Vintage SLR cameras in my office by Reghan Skerry

The 2018 Reboot | Finale

Productivity

Technically speaking September was only four months ago.

But 2018 has been the longest year ever, and it feels like it was at least two years ago that I decided I needed to make some changes.

Back in August, every project I was working on had either stalled or was moving too slowly to see any real progress. My motivation had plummeted. I was in a rut, and I needed to get myself out of that rut, and I needed to figure out how to avoid falling into it again. And so in September, I came up with a short list of things I wanted to do by the end of the year. They weren’t huge goals—and they definitely weren’t dramatic—but it was about building a system that could support my bigger goals going into the future.

We’re fast approaching the end of the year, so it’s time to look back at how (and whether) my reboot has worked, and where I’m going from here.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 6 Check-In

Productivity

I’ve been kind of obsessed with todo lists this week.

I know. Try to contain your excitement.

Really, though, it’s a bit of a dilemma for me. For a long time, my go-to bio on social media included the phrase ‘list-maker,’ right after ‘writer’ and ‘photographer.’ I love a good todo list.

But I have no idea how to make one work for me.

It’s one thing if it’s a specific project, and I can just check things off until I’m done, but in a more general context… no idea. I’ve never found a system that works for me, whether it’s pen-and-paper, or bare-bones digital, or a digital system with all the bells and whistles. I always start with enthusiasm, sure I’ve found the perfect setup, but within a few months, things start slipping, I start putting things off, and then I start looking for the new perfect tool.

(The one exception—in that it really did work for me for about a year—was Habitica. Since I was in a fairly active guild, if I didn’t check things off it affected other people, not just me. But the todo list aspect didn’t actually have all the features I needed (specifically, more customizable repeatable actions).)

I know that it doesn’t really have anything to do with the tools I use. It’s me. (Though I do have a few issues with the Eisenhower matrix. I can see how it’s useful, but… yeah. I might go into detail on that at some point, once I’ve figured out how to articulate my thoughts.)

I need to figure out how to use a to-do list effectively, and how to motivate myself. If nothing else, I know that after a certain point, just checking things off a list doesn’t cut it.

The 2018 Reboot | Week 5 Check-In

Productivity

It’s been a while since I checked in on this little project of mine (here’s the explanation for my absence, if you missed it), but I’m happy to say that it’s only the check-ins that I’ve missed. I haven’t been neglecting the reboot itself, and I’m actually kind of impressed with the progress I’ve made in the past few weeks, despite everything.

Let’s get to the individual goals, shall we?

Sketchbook #16

Productivity, Writing

Ok, so: July and August were kind of terrible, creatively. I’ve acknowledged that and moved past it. It happens occasionally—both due to my own issues, and things beyond my control—and I just have to deal with it.

I went into September with modest goals: I wanted to get back on track, and dig myself out of the rut that I’d been in all summer. I wanted to see if I could find ways to motivate myself, rather than relying on inspiration to just happen. I wanted to work on clearing my weekly photo backlog, and see if I could make some progress on the NaNoWriMo outline, but I didn’t set any specific targets—any movement would be good, as long as it was forward.

So how’d I do?

Not terrible? I mean, it’s a bit tricky to measure this sort of thing when I intentionally didn’t set any clear guidelines for myself.

I’ve started (slowly) working on the weekly photo project again, and chipping away at those missed prompts. I’m still really behind schedule (and, as I said the other day, it would be easier if I wasn’t adding to the list every week, but, well, that’s sort of the point, isn’t it?), but I’ve been working on it, and I’ll have even more pictures ready in the next little while. I don’t quite have a good workflow with the new computer, yet—I’d like to make some changes from the way I handled things before, but I’m still working on what those changes actually are.

Still: progress.

Writing… is still going slowly. I’m finally hitting a daily word count that I’m happy with: not quite enough for NaNoWriMo, but perfectly acceptable when the deadline isn’t quite that ridiculous. That’s nice. I’ve only made a little progress on the NaNoWriMo outline, but I’m starting to build momentum again, and I’ve got a pretty good plan-of-attack to get the outline actually done. I’m starting to feel like I might be ready to go when November rolls around.

I have discovered that the new computer—more specifically, the increased screen size—really changes the way I write. I tend to write my first drafts in plain text (or Markdown), using a lightweight text editor; it’s easy, portable, and doesn’t lock me into any particular system. And on my old 13-inch MacBook Pro, it served as a pretty good distraction-free writing environment. But it’s just not working for me on the new screen; the window’s either too small, or it’s a huge, intimidating blank page with no real margins. I’m trying out a few alternatives. With luck, I’ll find something that clicks with the way I like to work.

Really, though, even though it’s not a lot of progress, I am feeling pretty good about both writing and photography right now. Better than I was feeling this time last month, at least.

Now. Drawing… I’m still just going through the motions, there. I’m trying not to worry about it too much—I’ve always intended it to be a hobby, and not another source of stress—but it’s still a bit draining. The trouble is, I feel like I’m still in the skill-building stage of things; there’s a lot of practice, but very little real creativity right now, which makes it less fun than it could be. (Especially, since, you know, it’s a hobby. It should be fun.) It might be time to switch things up again, go back to figure drawing for a while and see if that helps.

Which brings us to my plans for October.

Obviously, my NaNoWriMo outline is my priority. I have one month before I actually have to write this thing. I’m fully confident, now, that I can hit the target as far as word-count goes. So that’s good. And, while I’m nowhere near ready to start writing right now, I’m pretty sure I can get there in time. As long as I can stay focussed and do the work.

The good thing is, I do think I’ve finally figured out what motivates me, and how to harness that energy when I need it. Anxiety and perfectionism are still issues, but I’m starting to figure out how to work through them—maybe even (dare I say it?) channel that energy into motivation—rather than let them paralyze me. Between that and (finally!) getting back into the habit of working at my desk in the office rather than literally anywhere else in the apartment, I’m starting to get my schedule under control and keep myself from getting too distracted.

So I should be able to get the outline done in time.

That’s my priority, but I don’t want to lose my momentum with photography, either. I’ve got quite a few new photos waiting to be edited, both for the weekly project and otherwise, and I’ve got plans to tackle some more of the backlog. If I can get (mostly) caught up before November, it’ll make writing the novel a lot less stressful.

And, because I’m me, and because it’s starting to feel like the year is winding down, I’m starting to think ahead to 2017. I’m already planning next year’s photo project (taking into account the problems that arose this year and the things I’d like to accomplish), and thinking about the changes I’d like to make. As I said, I’ve begun making some changes to my daily schedule, and I’m hoping to fine-tune those changes so I can start 2017 with a routine that I like and that works for me. (I’ve also got a new monthly feature here on the blog that was originally going to launch early next year, but I don’t want to wait that long; it’ll debut later this week.)

In short, my plan for next month—and the rest of the year—is all about getting back to work. Not just getting back to where I was before the old computer decided to die on me, but using the changes and the things I’m figuring out about myself to actually do the work I’ve wanted to do all along.