myself off it more slowly. I’m already swapping out every other cola with a bottle of water and I drink a glass of V-8 with each meal. Hey, that’s the equivalent of one complete serving of fruits and veggies, which also satisfies my “eat healthier” plan!
Spend less time online
This goal is huge. I love to read, I love to learn about new things. Every day I find myself scouring my Facebook feed, not so much as to check in on what everyone is doing and talking about, but to discover new articles about the writing craft. Many of you are familiar with my Around the Web posts on this blog where I share links to some of the interesting articles I come across.
I am a constant learner.
But, truthfully, there is a time when enough is enough. There is a time when you need to put all you’ve learned into use, or what good is it really? That means closing the book on Facebook, closing the web browsers, and putting my ass to work on my writing.
I know I won’t quit scrolling through my Facebook feed entirely, but I plan to at least limit the amount of time that I spend online. Perhaps to one or two of the 15-minute breaks I mentioned earlier. Once in the morning, once in the evening. The time I save by being offline is time I can easily apply to my writing tasks.
Same goes for reading my emails and other online distractions.
Finish more writing
All of the above, of course, directly relates to and influences this goal. But unlike Wil’s plan, which is to simply write more, my plan is to not only write more but finish more of my writing. I have way too many projects in various stages of incompletion. Ideas I started with a full head of steam only to see stalled halfway through. Stories I’ve finished writing but never bothered revising to perfection.
I have already updated my writing calendar for the remainder of the year, assigning each month to a specific project. It hasn’t worked so far, but I didn’t have a plan to reboot my life either. Now I do.
Along with finishing my writing projects comes this caveat: submitting them. It does no good if the myriad number of stories I’ve got in my file cabinet never see the light of day. If I’m going to really, truly make waves in the publishing world, that means being proactive and persistent about submitting my works for publication. I have only rarely sent my works in, usually to just one magazine or market at a time, then sat waiting for the inevitable rejection slip. My plan now is to submit something every week.
It will be difficult, I know. But I’m determined to make a go of it.
Have more fun
My final goal is self-explanatory. I’ve always wanted to write fiction because I love stories and I love writing. It’s fun to dream up dire situations for my characters and see them fight their way out of the worst predicaments I can put them in. So, while all of the above sounds like work, and it is, I also want it to be fun.
I’ll let you know every month just how much fun I’m having.