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How I do It: Live Intentionally But With Breathing Space

Friday, August 19, 2011

The months of August and September are crazy busy for me—both personally as well as in my writing life.

As you know, I’m gearing up for the release of my second book, The Doctor’s Lady on Sept 1st. I’m not under any delusion about the difficulty I’ll face in promoting my book. Today’s publishing industry is exploding with new authors but is constantly shrinking in shelf space which means I need to do whatever I can to market my book and help it stand out from the masses.

Among many things, I’m attempting a blog tour. Although I had quite a number of interviews for my debut book, I'm currently planning an official, established schedule with lots of unique and fun appearances, an epic contest, and tons of book giveaways. I’m really excited about all of the upcoming events.

But . . . I’ve had to spend an enormous amount of time planning for the tour as well as writing the awesome guest posts and interview questions for participants. In addition, I’m trying to keep up with my own blog and have recently started the first draft of a new book. Not to mention emails and social media . . . Then there’s my local book signing and the national writers’ conference I’m attending in mid-September.

I’m sure you get my point. My writing life (like many of yours) is filled to overflowing. Then there’s also real life with three birthdays in the next two weeks and the start of school (among other things). But I won’t bore you with all those busy details!

How do I do it? How can a person hope to keep up with all that needs to be done without getting buried? Is it even possible?

Last week I talked about easing into more as one of the ways I’ve learned to manage many responsibilities. Another way I manage is by living intentionally.

When I think about the periods in my life when I’m not living intentionally, those are the times when I allow myself to be swept along by my moods or the urgency of activities. I float from one thing to another, without seeing any real progress. I don’t have any focus, I’m easily distracted, and I spend way too much time on social media instead of doing things that really matter. Usually I end up frustrated and irritable.

On the other hand, when I decide I need to buckle down and get intentional, I’m always much more satisfied and productive. The dictionary defines intention as: a determination to act in a certain way. We resolve ahead of time what we're going to do, and then we do it. We're purposeful, make plans, and carry them through.

Yes, I accomplish more when I'm living intentionally. But I’m not an ultra-planner. I don’t have monthly, yearly, or 5 year goals (at least not written down). I don’t schedule out each hour of my day in a calendar (not that there’s anything wrong with doing that).

In other words, we don’t have to go from one extreme—complete disorganization with our goals and time—to the other extreme—planning out every second of our lives. We will probably only frustrate ourselves with unrealistic expectations if we do.

Instead, we can find a middle ground, one where we live intentionally, but still give ourselves breathing space. Here are just a few things I do to be intentional but not fanatical about my writing responsibilities:

• In the mornings, I take stock of my upcoming day and try to determine where I can block in a chunk of writing time for my WIP (work-in-progress).

• When I’m writing a first draft, I give myself the goal of 1000 words a day (6 days a week), but if I fall short one day, I simply try to make up the words by the end of the week.

• During my designated WIP writing time, I turn off email notifications, Tweetdeck, and anything else that might distract me. And I only allow myself to check it halfway through my time, and then only briefly.

• I write my blog posts a week ahead, usually on the three different weekdays that I have the most work time so that I don’t have to sacrifice WIP writing time.

• I give myself the weekly goal of trying to write one or two interviews as well as edit and return those I did the week before.

• When I start to fall short, or get off focus, I stop, take stock of the situation, and try to look at what I need to do differently to make it work.

The point is—I have to give myself some weekly and daily goals, or I probably will wander aimlessly. I want to approach my work, my family, my life with intentionality. I don’t want to look back some day on how I lived (or my writing career) and have regrets.

But at the same time I don’t want to turn into a robot. I don’t want to burden myself so much with planning and schedules and goals that I forget to enjoy breathing, and meandering, and detouring.

How about you? Are you living intentionally enough? What kinds of things do you do in your writing and life to be intentional? Do you need to give yourself a little more breathing room?

P.S. The winner of this week's signed copy of The Doctor's Lady is Sara! Congratulations, Sara! And thank you to everyone for playing along!! Come back next week for one more Trivia Question & one more chance to win!

29 comments:

  1. HI Jody. Your topic today is such a great one, and must be on people's minds a lot right now - my blog post from earlier this week was on being intentional. It really does take effort, doesn't it? You have a plate piled generously high right now! So do I, but without the kids. :) I'm an organizer so I love hearing how other people order their days. It always inspires me and makes me want to grab a notebook and make a list! Thanks for always sharing such perfectly on-point ideas. I'm learning so much.

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  2. this is my obsessive thought of the past year. two years. four - five?

    how do I ... do life ... really.

    Really.

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  3. I really needed to hear this right now. With home school starting this past Monday, I already feel out of control. It seems there aren't enough hours in the day. Thanks for the encouragement.

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  4. Wonderful encouragement today, Jody. My kids started school last week, I went back to work for a three month busy season, soccer season kicked into high gear last week, and my daughter celebrated a birthday yesterday. It always seems big time-eating events happen all at once. So, I love your encouragement to live intentionally. I have to do this every morning as well, decide from the beginning what my daily goals/needs are and keep my eye on those first and foremost.

    And speaking of, I gotta get to work...

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  5. Setting goals is huge for me.

    You have so many exciting things coming up. Still thoroughly enjoying watching you run this race with such dignity and grace.

    ~ Wendy

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  6. Good morning, everyone! I think this IS a time of year as fall activities start to gear up, that we really do need to look at how we can be intentional with our lives and schedules! I wish you all the best as you work through how to live intentionally! :-)

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  7. AWESOME post! I love your writing and will happily promote you in my "small" corner of the world!

