As soon as the Fall started, I’ve been waking up exhausted. The days are getting shorter, my energy runs low, and I feel blocked.
I almost want to slip into winter hibernation — and leave all my writing goals aside until I can start the new year fresh.
Does that resonate?
The problem is, if I did that each October, I’d be wasting a quarter of my life! And I’d be starting each new year with fear, overwhelm, and a huge backlog of unfinished writing projects!
I took a weekend to recalibrate before I give up completely. A yoga day retreat helped me calm my nerves, and a river walk gave me some space — I resolved to make it work.
Here’s my strategy — you can do it, too. (Grab pen and paper)
Step 1: Take stock of all your unfinished writing projects
Go to your computer and list all unfinished articles, book chapters, newsletter ideas, podcast dreams, film scripts, poems… you get what I mean. If you’re a creative like me, you’ll have a big list. A huge list. A humongous list!
How many projects are on your backlog? What number do you get?
Emotional tip: If that number is huge, take a breath right now — give yourself some self-compassion. The bigger the number, the more it shows that you’re a visionary and highly creative — you just need to learn to bring something to the finish line.
Step 2: Pick your ONE THING
Pick one project from the backlog.
Yes, it’s that simple.
Except, it’s really hard!
Because, how do you know what your most important project is?
Here’s where you need to be ruthless. There are two rules:
- Pick an important thing that really matters to you
- Doable within the weeks you have
It could be an almost-finished article that needs a few more paragraphs (and your thinking hat on).
It might be a book idea that’s been floating around in your head — and you want to finish an outline and the introduction to wrap up the year.
It might be a blog, podcast or newsletter you’ve been meaning to work on — now’s the time to create, for example, a set of 6-12 posts/episodes/messages.
Be very clear on what your “one thing” is, hang a note above your desk, put a post-it next to your bed, and tell everyone you know that you’re dedicated to it. You want to wake up and go to bed fully committed to this “one thing.”
After all, we do have limited time towards the end of the year, and less light and energy — focus on what matters most.
3. Create a Timeline
Create a timeline and milestones. Yes, yes, everyone knows that. But be honest, how often did you set a goal and didn’t make a roadmap? (My own hand goes up here, even though I’m a writer’s coach…).
Take a piece of paper, and draw a horizontal line.
At the start, write today’s date. At the end, write when you want to close off the year (e.g. December 23th).
In between, mark monthly and weekly dates and write which part of the project, e.g. which chapter or how many words, will be completed by then.
Next, write these deadlines in your calendar and tell a friend or accountability partner to check in with you on that day. And if no one comes to mind, pre-schedule an email a week before that deadline to remind your Future Self that it’s time to finish up. Use the wording that works best for your personality style (I personally like a joke; others need to scare themselves into writing — pick what works, you’re your own coach!)
Emotional tip: If you struggle with this time plan, that’s probably because your project is too big. Pick something smaller, a shortened version, or a different goal altogether that is manageable (remember rule 2: it must be doable by the end of the year, or you won’t get very far).
And here’s my favourite tip. Imagine your Future Self on New Year’s Day. Imagine how free and elated you will feel when the project is done. How much you enjoyed your holidays guilt-free. And how you have realised that you can absolutely write, even when it’s dark, or cold, or you’re “not in the mood.”
If you start today, your Future Self will thank you for it.