Restart Accomplished!

Not much going on in Tennessee, so no new photos. They haven’t even done the waterproofing yet, because of too much rain–the house hasn’t had enough time to dry off between storms. But the weather’s looking good for this week, so here’s hoping they get to it before the holiday!

On the other hand, plenty has gone on around here, including writing! I had an unspoken, unwritten goal this year of reading more nonfiction. Given my “What I’ve Been Reading” posts, you might guess that I’ve done well on that goal so far, and I have. This week, I read Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, which is about starting new habits or stopping bad ones. (The full title is Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.) This book gave me some good insights on my trouble getting to the writing, along with some things to try.

It begins with the premise that when it comes to things like setting goals, forming habits, meeting deadlines and the like, people fall into one of four “tendency” types. Our tendency, along with whether the goal/habit/etc. is self-imposed, or comes from an external source, determines how likely we are to meet the goal, stick to the habit, and so on.

On one end of the tendencies is the Upholder, who is good at meeting any goal, deadline, or habit formation, regardless of whether it comes from within or from others. The author identifies as this type, which obviously, can form habits more easily. At the other end is the Rebel, who resists habits, deadlines, etc. regardless of their source. Upholders loooooove gold stars, while Rebels couldn’t care less.

Most people fit into one of the other two types. The Questioner does great at meeting self-imposed deadlines, goals, etc., but resists those imposed on him by others. I’m using “him” here, because my husband is a Questioner, as is Ms. Rubin’s, and my brother is definitely a Questioner. That’s not to say Questioners can’t meet guidelines imposed by others, but it needs to make logical sense to them.

The fourth, and most common tendency type is the Obliger. These folks hate to let others down and will meet deadlines set by others, but find it hard to meet self-imposed deadlines or goals, or to establish habits simply because they themselves want to. Obligers do much better when there is some kind of external accountability.

So which one of these am I? If you guessed “Obliger,” you are right! That’s why I love ROW80 so much. For those who might not know, “A Round of Words in 80 Days” is a challenge group in which each writer sets her own goals, then reports back to the group in the form of a blog post once or twice a week. There is also a Facebook Group, and anyone is welcome to join at any time. Many times, knowing I had to report in for ROW80 would give me the extra push I needed to get to the writing and meet my goals.

Coach.me, online version

But lately, it hasn’t been enough, and that’s where the book had some good suggestions. Four basic techniques can help just about anyone form a habit. These include monitoring (tracking something makes us pay more attention to it), foundation (adding a habit to another, existing one), scheduling, and accountability. Scheduling was something I’d certainly heard of before, but had never tried. So this past week, I did. I blocked off time on my calendar every night after dinner (foundation). Then I tried something else that the book suggested might work particularly well for obligers: I downloaded an app. The book didn’t name a specific one, but a quick Google search for “writing habit app” led me to coach.me, a well-reviewed app available for Android, iPhone, and on the website. (The app itself is free; additional optional coaching services can be purchased.)

The app lets you select from one or more existing goals (or create your own), then determine how many times a week you want to work on it, and when you want reminders. When you work on your goal, you “check” it off for the day, which I find so satisfying! Every few days, the phone will notify you if you have a streak going–fun! Also, I love seeing those checkmarks add up. I guess Obligers like goal stars, too. 🙂

So between scheduling my writing time and using the Coach me app, I’ve managed to write every day this week. Once again, I’m starting slowly, so it’s not a lot, but I am writing. Even better? I set another goal in Coach.me for decluttering, and I hit my five days/week goal there, too.

What (Else) I’ve Been Reading: On Common Ground by Jansen Schmidt. This contemporary romance features Trevor, a cop on administrative leave who also knows ranching. He works on a friend’s ranch while waiting for Internal Affairs to investigate his case and clear him of guilt. Having recently escaped a bad marriage, he wants nothing to do with women, not even the hot female horse trainer who’s also hiding out while working on the ranch. As a rape survivor, Ketra wants even less to do with men than Trevor wants with women, so watching these two resist their growing attraction to each other pushes all the right romance buttons, along with the cowboy/horses/ranch tropes. Following them as they learn and grow and slowly leave their distrust behind makes On Common Ground a satisfying romance read I definitely recommend.

