New Year, New System
Written by
Jay Hammond
January 2019
Written by
Jay Hammond
January 2019

I’m one of those writers. You know, the ones who enjoy some moderate success but can never quite break through to the real thing. As a consequence, I’m always searching for a new system or way of doing things that will be the key to achieving my writing dreams. This year, I think I’ve finally found it.

Before I dive into what I’m doing in 2019 to turn my writing dreams into reality, let me backtrack a little. No, I’m not just teasing you. There is no hard sell message or buy button at the end of this post. I just think my system for going forward will make more sense if you understand a bit about where I’ve been.

As you may have guessed, I’ve been kind of stuck for a while. My career wasn’t going anywhere probably because my writing wasn’t exciting me. I’d lost interest in social media (I blame the news for that, the online world has become a surreal place ruled by extremes). To top it all off, some family members had struggled with health issues for a couple of years. Oh, and I’ve been depressed for a variety of reasons. Clearly, not the best mindset or environment to write in. 

Then, in July, I started working through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

The Artist’s Way is billed as a 12-week long recovery program for creative types, including writers. I wasn’t thrilled about getting involved with a 12-step program; however, a good friend was doing it, so I decided to join her. Strictly for support, of course. (Yes, I am the writer version of Harold Ramis’ character in Stripes who joins the Army just because his buddy thought it was a good idea.)  Anyway, I started working through The Artist’s Way and, despite some doubts, I found the process very helpful. I’d fallen into a pretty significant depressive episode, and the process inspired me to take a hard look at how I contributed to my situation. That, in turn, helped me find my way out of it. I didn’t find immediate success, which is what, if I’m being honest, I was hoping when I started The Artist’s Way. I did get words flowing from my pen again. As first steps go, that’s a biggie. I also discovered some truths and developed some habits that have become a vital part of my life. At the end of 15 or so weeks it took me to complete the book, I was in a much better place but still wasn’t where I dreamed of being.

That’s when I picked up Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner. I bought my first planner in October, based on the Look Inside page previews I found on Amazon and intending just to use it until the start of 2019. The Full Focus Planner, or FFP, is part of a quarterly system, so each volume is only designed to be used for three months. I didn’t know it at the time, but they are part of a much larger and more formal system. I used it for more than a month with moderate success (especially given that I didn’t know what I was doing!) before I discovered the overarching system. I spent the next six weeks diving deeper into Michaels Hyatt’s system. I learned a great deal and discovered some fascinating things about how I work and what motivates me. SMARTER goals were particularly beneficial. 

 That said, while I still love the planner, the system isn’t as perfect a fit. Probably because I have a habit of tailoring things to my specific needs and the way I work. I can never leave well enough alone so I’m using the daily schedule as a diary where I can track my time on specific tasks rather than just a holder for appointments or deadlines. Those I put on the month-at-a-glance pages. Obviously, I’m always tweaking things, which leads me back to where I started: what I’m doing to turn my writing dreams into reality this year.

The plan I will be working in 2019, or at least the first quarter of it, is a mash-up of The Artist’s Way and some other things all organized and put to work with the help of my Full Focus Planner.

This year I’ve made my morning pages part of my workday startup ritual, getting them out of my Daily Big 3 where they lived last quarter. This change means I will be focusing on other writing but continuing my practice of freewriting three pages each day. I am also including prayer or at least mindful meditation in my morning and evening rituals. My Ideal Week (a feature of the Full Focus Planner) includes going to the gym on three mornings per week (one of my SMARTER annual goals) and time for an Artist’s Date. 

My annual goals, and especially the goal details (next steps, motivational keys, rewards, etc.) are SMARTER goals as described by Michael Hyatt but laced heavily with The Artist’s Way regarding the content and context. For instance, the weekly Artist’s Date I mentioned is a chance to explore and nurture my creativity described in The Artist’s Way. What motivates me to go on weekly Artist Dates is that they feed my creativity, allow me to learn something new and are fun! My next steps include finding a local schedule of events and penciling in some that sound interesting. My reward for going on a Date is purchasing some new stickers or some new yarn. 

At first blush, going to the gym, having Artist’s Dates and switching my rituals up may not seem to have much to do with my writing goals. Believe me, they do! Because without these “outside” things, I become stagnant and writer’s block sets in. Yet, even though I know that, I struggle to do them. They feel like wasting time. Time when I should be writing. Thus I need a method to hold myself accountable for doing them because they really are an essential part of keeping the words flowing. 

I’ve found my Full Focus Planner is a handy tool for holding myself accountable. It also helps me prioritize things and maintain healthy boundaries (something I’ve always struggled with). I can see where my time went. More importantly, the Weekly and Quarterly Previews encourage me to look back and see what has or has not worked for me so I can make changes and hopefully improve my results in the future. Yes, all this takes effort. I’m worth it.

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