Saturday, January 30, 2010

Smooth Sailing or Stormy Seas? How to Get Back on Course.

Can you believe we're at the end of January already? For the most part, it has been a busy, productive month for me--how about you? Are you enjoying smooth sailing in accomplishing your goals and maintaining a positive attitude? Are storms battering your boat, making it difficult to make any headway? Is your boat at a standstill, caught in the doldrums, waiting for something to get you moving again? Have you been blown off course by unexpected things popping up and taking up your time? Hopefully, you haven't been shipwrecked altogether!

If you recall, I had broken my goals down into doable steps for each month, week, and day. So, let's see where things stand with only one day left in the month:
  1. begin revisions on my WIP (work in progress) -- began on January 4, but have not made much progress (will talk about this later);
  2. declutter one day a week--started on January 7 and, in spite of some inner resistance one day, have kept at it every Thursday and am making good progress;
  3. join two off-line writers' groups--just sent in my registration for one today online (it's an offline group with an online presence, too); will be mailing a check and membership form to the other on Monday;
  4. mail package off to brother and sister-in-law--working on that this weekend, plan to mail it on Monday.
So, overall, I'm feeling pretty good about how January has gone. If you're making progress, congratulations. Be sure to celebrate your success by doing something special for yourself.

If you're struggling or feel like giving up, step back to take a look at what's going on. What's working? Why is it working? In other words, what are you doing that is keeping you motivated and positive? What's not working? What is keeping you from moving forward and succeeding? What do you need to do in order to get back on course?

As I sat down to evaluate my own progress, I discovered that what's working for me is having my daily tasks assigned to certain days of the week, writing them on a To Do List so that I can check them off at the end of the day, and keeping the list short. Anything that doesn't get done, gets added to the next day's list; but if it doesn't get done that day either, it waits until its scheduled day the following week. It might seem odd to put something off almost a week rather than continuing to carry it over, but there is a good reason for this. If I continue to carry an undone task over, day after day, it will be a constant reminder that I'm not meeting that goal and my To Do List will grow out of control and be overwhelming. I will perceive it as a daily failure, which will breed negative feelings, which will make me resistant to tackling the task as it looms larger and larger in my mind. Instead, if I reschedule it to the following week's assigned day for that task, I can progress through the rest of the week's tasks unencumbered. When it comes up again the following week, I will have had five days of success behind me before tackling this task again, so will be able to approach it in a more positive frame of mind. Then, I can make that my first task for that day to make sure it does, in fact, get done. Each success is positive reinforcement for believing that the next task can also be accomplished.

So, what happened with my book revisions? I started off strong, then hit a snag. Maybe I hadn't let the book simmer on the back burner quite long enough and was still too close to it, or maybe it's because I prefer making corrections with pen and ink instead of on the computer (though I prefer the computer when doing the writing), or maybe it's because I hadn't yet set up a schedule with my writing buddy for mutual encouragement and accountability. Perhaps I was a little overambitious given my health issues, doctor appointments, the change in our family constellation (we adopted a new cat toward the end of the month and are helping her adjust to her new home, humans, and animal "siblings" and find her place), and the day-to-day responsibilities attendant to running a home.

Instead of beating myself up over it, I looked instead at what I'd accomplished. In addition to the things listed specifically in my goals for the month, I'd also taken positive action regarding my health and given an abandoned cat a forever home. So, what about the book revisions? They'll be number one on my goals for February when I sit down tomorrow to see what I want to accomplish during the second month of this year. Another, will be to talk with my writing buddy to set up how we want to hold each other accountable.

What were your successes in January? What caused you problems? What lessons did you learn, and what action are you taking as a result? Share your comments, gratitude list, and questions in the comment section. Let's encourage one another as we head into February.

For help on specific topics, you might like to take a look at change expert Mary Jane Ryan's blog at In addition to current articles, scroll down to the menu on the right with articles archived by topics including weight loss, tips for achieving goals, gratitude, growth, how to create lasting change, and much more.