This post originally appeared on OCWriters.Network, a network of published and aspiring authors.
I Don’t Have the Time
The struggle between my daily grind and my creative self is a constant battle. I keep saying that I need to “find the time” to write, but instead of writing, I continuously procrastinate by telling myself that I need to do some other important task, like moving the laundry or washing the dishes. I am not saying that I should shirk these responsibilities, but the choice on when to do it always seems to interfere with what I ought to be doing.
I am busy with a full-time job, three kids, and maintaining a household. That’s only another way to say, “I don’t have the time.”
Time itself is a funny thing: you always seem to have time for the items that you make the time for. To say that you “don’t have the time” for something is really making a choice to do something other than what you originally intended. But after a while I find myself contemplating, what does this procrastination get me?
A Missed Opportunity
I recently procrastinated, and missed the deadline to submit a fictional story to a writing contest. Frustrated that I had missed the opportunity, I was down on myself and in a funk. I knew I had to find a way to look at the positives instead. I needed to focus on what I had accomplished recently, not what I had missed. I challenged myself to change my mindset.
The first thing I thought of was my husband.
After missing the original deadline, I attempted to apply to the waiting list. Unfortunately, the printer was not working, and my frustration level was rising to a boiling point. My husband saw that I was struggling and came to my aid with the printer. He was able to fix it and I was finally able to submit to the waiting list. Afterwards, I thought about how lucky I was that he stopped what he was in the middle of doing to help me. And I know that he was deep in thought, following his own dreams.
I am fortunate to have strong support from not only my husband, but my daughter, family, and fellow writers. I thought about how I could incorporate some sort of support system into a new structure and process, using it to keep myself on track.
A New Structure
I decided to set the structure with something positive, rather than look at the negative aspects of procrastination and not getting things done. I also wanted the system to be fun, something that would bring a smile to my face when I thought about it. I was brainstorming ideas when my daughter came up to me to ask a question. I answered her, and she joyfully scampered off. I thought to myself, what would my daughter do? What would she find fun? What did I enjoy as a kid?
My daughter and my child self both love stickers. They’re so much fun! I decided that I will earn a sticker each day that I read or write for at least one hour. The idea was not to get on my own case when I don’t work on something for the hour; instead, a reward for the times when I do. When I get 30 stickers, I could treat myself with something small to celebrate a little win. We do this often at my day job, where we celebrate the small wins of the team on a regular basis.
For the stickers themselves, I originally thought of the typical “gold stars”, but my daughter’s flowers and lollipop stickers seemed a bit more appropriate and fun. I wanted the treat to be something special though, something that resonated with my personality and something that I enjoyed. Picking a treat that would truly feel like a reward. My initial thought was that when I get 30 stickers, I could treat myself to a quality chai tea latte. Maybe even the pumpkin spice chai latte that I haven’t tried but really want to.
Small Steps to Achieve Large Goals
By breaking down the large accomplishment into smaller pieces (phases for those project managers out there) the overall goal can be attainable. You just need to be disciplined enough to have the goal in mind and remember to reward yourself with the small wins. To keep yourself on track, you should incorporate something fun, or something that would serve as a reminder to the reward that comes after a milestone is achieved (30 stickers in my case). For me, the joy that I get when my daughter is excited to put stickers on my sheet of paper, and the thought of that pumpkin spiced latte is enough to keep me motivated.
What would it take for you to make the “time” and how would you enjoy the small wins? What would be your “Chai Tea Latte”?