So, you’re writing a chapter of your novel and your cat just won’t stop climbing on your keyboard. We’ve all been in situations where a distraction keeps us from finishing a task, like my two cats keeping me from writing you this guide on keeping out distractions and setting goals. You may find yourself wanting to have a timeline of when you want things to be done, or maybe it’s a deadline from a publisher. The first step is asking yourself what the goal is.
How to set up goals for yourself!
To set goals ask yourself:
- What message do you want to deliver?
- How many times a week will you write? How many times a month?
- How much will you write during that time? How many words, pages, or time limit?
- When are your due dates or deadlines?
- Will you be tracking your progress?
Now what if you’re struggling to reach the goals you’ve set? Take a step back and re-evaluate, change your goals to fit what you can achieve. Not everyone can write one hundred words per minute, the average person actually writes thirty-eight to forty words per minute! This being said, know your skills and know what you can achieve based on your skills. If you set goals that are too high you may end up going back over the word done to correct mistakes, or you may burn yourself out.
But setting goals doesn’t have to just be about how much you write, or how much time you set aside. Like the first goal states: what message do you want to deliver? Make sure you have a good outline for your writing, so you know what goals you want to reach within the writing. This can look like writing basic outlines for the overall book, and then detailed outlines for chapters, giving you a clear picture of what each chapter would look like and finally tying it into the whole book outline.
Make to do lists
If you’re like Martha Reineke, make lots of to-do lists. Growing up I would always see her grocery lists, her cleaning lists, homework lists (for us kids), and lists and lists and… well you get the point. Little did I know that these lists helped her keep track of the goals she wanted to achieve in her everyday life, not just writing. This is a key component to saying organized and setting goals for yourself. Now even I write to-do lists, whether it’s for groceries or my book review that’s due next week, I know exactly what needs to be done based off my list.
An important part about writing to-do lists for a writing project is to write based off importance. Write down what needs done first, and mark it as top priority! That way you can have the important stuff done first, and you make it easier on yourself.
Distractions, distractions, distractions… Like I said at the beginning, my cats LOVE to climb all over my laptop while I am writing. I enjoy their company, but I will never get any work done with them in the same room, so I made space in my bedroom for homework and writing projects. Having a set space for you to work in is one of the most basic distraction-ridding steps. Still distracted? Turn your phone on silent; if you have a Macbook like me I have to turn my laptop notifications off as well, so my texts don’t pop up on there too. Along with the few things that can be distracting, I enjoy light music in the background like piano music. Studies show that listening to music while working can help productivity and overall improve your mood.
Another thing to take into account for distractions is your body. It sounds silly but if I don’t eat breakfast before I start my homework, I am so focused on my stomach grumbling that I don’t work as well. Eating before working can improve your mood, and help you feel ready to take on those goals you set for yourself. Sleep is also an important factor because if you’re too sleepy, you may not be able to focus. Not everyone can make time for a full eight hours of sleep, but if you’re feeling groggy while writing, make a cup of tea or coffee to keep you going.
Breaks are healthy
I like to take breaks between assignments. With the restrictions 2020 brought, I am forced to do my college work from home. If I have three assignments due today, I will most likely take a half hour between each assignment to do whatever I want. Whether it’s lunch time and I make myself food or I go for a walk because the weather has started to get a little nicer, it is important to take time away from the screen. Giving your mind a break is the most important part about staying focused and should be an important item on your to-do list.
The last step to thwarting distractions and setting goals is to remain positive, and optimistic. Sometimes we just cannot reach a goal before it’s deadline. These things happen, and we have to be patient with ourselves, as we’re all different and all human. Setting realistic goals, based on your ability, is one way to keep yourself on track and keep yourself in a positive mindset. Remember to not overload yourself with work, and to take breaks, and remind yourself why you started writing in the first place.