When things don’t go entirely as planned

Several things didn’t go as planned this week, as I had a few unforeseen schedule changes, a bit of bad luck with my running, and a pretty bad day at work near the end of the week. As a result, both my running and my writing suffered (I missed a writing day and my long run is going to be 6k instead of 10K).

So what do you do when things don’t go entirely as planned?

Get back on the horse — so you missed a day, or didn’t make your daily word count, so what? Projects that are worth doing don’t live and die on a day (looking at you NaNoWriMo), but on accumulated body of work done over several weeks, months and years. Do you know what is entirely unhelpful to achieving that work? Getting so caught up in you missing a day that you decide to give up entirely. Get back on the horse, get back to fulfilling your daily goal today instead of fixating on what happened yesterday. .

Don’t go into a spiral of trying to make up for the lost work — that’s a great way to set yourself up to fail. If you set 500 words or a 5K run for today, you probably aren’t going to be able to do that and make up for the 500 words and 6K that you missed yesterday. So then you beat yourself up again, feel crummy, and set yourself up to fail by dragging more and more work with you from day to day until you give up. If you missed a day, then you missed a day. Move on.

Focus on what did happen — in my case, my reading this week sky-rocketted, and I spent more time with my family. That doesn’t make up for everything else, but it is something positive that I’m glad happened.

Partial work is better than no work — I ran a 0.5k this week, which sucked, but was better than nothing. There were also days when I wrote only 20 or 30 words. That’s not great, but its better than nothing, and every little thing can keep the habit going.

Check what went wrong and when, and see if you can learn from it for the future — were you too ambitious? Do you need to rework your plan to account for something that you couldn’t foresee when you first built it? Don’t make excuses, but do be honest and make some changes if necessary.

Leave enough ‘breathing room’ in your schedule for these kind of off days — this was my biggest mistake, and the one is going to be hardest to fix, long term. My running schedule can (still) suffer a few delays, but I’m prepping for a race in the fall, and I can’t really afford to leave things like my long run for the evening of the last day in the week. Earlier is better, and making sure that your goals are achievable even if you aren’t at peak performance is important — especially for endurance sports like running and novel writing.

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Some beautiful dahlias to make up for the slightly depressing topic.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going out for a run.

When things don’t go entirely as planned

One Good Thing I Read This Week: Fight by Shawn Blanc

This post is a month old but I only just stumbled upon it: Fight, by Shawn Blanc.

Shawn talks about deciding what is important to you, and how you should make sure that you really are making that thing a priority. If you’ve read Merlin Mann’s 43Folders, listened to the early episodes of his Back to Work podcast, or have been following Seth Godin then a lot of what he’s saying won’t be new to you. But there is something powerful about the succinct way he puts some of these same old ideas into words:

What then if you lived like nobody else?

  • Don’t spend hours each day watching television or scrolling through social networks.
  • Don’t let your work life dominate over family time, personal values, or happiness.
  • Don’t ignore the importance of investing over the long-run and planning for the future.
  • Live as far below your means as is reasonable, and don’t derive your happiness or self-worth by the fanciness of the things you own.
  • Don’t let laziness or busywork keep you from building something meaningful.
  • Don’t assume you need a better tool in order to do better work.

It’s funny. Simply doing the opposite of what most people do can actually open up many opportunities for you to do meaningful work.

It’s not a long piece, I recommend giving it a read. And then getting back to writing.

One Good Thing I Read This Week: Fight by Shawn Blanc