We’ve all been through periods in life where everything is up in the air, for the most part. You might be between jobs right now, or maybe you’re looking for a new apartment or a new relationship. Whatever the case, you might be feeling lost, helpless, and confused. But I want you to know this: you are not alone.
I’m not where I thought I’d be three months ago. Sometimes that terrifies me. Other times, it’s exciting. My mood shifts every day. As a perfectionist and a self-professed control freak, this is difficult for me. Nothing is going the way I planned, and sometimes, I feel stuck, unmotivated, and anxious about my current situation.
In moments of helplessness, you might feel as though you’ll never get “unstuck,” or that you’ll be where you are for the rest of your life. Of course, that’s not the case. No matter how confused, anxious, or lost you may be feeling right now, you are not alone, and this transition period will end. Nothing lasts forever, after all.
But while you’re in the midst of a difficult phase, there are some things you can do to make your life a little easier. Here are a few strategies I’ve discovered for how to survive a transition period in life.
1. LIST YOUR STRESSES
The next time you feel anxious or upset about the course your life has taken, sit down and make a list (bonus points for writing it out on paper) of all your current stressors. An example from my own life might say, “Not enough writing time, don’t have my own apartment, live far from friends” and things of that nature. No matter how silly or small what’s stressing you out seems, I want you to write it down. Once you’ve got your list, it’s time to move on to…
2. CIRCLE EVERYTHING YOU CAN CHANGE
Chances are, there are several things on your list that are outside your control, such as the deteriorating health of a loved one, suffering from a chronic illness, or anything like that. For this exercise, I want you to try to ignore those points. We’re only going to focus on what’s within our power to change. Let’s look at my examples: writing time, apartment, and distance from friends. These are all within my power to change, regardless of how hard it might be to do so. After you’ve figured out what you can change, feel free to…
3. LIST POTENTIAL NEXT STEPS
When you’ve figured out what you can change, you should decide how exactly you want it to change. For me, with writing time, I want to write more. If I make that goal more specific, it means I want to edit or draft at least 1,000 words each day, regardless of the project I have going at the moment. Some next steps toward that goal would be analyzing my time, determining what can be cut, tracking my writing progress, telling friends and loved ones, and perhaps outsourcing some tasks. When you know what all you need to do, go ahead and…
4. DETERMINE ORDER AND PRIORITY
Now that you have your next steps, what needs to be done first? Let’s go again with my writing example. I need to track my time and determine what can be cut from my life to make time for writing. I need to outsource some tasks to make more time for writing, and tell friends and loved ones that I’m taking time for myself each day, so they’ll know not to disturb me. I also need to track my progress once I’m writing regularly, to make sure my system is as efficient as possible. So, my order and priority list might look something like this:
- Track time spent every hour of every day.
- Analyze time, determine what can be cut or outsourced.
- Cut any distractions or necessary tasks, outsource others.
- Determine writing schedule and block off time.
- Tell loved ones of my time block.
- Keep track of writing progress and analyze to determine maximum efficiency.
Not too shabby, right? As soon as you’ve listed everything out, you can always break it down into smaller steps too, if need be. But when you’ve written out your list, it’s time to…
5. ATTACK THE LIST
From here, all you have to do is tackle each item on the list, one at a time, until you accomplish your goal. That’s not so bad now, is it? If you want extra productivity and goal-setting points, you can also add self-imposed deadlines. So for me, let’s say I want to track all my time every day this week, and start my analysis on Saturday. Self-imposed deadlines are a great way to help you stay motivated and on track.
Pro tip: Tackle one goal at a time! Although it might be thrilling to try to change everything at once, you’re much more likely to see success through building habits one by one. Wait until you reach one goal before rushing on to the next one. 🙂
I also recommend writing your goals out, including the order and priority of your next steps, and keeping them somewhere you can see them every day. That way, you can be constantly reminded where you might be heading, instead of where you are.
What are your tips for staying focused on your goals?
It’s hard for me to stay focused while writing. Sometimes I feel like there’s a perception on social media that I have my writing act together – which isn’t always true. While I do make an effort to concentrate when I’m working on something, it’s not guaranteed to happen. Sometimes the shiny lure of the internet is too strong to resist.
I wrote a similar post ages ago, but I’ve learned a lot since then. It’s time for an update. I want to share with you what works for me now, in hopes that you might find something that works for you, too. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve discovered some resources that help me stay focused.
- Write or Die. If you haven’t heard of Write or Die, check it out immediately. I’ve written some posts about it, but I’m not sure I’ve give you my settings yet. What works for me is setting the word count goal to 500 and the time limit to 30 minutes. You should experiment ad see what works best for you.
- Fullscreen mode. Whether you’re writing in Scrivener, Word, or some other program, going fullscreen is a great way to block out distractions and keep you focused on the task at hand. Ava Jae wrote a post about this technique.
- My laptop’s wireless button. Sometimes, the simplest solution is the most effective. If you just can’t bring yourself to stay off the internet, turn off your switch or your router for a while.
- Music and headphones. When I hear kids playing outside or my apartment is too quiet, I plug in my headphones and put some music on low in order to get in the zone. If you’re not a music person (first of all, how?), try a webapp like Coffitivity or focus@will.
- StayFocusd. I used to use this Chrome extension in college, but it’s been a while since I tried it again. Last night, I downloaded it and gave it a whirl. I’ve got to say, it’s just as great as I remember. Since I use social media for my job, I set the program to run from 5 p.m. when I get off work to 8 a.m. when I go into work. It lets me browse my blocked sites (Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) for 30 minutes before telling me to get back to work. There’s also a nuclear option if you want to block sites on the weekend or whatever, for a set amount of time. Give it a try.
I’m constantly on the lookout for more tips and tricks to keep me focused while writing. As I discover new methods for staying productive, you can count on me to share them with all of you here. While the methods in this post won’t work for everyone, I encourage you to try them out to find what works for you.
What are some tips, techniques, and resources that help you stay focused while writing?
Do you have trouble staying focused? Writer @brianawrites has some tips to help you write without distractions. (Click to tweet)