I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in November.
It was something I’d never done before, something I didn’t know I could do, and it was surprisingly simple.
It took writing 1,700 words in about two hours of daily writing, give or take, using NaNoWriMo for tracking and awarding myself badges for accomplishments. (I am motivated by a good pat on the back, you know.)
Interestingly, I did it without a clear plan for when, how and what I’d be writing. Just some notes, loose intentions and a willingness to see what happened.
I’m still slightly flabbergasted that I pulled it off. I didn’t think about it; I just did it.
And since then I’ve been wondering…
What would happen if I focused on another project like that?
I’d probably get some sizable results. Wouldn’t that be cool?
It got me thinking about my old nemeses: Discipline, Routine, and Schedule.
Let’s rewind a few years for the backstory…
Confessions of a Former Productivity Addict
I used to be a productivity junkie. I took courses called “Freedom to Focus” and “Wake Up Productive,” read books about productivity hacks.
I had a detailed 90 minute Morning Success Ritual, exactly timed.
I worked with a timer by my side in 50 minutes chunks followed by 10 minutes of rest for optimal efficiency.
I had rules for when and how I’d check email and social media, and woe unto any family member who disturbed me during designated work periods!
During this time, I created multiple courses, articles, and managed a team of virtual assistants. Yep, I got a lot done.
At the time, DOING seemed necessary to prove my worth so I could feel good, and focusing on productivity felt essential.
But when I didn’t follow my prescribed routine, I spent the rest of the day feeling like a failure.
Eventually, I started seeing how hard I was being on myself. There had to be another way.
As I shifted from doing to BEING, I explored where happiness and satisfaction really comes from, and realized that it has nothing to do with what I’m doing. It was a revelation.
I saw how I’d been using these tools and techniques to pressure myself into doing, making myself miserable in the process, and it no longer made sense.
Slowly, I dropped my routines and rules. My schedule loosened up, and I experienced more freedom.
Back to the present-ish…
A Life Without Schedule Fatigue
While ditching the pressure felt great, I noticed that I wasn’t making much progress on my cool projects.
Until the 50,000 word novel writing experience.
I saw afresh the power of focused intention on my ability to do cool shit, and I wanted more.
What would happen if I put myself back on a schedule? An Enlightened and Ridiculously Simple Schedule?
I had no idea what that would look like, but it seemed like it’d be worth a try.
The task proved more challenging than I thought. Even the simplest routines and scheduling pulled me back into the nausea-inducing pressure of getting things done.
Every time I looked at my calendar filled with appointments for projects and To Dos, it felt heavier and heavier.
I almost threw in the towel because there is NO WAY I’m going back to driving myself like a workhorse. My new criteria for work is “Gasp, Grin, Giggle, Ease, Fun,” thank you very much, and this was definitely not feeling fun.
Then I had a conversation with a client-playmate about pressure and how it inhibits both performance and productivity.
My client said, “My To Do List creates pressure, so I need to get rid of it.”
I thought about it for a moment and said, “Does the pressure come from the To Do List, or from what you’re thinking/feeling about it?”
You can use a To Do List to torture yourself about all the things you haven’t done.
But you can also use a To Do List to record ideas for safekeeping, freeing your mind up to think about other things.
How can a To Do List be the true cause of both torture and freedom?
It’s my thinking, not the tool, that creates the pressure.
I can have the feeling of freedom and space I desire — no matter what my calendar looks like — because it comes from inside me.
My quest for a Ridiculously Simple Schedule was reborn.
Here’s what I did:
- Identify the areas I’d like to focus on, specifically in Business and Writing.
- Make showing up for my projects inevitable by registering for Shut Up & Write meetups and Focusmate (thanks for the tip, Brianne!) for co-writing and co-working sessions.
- Make it “too easy” to succeed at my daily tasks (Study, Creating, Learning, Sharing, Play) by setting a five minute minimum.
- Give myself full permission to skip, swap or move any planned activities according to my intuition. The rule is that there is no rule!
Here’s what I’m noticing so far:
I’m (mostly) showing up for these scheduled tasks with joy.
Even though I’ve given myself permission to not do anything on my focus list, it’s easy to show up because I don’t get stuck in any thought/feeling storms around “making a decision.”
That tiny bit of willpower necessary to show up makes the rest inevitable, and even if I don’t really feel like doing something, once I’m present and engaged, the enthusiasm returns.
I can dispel pressure thoughts with a few simple questions. (This was an amazing discovery!)
I noticed that when I didn’t follow my new system “correctly,” according to the merciless critic in my head, it felt like PRESSURE.
So when I notice the feeling of pressure, I ask:
“Who would I be without this pressure-thinking?”
I notice, every time, that no-pressure feels glorious! It also makes it easier for me to do the things I’m called to do.
“What if I drop the pressure?”
Well, when I notice how good it feels without pressure, knowing that it’s not necessary for getting things done, it drops on its own.
And when I notice some pressure of worry lingering about whether or not I’m doing the “right thing,” I ask:
“What if whatever I choose is right?”
Hallelujah! I love the feeling of that! It’s a natural choice.
What’s YOUR Ridiculously Simple Way?
Please note: I’m not sharing my experience as a prescription for you to follow.
My point is this:
You can create your own way of getting things done. Joyfully.
Maybe you use appointments and calendars. Maybe you have a little structure, or a lot. Maybe you create entirely in the moment.
You get to navigate this any way you choose, and once you really see for yourself that you can drop the pressure and still create the transformations, clients, money and fun…you’ll find your way of doing.
Yours in creative play,
P.S. I realize this was a LONG piece, but I have lots more to say about it!
Would you be interested in a more detailed “how-to” explanation of my process? Leave a comment or shoot me a message and let me know. 🙂