Kait Nolan

Sunday Check-In Week 6

Annnd… another week down. The End of Round 1 is getting closer and closer, and that means it’s time to start thinking about new goals and about calmly assessing how we’re doing so far. It’s also time to check-in with our fellow ROWers for support, encouragement and for the fun of it. As usual, you have a few ways to share your progress:

No matter how you reach out, you’ll find friendly, supportive writers out there.  There will be none of this…  mostly.  😀

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Ready to check in? Go ahead and click…

Introducing Pacemaker

Usually I’d be ending on some kind of rah-rah high note but I find myself fresh out of specific inspiration this morning.  What I do have to share is glee over a new tool.  It is no secret that I love stats.  I have a possibly unhealthy relationship with my spreadsheets, and I get twitterpated over graphs that show my progress.  So when fellow author Jessica Fox pointed me toward Pacemaker, I might’ve had a full on flail of excitement.  Actually, the flail was mutual because we both love trackers.

What is Pacemaker?   Well, I’ll swipe the about copy from their website:

A Simple Flexible Planner for Writers & Students

Set a Goal

Give a memorable name to your project and determine how much you want to do within your timeframe.

Set a Strategy

Want to start small? How about swallowing the frog and knocking out large workloads right away? Tell Pacemaker when you can commit more or less time to your work and how you want to approach the workload.

Sit Back

Pacemaker calculates a schedule that will help you finish on-time! No need to wrestle with spreadsheets or do manual calculations. Download your plan in iCal format or save your plan to your Pacemaker Account.

Pace Yourself

Start working towards your target. Each day counts! As long as you follow the Pacemaker schedule, you will finish ontime.

Record Progress

Record your progress and Pacemaker will adjust your workload based on how you’ve been doing. Further adjust your plan based on any new changes to your availability.

Celebrate!

You did it! Take some time to celebrate this milestone.

Pacemaker is a playful way of making peace with your writing goals. You set a word count goal, chip away at it day by day and finish on-time! You can approach your writing target in various ways to suit your style :

  • Steady – write the same amount of work every day.
  • Rising to the Challenge – start off small and increase your word count quota every day.
  • Biting the Bullet – bite off large chunks of your writing goal at the beginning of your schedule so that the pressure is off at the end of your schedule.
  • Random – each day is a surprise, you may need to complete 5 words or 500! Whether heavy or light, you’ll reach your word count goal at the end of your specified schedule.

One of the big things that Jessica and I both love about it is the setting that allows you to adjust the schedule.  So, for example, I have taekwondo on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which means my evening writing time is more or less nil.  So I can’t expect as much of myself on those days.  This allows me to account for that.  If you routinely take a particular day of the week off to mentally rest, you can account for that.  There are a ton of ways to adjust the thing, and since ROW80 is all about setting your own goals, this is a tool that fits right into our mission statement and gives you a way to sort out what you need to do to meet those goals when life happens.

Give it a try!!!

~*~

Kait Nolan

How Marginal Gains Can Bring Big Results by Kait Nolan

The UK has won 3 of the last 4 Tour De France races.  Prior to that?  They’d never won a single one in the history of the race (which started in 1903).  The secret to their success?  Well, according to Matthew Syed’s interview with Sir David Brailsford,  “It is about marginal gains,’ he said. ‘The approach comes from the idea that if you break down a big goal into small parts, and then improve on each of them, you will deliver huge increase when you put them all together.”

What does that mean exactly?  Well, Syed goes on to say (in his book Black Box Thinking):

“The marginal gains mentality has pervaded the entire Team Sky mindset. They make sure that the cyclists sleep on the same mattress each night to deliver a marginal gain in sleep quality; that the rooms are vacuumed before they arrive at each new hotel, to deliver a marginal gain in reduced infections; that the clothes are washed with skin-friendly detergent, a marginal gain in comfort.”

I first read about this in on of Brian Johnson‘s Philosopher’s Notes (a fabulous little, distill-it-down email about some of the greatest books of our time) and the idea stuck with me.  I’m all about breaking things down into manageable bits so that a project doesn’t seem so overwhelming, but this is something else entirely.  This is about all the little things that you probably DON’T consider have an impact on your goal.  In our case, writing.

  • Like, making sure that we have a comfortable chair with adequate back support.  This means I don’t waste time fidgeting because I’m uncomfortable.
  •  Swapping those God-awful compact fluorescent bulbs to something with a more pleasing hue.  Not being annoyed by my lighting, means I can focus better on the task at hand more quickly.
  • Being sure to have a big, insulated glass of ice water right there and ready before I get started.  It’s insulated, so it stays colder longer.  It’s huge, so I don’t have to get up to refill it as often.
  • Putting on my headphones with MyNoise.net instead of just letting it play through the laptop speakers.  This helps me block out distractions more effectively (even though I don’t have full-on noise-cancelling headphones).
  • Picking a candle scent to go along with a particular WIP.  I picked this one up from Tawna Fenske.  Lighting it and having that scent cue primes my brain for that particular book.
  • Getting up a few minutes earlier every day.  I had though I’d need to get up a full hour before my normal wakeup time.  And during NaNo, I did (because I was establishing a new habit).  But I’ve learned that if I get up just half an hour earlier, I can usually crank out between 500-almost 1k words before my morning workout.  Doing that every weekday means my total word count for the week is 2,500-5,000 words greater than not getting up.  (Of course, now that Daylight Savings Time is upon us, I’m in the process of slowly rolling my body clock back and cursing profusely the whole time).  Even fifteen minutes of writing is worth getting up because it starts my day in the story and means that I can stay in it a lot better, regardless of what else I happen to face the rest of the day, which makes my evening writing session far more productive.
  • Using Write or Die 2 instead of just drafting on a normal blank screen.  I didn’t realize how much difference this would make.  Man, that red screen of threat is hella motivating!

There are oodles of things that can feed in to our ability to get focused and stay focused, and I encourage you to give some thought to what little things you can do to achieve marginal gains in your writing.  Those marginal gains add up over time, making the effort (which really isn’t that much) well worth it.

~*~

Kait Nolan