On Tuesday morning I met with a friend to discuss writing. I shared with her how I seem to keep writing new material, while my older manuscripts hang in limbo waiting for me to edit and revise them. I then told her about my plan for how I wanted to tackle this problem: on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, I was going to block out time specifically devoted to manuscript revision.
Why Tuesday and Thursday afternoons? These were the times in my past life as a professor when I typically taught research writing. I couldn’t just cancel class on a whim, though on really nice days I did sometimes move us outside to have class next to Lake Benedict.
As a self-proclaimed self-help junkie, I know that many experts recommend this approach for getting high-priority tasks done. By scheduling time for them on your calendar, you are validating that, yes, this task is important to me. I resolved to make editing and revision a recurring appointment on my calendar.
Then yesterday I received a text message from someone who wanted to meet with me to discuss a new writing project. She asked about my availability next Thursday. Funny thing is, I hadn’t actually blocked out Tuesday/Thursday afternoons for manuscript revision and editing on my calendar. Since I like this person and find her writing project to be quite interesting, I typed out on my phone, “My schedule is wide open.”
I knew I was already breaking my commitment. I can always start the next week, I said to myself. Then I’ll definitely add it to my calendar.
Just as I was about to hit SEND, I stopped myself and asked why was I so willing to break my plan. Hadn’t I declared only a few days earlier my intention to prioritize editing and revision? What was wrong with me that I was willing to put it off?
The deciding factor came down to other plans I had already made for the following week. Next Tuesday, my writing friend and I were going to meet again to continue our discussion. I somehow felt that if I didn’t follow through with my revision and editing commitment, I would have to admit that to someone other than myself.
You know what self-help advice also recommends for getting your work done? Find a partner to make yourself accountable. I’ve read that advice so many times, but I’ve never applied it to my writing. How interesting to see that it actually works. Well, so far. We’ll see what happens next Tuesday and Thursday afternoons (and beyond).
I ended up retyping my response text to say I was available to meet on Thursday until 1:30pm. It felt quite good to honor my commitment and then I rewarded myself with a head nod and “way to go!”
Of course, I laughed at myself because self-help books also recommend recognizing your achievements with intrinsic rewards. After 20+ years, it’s good to know the advice is finally sinking in.