Posted by: Cathy | July 15, 2015

Coach nibble: Momentum

Coach Blog 010114 Here is today’s coach nibble: “I am having difficulty building momentum on a long writing project. I’m trying to break it down into smaller chunks for deadlines, but it’s so tempting to procrastinate when I have so long to finish. I don’t feel much urgency to get it done, and I think building up some momentum will help but I do a few days and then fall off the wagon. What can I do to stay the course and make regular progress?”

I’m writing a novel and I totally understand this issue. Getting 500 or 1,000 words written in a day seems so small compared to an 80,000-word novel. Breaking the target word count into chapters or weekly/daily goals can help, but if it isn’t helping you, I would say to break it into even smaller action steps. To write 500 words, the first step is to sit down and put your writing hat on. If you set a goal of sitting down each day with your writing hat on, that might feel more doable, and once you’re sitting there thinking about your writing it might be easy to average your daily word goal – some days you just daydream about the next scene you need to write, and some days you jam on it and write 1,500 words because you’re so in the flow. Either way, the first step is to sit and be ready to write.

Often times, when we feel stuck, it’s because we need to break our action step into a smaller action. Give this a try.

I would also recommend you set various goals depending on your energy and mental capacity on different days. Your “regular” goal might be 500 or 1,000 words, but on a “bad” day maybe just sitting and brainstorming a scene is enough to count toward your goal. Decide what you will count as a minimum effort. Knowing on a “bad” day that you don’t need to do your full 1,000 words might help you make time to get to your project, and spending any time on it is better than spending no time on it.

Also, consider making two charts to track your momentum.

1. Post a calendar and mark each day that you sit down with your writing hat on. Set a deadline for your novel draft (at 500 words per day, you can do 80,000 in 160 days, or at 1000 words per day for 80 days), and post all of the months so you can see them at one time or create your own calendar sheet(s) in Excel. Each day you do anything on your writing project, give yourself a star or a plus or whatever symbol feels like achievement for you. Leave blank the days you don’t do anything – you don’t need a frown-face or minus, just that little void in your calendar should motivate you to do something to keep your streak up.

2. Make a goal progress chart in theme with your project. If you’re writing a nonfiction piece about Nepal, maybe your theme is climbing a mountain. If your project is sci-fi, maybe your theme is traveling to your planet or star-base. Each day or week, fill in your progress or move your marker closer to your total word goal.

I’ve been using writing examples here, since the question specifically asked about a writing project, but the same concepts apply to nearly any goal – training for a half-marathon, saving for a big purchase, clutter-clearing your house, any long-term project. Think for a moment about how you could use or tweak these ideas to help your personal situation, and tell me about it in the comments!

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Check out the coach nibble information page if you’d like to submit a topic for a future coach nibble. All suggestions are entered in a monthly drawing!

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