Though in denial for years, I recently confessed to
having Project A.D.D. and not being able to focus long enough to finish a
project until there’s a looming deadline overhead. Maybe you can relate? If so,
read on. If not, go ahead and make your New Year’s resolutions, then skip to the comment
section and tell the rest of us your secrets to getting things done.
When I was
little, my mom would say I always started things, but never finished them. Now
I see it in my adult life. My office is piled with writing related projects. Outside
my daughter’s room sits discarded toys waiting to be donated or sold, in the
craft room a half-finished scrapbook project waits, and in my computer is a
lonely WIP I have yet to pick up again after a year of two book launches, marketing,
freelance writing, and teaching distractions. And did I mention the novella I
didn’t finish in time for Christmas?
So many things cluttering my mind waiting to
be finished. So why do I do this? Why do you do this? Why do we start projects
and bounce around from one to the other? Why can’t we just focus on ONE and
plow away until it’s done? And more importantly how do we battle this project
A.D.D. and keep our New Year’s resolutions this year?
Since we’ve identified the symptoms of Project A.D.D., it
might be time to explore the cause and solutions.
When I was a news editor for my college paper,
I had a weekly deadline. I also had a full class schedule and was chaplain to
30 girls. How did I do it? Late nights barely making curfew and catching up
homework on weekends with no social life, but the news section came out on time
because I had a deadline.
Just last this month I turned in two paying freelance
articles on deadline even though it seemed like I waited until the last minute
to write them because of all the other pressing things in my life. I learned
while pressure is not something I love, it does help me finish projects.
Solution: If you don’t have a specific
deadline, give yourself one and stick to it. Then tell someone you can be held
accountable to and send the finished project to them.
No “To Do” List
I know when I make a “To Do” list I spend less
time on social media “marketing” and more time crossing things off my
list. So why don’t I do it more often? Part of me thinks it might take too much
energy or time to make a list, but in reality, it helps clear my mind, and helps
me focus to accomplish the important things, thus saving me time.
Solution: Instead of a “To Do” list I
have a three ring binder where I keep all my ongoing projects. Whenever I think
of something else I need to do on a project, I write it down in the correct
section. With a resource like this, I should never get off task. Then if one
project becomes stalled for reasons beyond my control, I can work on another.
Great advice, right? Now if only I’d be more consistent in using that binder!
Let’s face it, without clear goals, how can I
have the motivation to accomplish anything? Yet, even with clear goals it’s not
necessarily a given the task will get done. For example, I’ve needed to work on
several scrapbooking projects for years, but there hasn’t been a rush. Now with
my son graduating high school, I feel the urgency to finish that scrapbook so
he’ll have something to display at graduation.
Solution: Reevaluate your goals and
prioritize things you want to do in your personal and professional life. What need
to get done in the next week? Put those on the top of your “To Do” list.
When a project takes too long or gets stalled,
I get bored. That’s when I look for another project which isn’t always a
terrible thing. For example, when I get stalled in a writing project and need a
break from the computer, I try and do some laundry or clean my office. I’m
still being focused and productive, but if I start gravitating toward Facebook
without a plan, then it might be two hours later with nothing to show for it!
Solution: Make a “To Do” list that has
different types of projects (remember that “To Do” binder?) and plan for down
time. If you like to be on Facebook when you get bored, then put it on your “To
Do” list and set a time limit.
We may never be cured of our Project A.D.D.,
but if we remember the things that get us off task and prepare for them, I know
we can be more productive.
How about you? How do you battle
Project A.D.D. and what do you do to keep on task?
Gina Conroy is founder of Writer…Interrupted and is still learning how to balance a career with raising a family. Represented by Chip MacGregor, she writes fun, quirky mysteries full of depth. Her first book Cherry Blossom Capers, released from Barbour Publishing in January 2012 and her newest mystery, Digging Up Death is available now.