By Allison VanNest of Grammarly.com
The first month of the new year is over, and as we clutch the remnants of our New Year’s resolutions about our shoulders like tattered shawls, let’s talk about what it takes to turn a resolution into a lasting habit. In other words, how can you keep your writing resolutions.
What did you resolve to do differently this year? Did you decide to grow your business, write a book, or find a new revenue stream? How’s that going?
Resolutions are easy
Resolutions are easy: you make ‘em, you break ‘em, you move on. Real change, the kind that can transform your life and your work, isn’t nearly as exciting. It involves making small adjustments rather than sweeping statements, and you may have to work for months before you see results.
Leo Babauta, whose blog Zen Habits is one of the best resources on habit change, recommends three simple steps: write down a plan, identify your triggers and replacement habits, and then commit to doing your new habit every time you encounter a trigger for at least 30 days.
The biggest obstacle to following this plan is time. How can you find the time to make positive changes like finding new clients and turning in error-free work on every project when you’re already feeling swamped?
If you never seem to have enough time, identify your timewasters. As a freelancer, you don’t have to deal with a lot of the typical workplace timewasters like meetings, but you also don’t have a supervisor or nosy coworkers looking over your shoulder. You may be losing hours each day to what writer Kate Hamill calls “micro-activities.”
“Once I was able to put my finger on where all of that amnesiac wasted attention was going, I was able to curb my worst distractions – putting myself within reasonable time limits,” writes Hamill.
Common timewasters include:
- Checking your email too often. Not only can obsessive email checking become a distracting habit, but it might also be increasing your stress levels. According to this study from the New York Times, “cutting back on email might reduce stress as much as picturing yourself swimming in the warm waters of a tropical island several times a day.” Try limiting your trips to the inbox to twice daily.
- Taking a peek at social media sites. We all know how insidious social media can be. You click on Facebook, meaning to just take a quick peep at what the rest of the world is up to, and before you know it, thirty minutes has passed. If you have a hard time staying away from social media while on the clock, install a browser plug-in like Leechblock to limit or block those sites.
- Spending too much time on to-do lists and strategy planning. Sometimes you need to have a detailed plan in hand, and sometimes you just need to jump in and do it. If you’re spending more time on your to-do list than actually doing, limit yourself to a ten-minute planning session with your morning coffee.
- Getting distracted while researching. When you come across a site that’s interesting but not relevant to your current project, bookmark it (or save it using an app like Pocket or Instapaper), and get back on track with the task at hand.
If you feel like you’re treading water in your freelancing career, then your first step is to figure out what’s holding you back. Make it a priority to swap timewasters for more productive habits. Stick with it for 30 days and let us know how it goes!
About the Author: A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and more than ONE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.