ROW80Logo175

What I’ve Been Writing: My goal in Coach.me was to write at least five days a week, at least 100 words a day. I wrote for six days (I’m writing this on Saturday, and haven’t written yet today), and got a total of 1,077 words! Not a lot compared to NaNoWriMo standards, and not a lot by my standards, but I’ll take them!

This week’s going to be tricky. I have a lot going on, plus Thanksgiving on Thursday, which I’m hosting. So I’m going to stick to the same goal–write at least five days, at least 100 words. We’ll see how that goes in a non-typical week!

What about you–which tendency do you think you are, based on my quick descriptions? Do you find it easy to form new habits or lose bad ones, and how does that vary if the habit is self-imposed, or comes from an external force? How do you stay consistent in your habits–any more tricks I might try? And how have you been doing on any goals you might have, whether writing or otherwise? I’d love to hear from you–please share in the comments!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

8 Responses to \

  1. Good for you, Jennette! I’d heard of Coach.me but haven’t tried it yet. It sounds interesting.

    I’m probably an Obliger as well. Everyone else’s deadlines come first. Though over the course of this past year, I’m learning to make my writing goals on a more consistent basis. Unfortunately family emergencies come fairly often–then goals go into stasis. I write when I can (and have done better at that) but word counts are definitely a lot lower.

    One of the things I’ve tried recently is sprint writing. Right now I’m just going with 10 minutes writing followed by 10 minutes off and then back again. It worked pretty well–I’m not great at it, yet. But it may work for me as my time is ALWAYS interrupted.

    May you and yours have a fabulous Thanksgiving.

  2. Lynn, family definitely has to come first! In those situations, you’re doing great to write when you can. A ten-minute sprint sounds like something to try – I used to write for longer, but my focus is just shot anymore. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

  3. Congratulations on the writing! I’m so glad you found something that worked. I’m finding that making a list of what I want to do for that day (and I list everything, not just the writing stuff) helps me stay more focused. It must have worked. I got that short story FINISHED!!

    Oh, and I also fall under the Obligator and I love gold stars, too!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Hooray for you!! Doesn’t it feel good to get back to something (or finish something) you’ve been putting off? I am also an obliger. I definitely do better with some sort of external force making me follow through on assignments. I’m also a bit of an upholder, because I do well when I have lists (which in theory are goals or deadlines) that I want to accomplish by a certain time. So I’m sort of a mutant I guess.

    Now, as for what you’re reading – ahem – can I just say, good choice. I hope you enjoy the book. It was fun to write all of that sexual tension even though at times I wanted to smack these two in the head. Thanks so much for showcasing me!!

    Have a wonderful holiday my friend.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  5. Stacy, I would never get anything done at all if I didn’t make lists – they’re a must! My problem is putting too much on the list – and never getting to what’s at the bottom (i.e., writing). I just needed to stop pushing it to the bottom by setting aside the time. Congrats on finishing your story!

    Patricia, I couldn’t go into much depth in a 1000 word blog post, but many people are a combo of two tendencies. So no mutant! And I finished the book – really enjoyed it, and looking forward to the next one!

  6. Oh, another Obliger here (and a bit of a Rebel too)…. It’s why I work so hard to keep up the ROW80 blog while usually letting my own go.

    Glad you found a few more tools in your chest to pull out when you need to get more done.

  7. Seems we writers are a bunch of obligers! Count me in. My Toastmasters club is celebrating its 85th anniversary a week from tomorrow. It’s one of the oldest clubs in the world, and I’m working hard to meet my obligation of making 10 centerpieces. I chose an easy decoration, and I’m putting a slide show together. Almost done with that. We’ve had a lot of company this past month. I was on a roll with writing until all the company and then helping out with our new grand baby. Makes me wonder how we managed. I guess being younger makes a huge difference. I’m not going to complain because there’s nothing better in the world than having a newborn baby fall asleep in your arms or on your chest!

    Have a wonderful week, Jennette!

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