I need to shake things up. Or possibly go back to lost work patterns. Something to break the fog I’m in.

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

—from Fog by Carl Sandburg

Somewhere in the accumulation of life, I’ve lost writing hours. Invisible forces sneak in and steal them away. While my foot was immobilized (after breaking it in December), I sat on the couch and wrote as long as I wanted. My husband took care of cooking and shopping and laundry while I recovered—yes, he’s awesome.

But as my mobility returned, so did my normal duties. For some reason, household chores are sneaky, like a fog that comes on little cat feet. I think this is my fault. I don’t give chores enough weight. They lurk at the edges, flickering in my peripheral vision. I might spend an hour washing dishes, two hours preparing dinner, but my mind brushes this work off as background noise. It is so easy to get to the end of the day and feel like I haven’t accomplished anything, because all the work I did fell into this background category.

It is also easy to get to the end of a week and realize I’ve devoted very few hours to writing. At least it has been this way lately. What the heck did I do all week? Why am I behind on my writing goals?

This is what I did to shake things up:

1. Look at how I’ve been spending my time.

A quick flip through my bullet journal gives me a sense of where the hours have gone.

2. Review ideal schedules.

In previous bullet journals (i.e., before I broke my foot) I set up ideal schedules for each day of the week. These schedules helped bring chores to the forefront, so I could make conscious plans that took them into consideration. For example, grocery shopping takes a good three hours out of my day, so I set up that day with lower expectations for writing time. This is a huge stress relief. It also shows me other days are better for writing that requires longer focus.

3. Adjust my physical environment.

After breaking my foot, the living room couch became my command center. Now that I’m mobile, the couch isn’t working. I’m not quite sure why—maybe it makes me feel like an invalid? maybe it blurs the lines of work and play too much? I don’t know. But moving back into my studio is helping me focus better.

4. Make more deliberate plans.

I created a new spread in my bullet journal. It includes a calendar of the remaining weeks in April, a chart showing the tasks I’d like to accomplish, as well as estimates of how long they’ll take. I distributed my tasks onto the calendar, keeping later tasks in pencil so I can easily adjust them if earlier tasks take longer than expected. 

This spread was inspired, in part, by Sarra Cannon’s video (at about minute 31), in which she shares a new time tracking system she’s created.

5. Stay vigilant and flexible.

A few days ago, my son had his first marching band rehearsal. (He’s starting high school in the fall, oh my heart!) It had been raining on and off all day, but as there were no thunderstorms predicted, the outdoor rehearsal went ahead as scheduled. We dug out rain boots and a waterproof jacket and set off for the high school. I also packed my laptop. While my son played his instrument and marched through a steady rain, I holed up in the car. I got two entire hours of solitude—a luxury in this pandemic. My solitude translated into focused writing time.

The rain chased away my fog.

How often do you find yourself re-focusing your time? What tactics do you use to get your writing (or other creative work) done?

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