I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. Much of my early adulthood was spent making long lists of ambitious goals I’d never achieve. As a result, I shy away from public commitments to change and progress.
That said, I’ve learned a lot this year and I’m excited to carry those lessons into 2020. Here’s what I have planned for my writing life in the coming year:
Do less multi-tasking and more single-tasking
My best friend and I met on FaceTime almost every week this fall for a virtual work date. We’d begin by stating our goals and intentions for the work session. Then we signed off and reconvened in a couple hours to discuss our progress. We’ve both learned a lot about not only mutual accountability but the value of single-tasking.
During our work dates we felt accountable to each other to do the task we’d outlined at the beginning. I found myself hunkering down more, closing browser tabs, quitting Mail, putting my phone face-down on my office couch. Through this intentional preparation I nurtured deeper focus on my most important work — especially my writing.
When I put the blinders on and force myself to just write, I’m surprised at what I can do. It feels exhilarating. I write through discomfort and stuckness and come out on the other side with a lot more good words than I thought possible.
In 2020 I want to make single-tasking a top priority. No more 30 browser tabs open per window. No more leaving Mail open all day and getting sucked in by those little red badge numbers announcing new messages. I want to make intentional time for writing, yes, but also email and social media and my regular weekly reflection and planning. Not only do all of these things take less time when I do them separately, I’m happier with the quality of my work.
Reconsider how I spend my time
My increased focus on single-tasking has given me a more accurate picture of how I spend my time. When I budget a block of time for something like social media, I start thinking about how much time it’s really worth. I want to make this a theme for 2020.
I’m constantly forcing myself to justify keeping physical objects in my home, asking myself what I truly need. We can do the same sort of decluttering for our obligations, but too often we take those obligations for granted. As I begin a new year, I plan to take stock of my current projects and responsibilities and see what I can let go to make room for what matters.
Do things that scare me
As I make room in my day for my biggest priorities, I want to take more risks. I’m not talking about the cliched advice to “do one thing every day that scares you” or simply getting out of my comfort zone for its own sake. I’m talking about the tiny risks available to all of us every day:
- Asking for blurbs from people I don’t think will have time for me
- Speaking up about my work and discuss what I do without being self-deprecating
- Sending follow-up emails if I don’t hear back about an opportunity (see above)
- Turning down opportunities that would require me to work for free
- Applying to opportunities I feel underqualified for
- Writing about emotionally charged and/or controversial topics without hesitation or equivocation
I used to want my work to appeal to everyone, but work that appeals to everyone ends up deeply connecting to no one. As they say: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Readers won’t feel much for your work unless you make yourself vulnerable in it.
Likewise, if you don’t advocate for your work and actively put it out into the world, you’ll miss out on the audience you deserve. Others will only believe in it if you do.
What are your goals for 2020?