One Step Closer

This has been an overwhelming year. The month of November was especially challenging, but I got through it with the help of friends and family . I’m grateful to them. But I’m also thankful that I learned something years ago that has helped me navigate the rough waters of life. While working for a company that held yearly “Make It Happen” goal-setting days, we also received Franklin-Covey planners and learned about creating action steps and prioritizing every item on our To-Do lists.

Out of this evolved a process to juggle a variety of projects — I’ve always thrived on having a lot of irons in the fire. But the idea is so simple most people disregard it.

The key is actually two parts that work together. The first part is to remain positive. The second is to break every task and goal into smaller pieces. The pieces help you feel you’re accomplishing something, which makes it easier to remain positive. With this in mind, break everything into as small a piece as necessary to 1) move toward completion, and 2) feel as if you’re making progress.

So, every word builds a sentence. Every sentence a paragraph. Every paragraph a page. Page after page builds a chapter and so on until the manuscript is complete. Now you’re moving forward and making progress.

During the last few months I’ve focused on “just one more” of whatever I’ve been facing. One more class meeting toward completing a workshop. One more meeting toward completing a project for a client. One more manuscript to read. One more student to critique. One more course proposal submitted. One more box toward packing away my father’s possessions. One more load to donation. One more room emptied and cleaned. One more day toward a fresh start in a new year.

And now, one more blog toward getting back on track. Try it for yourself. Just one more step takes you closer to your goal. And as you get through each task, you’re have one more thing to feel good about.

Advertisements

Listening In for Motivation

As a writer, incorporating sensory description is important to me. I’m partial to those frequently overlooked senses: hearing, smell, and taste. I seem to zero-in on sounds and scents. I wake every morning joyful to hear birds singing outside. Now that it’s cooler, I love opening the windows to deeply inhale fresh, clean, jasmine- and hibiscus-scented air.

I like to listen and note the sounds I hear so I can later incorporate them into my writing. Lately, however, settling down enough to write is a challenge.

Enjoying a good book on a 5th-grade Saturday afternoon.

Enjoying a good book on a 5th-grade Saturday afternoon.

Sometimes I feel I would rather curl up in a good book and escape, but the To-Do list is heaping with extra tasks. Recently I decided to tackle some of the more mundane tasks (like sorting, clearing, cleaning) while listening to an old “book on tape” (which was actually an MP3).

It was a delightful experience that reminded me of elementary school when my teachers spent part of (almost) every afternoon reading a chapter or two in a novel. I even recall a few middle school teachers doing this on occasion. Back then, I enjoyed the “down time” as we were allowed to just listen and enjoy the story unfold. I recall thinking about the story later that day and sometimes even telling my younger sister about it.

Today, I enjoyed the time spent cleaning and thought about the story long after the tape concluded. I wanted more! It was a pleasant way to multitask and if I couldn’t stop the squirrels scampering through my head long enough to sit and read a book, then recorded books were a great option.

Listening to audio stories while organizing office.

Listening to audio stories while organizing office.

Then it hit me. The iPod icon on my iPad! I have rarely used it but now I opened it to discover I’d subscribed to several when I purchased my iPad, but I’d never listened. I went in search of short stories and writing-related options. Now, every afternoon I listen to someone read to me or interview a writer while I get tasks checked off my To-Do list. I feel more energized and settled — just as I do when I have a chance to read a good book — but I’m also trimming away that mile-long task list. And, in anticipation of the upcoming holidays, I’m looking for a few holiday stories I can listen to.

Here are a few of the “regular” podcasts I’ve been listening to:

EscapePod — new science fiction story each week
Clarkesworld — weekly science fiction story from the magazine. (To listen online, click a story title then “audio version” if that link appears.)
Fiction by The New Yorker — monthly story
Odyssey Writer’s Workshop — audio excerpts from workshop presentations at the annual Odyssey conference/workshop for fantasy, science fiction, and horror writers.

Look for them in your app/iTunes store or follow the website links to listen online. (Obviously I like science fiction.) Don’t forget the voice feature on many ebook readers either. Take the time to listen in and get motivated.