One of the things I like about working a day job is its tendency to provide nice, clean habit triggers. When 7:30 rolls around and I know that I need to be on a train by 8:30, its an immediate flag that I should sit down and write things. When I get into the office at 9:00 AM on a Monday morning, it’s a trigger that I need to sit down and do my weekly checkpoint while all the information I need is right in front of me.
And when I get home from work, three days of the week, it triggers that little habit where I check my writing email and do a hundred words or so, just so it’s fresh in my mind that I’m meant to be writing things before I go cook dinner or do evening things. And I know, three days a week, this is when I put down the rough drafts for blog posts.
I am far worse at establishing habit triggers on days when I don’t go to the office, because there is less routine. Write Clubs are basically a method of hacking that – creating an block of time that will develop its own habit triggers to keep me working.
The problem with building a routine around this is that it’s easy to let it all fall apart when things are disrupted. And pulling out one part of the process can basically cause the whole thing to collapse like a house of cards after someone’s breathed too hard.
Let’s take a simple thing: I don’t work Monday’s anymore. So my working week now starts with a writing day, which should be brilliant, but really has a tendency to be frittered away as an extra day of the weekend. And because I don’t go to work on a Monday, I don’t yet have a new trigger for sit down and do your weekly checkpoint so you know what’s going on in your life and where your attention needs to be.
And because I spend a weekend watching wrestling shows and Netflix, it’s easy to slump back into that routine on a Monday instead.
Yesterday, when I mentioned feeling somewhat listless and unfocused on the writing front, Maggie Slater asked what advice I would offer another writer in my situation. It was a damned good question, but it took me about seven or eight hours to realise that the advice I would offer was based around years of working for a writers centre where you get used to offering advice that’s built around leading the horse to water, rather than getting them to drink.
Basically, the advice I would offer is largely about tricking people into either setting or hacking their habit triggers.
This morning, I buggered off to my local cafe instead of firing up the WWE network. I sat down with a coffee and my bullet journal and I did a weekly check-in. I have a projects list for the week. I have a series of places I want my attention to be. I have next-actions coming out my ears.
And, in a relatively rare instance, I have a daily check-in for a day when I’m not at work which reminds me I’d like to be writing today, and blogging, and cleaning my house before I have people over Tuesday night.
Really, in an instance where you’re feeling that you’re not getting stuff done, my advice is almost always re-reading Charles Duhigg‘s work on habit formation and taking a close look at where you can hack your process.