    This is really a great time of year to address this topic. Actually, it's a great time at any point. Social media can really get in the way. When my plate is so full with life stuff, all that extra social stuff can tip it to overflowing.

    Thanks for the reminder to be intentional. I'll be beginning our homeschooling year in 2.5 weeks and I'm trying to plan out 4 boys' schedules today for at least the first half of the year. JUST what I needed to hear today to get it done.

    Keep up the awesome writing.

    www.thenewlunchlady.com

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  8. I am easily distracted by social media and often am late with my deadlines (well, for the day job projects, anyway) But when it comes to my personal writing I always seem to get it done early. I try to set weekly goals too. But this month I have lagged SO FAR behind. In everything. I dunno. Is it the hot weather? Am I burned out? All I want to do is stare at a wall ... :-/

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  9. I find that I must treat my writing as if I were at work - No social media or cell phones during writing time.

    Too much distraction otherwise.

    I just ordered your new book from Amazon. Look forward to reading it.

    Best wishes on it!

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  10. Thanks for this encouragement Jodi. The word 'intentional' is quite powerful and perfectly describes what is needed. I also appreciated the thought that we can't become 'robots'.
    I've made some changes to my own schedule recently that have been helping me. It's about goal setting but then giving yourself to grace to let go once in awhile, too.
    http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com

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  11. This is a really interesting post, Jody. As a teacher, I live September to September busy and purposeful. I'm always thrilled to have the summer off, but before long I'm cranky and irritable - and definitely unproductive. I realized that it's the lack of defined purpose in each day that makes me that way. When I get out and do things, I'm much happier.

    I also wanted to link to a blog Tawny Weber wrote yesterday on HealthyWriter.com. She wrote about a meditative tool to set your daily scene. Imagine your day and dress yourself for it mentally. She says hers isn't meant in a planning sense, but after reading both posts, I believe your ideas complement each other well.

    http://www.healthywriter.com/index.php/such-a-simple-thing/

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  12. Your post really hits home for me right now! I've spent the majority of summer "floating" & craving the structure of the school year. I'm one of the people who just naturally works better under pressure, but as the kids have gotten older & circumstances have changed, the urgency of life has ebbed. Meaning, my days aren't necessarily dictated by what everyone else NEEDS & so I can focus on what I WANT to do... and yet without those goals outlining basic parameters of my day I just float!!

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  13. This is awesome, Jody! I wrote on being intentional vs. being time today, too (not so much about writing, but all my life projects and goals in general!). Anyway, I love the concrete advice -- and I say that as that tweetdeck thingy is chirping away in the upper right-hand corner of my screen...and here I am reading posts while I am supposed to be writing my newspaper column. You called me on that one!

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  14. I'm continually amazed by how much you accomplish, Jody. I admire your self-discipline and intentionality.

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  15. Brilliant post. I'm finally getting the discipline to shut down all my browsers when writing. It's tough, but you gotta be tough to do this successfully! :)

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  16. Real life has trumped writing life for me this summer. My oldest daughter got married--Yay! Vertigo came to visit in May and hasn't left yet--Boo!
    Editing (my project and others') has taken priority over writing my next novel ...
    Let's just say your post is timely.
    One thing I'm doing is reading Anen Voskamp's "A Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are."
    She's helping me reframe my perspective on life and how I spend the hours of my days.

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  17. This is just the post I needed to see right now, Jody; thank you very much. Less than a week now until your book hits the shelves, yes!

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  18. I have found myself slacking off in "intentionaly living" lately. I hope to get myself back in order soon...as in, September...a time of new beginnings...I hope. Congratulations on book #2 Jody. Seem like that time went by fast!

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  19. As always your time management (and life management in some cases) advice is good. Thanks for writing this - just reading it helps me to focus a bit.

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  20. Love your tips, especially about the 1000 words a day on first draft. I'm guilty of stopping too soon, of wearing both the writing and editing hat at the same time.

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  21. Good advice Jodi, I always write better when I plan my time. I'm still working on my first novel and have broken the editing down to targeted times for each chapter. For my short stories I choose competitions to enter, keep a schedule of these and work towards them. I like to work to a deadline even if it's one I set for myself.

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  22. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x
    http://lola-x.blogspot.com

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  23. So excellent and timely Jodi. I've really been struggling with being clear about what I am working on at any particular time and what I want to achieve and worrying about keeping the family sane and happy too. A lack of structure does keep us drifting and feeling unsatisfied as we have no awareness of what we have achieved and no sense of progression. I will do my best to live intentionally in the weeks ahead.

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  24. Wise words, Jody. I struggle with time management as I continue working full time while writing my memoir. The good news is that I am very close to being finished. Appreciate all of what you share with us about your writing journey

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  25. Great post, Jody. It's so easy to get sidetracked and not be intentional about our lives.

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  26. Hi Jody! I just stumbled onto your site, and found so many posts I want to read, I can't decide where to start. Thank for sharing!

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  27. Hi @farthestoceans!

    So glad you stumbled upon my blog and found some posts that resonated! Wish you all the best in your writing! :-)

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  28. Super post! I'm trying to get more and more intentional and though I have lofty goals I rarely meet at least I'm doing more!! I'd love to borrow this post and the other one you mentioned for Writer...Interrupted!

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  29. Oh this is a lovely post, Jody! And, as you might notice, I'm only now catching up with my blog reading. :)

    I try very hard to live intentionally because like you I get really irritable when I don't. (My family calls me on it too!)

    This is a nice reminder. Thanks for always being transparent about your process.

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