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Hiatus Over

I’m back! Last year, I quit my job, moved, and bought a place for my books to live. I spent June through December in experiments. I traveled. I wrote. I accomplished a goal I’ve had since I was eight.

And I carried out several dozen studies in efficiency and accountability. Most of these inquiries led nowhere, but some made it past margins of error and novelty. Since it’s the season of resolutions, I thought I’d share what worked for me–in the hopes that fellow resolution makers and breakers remember that every day can make you feel as new year’s day did. Whatever those feelings were.


New Year’s Day Feels

Have a novel, thesis, edit, renovation, fitness project, application, translation, [insert leviathan here] to tackle? Every day, take ten fully focused minutes to do it–no phone, no Facebook, no distractions. Tell yourself if you can do it for ten minutes, that’s enough. One of two things will happen: you’ll stop after the allotted time or you’ll keep going. But if all you ever manage is ten minutes a day for thirty days, that’s still five hours toward the project that you might not have put in otherwise. After your month of ten daily minutes, try fifteen.

You can tailor the limit as needed. If you’re a writer for example, set the minimum to a paragraph a day or a page a day for thirty days. If you’re an illustrator, do a drawing a day. If you’re trying to take up running, do a minute, then two, then three, and build to five continuous minutes by the end of thirty days. The objective is to help you get started. How much more time you put in as you go is up to you.

Another useful thing to do is to subtract. You have twenty-four hours most days. If you want to sleep for ten of those twenty-four hours, accept that whatever you want to get done must fit in fourteen. If commuting time, food prep time, eating time, gym time, and getting ready in the morning time usually take a total of five to six hours, subtract that amount. Et voilà, you have the range of hours within which your tasks must fit. If you habitually set yourself up to do things that exceed, in this case, those eight to nine hours, you’re setting yourself up for daily disappointment. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t push yourself a little–you should. But do the math. Do seven days of math. Schedule down time. Build in leeway. Set reasonable expectations.

Display at Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)

And when you get discouraged because it’s February 1st or June 1st or December 21st, and you think you’ve gotten nowhere, just remember one thing: incremental progress is progress.

Incremental progress is progress.

I have to tell myself this every day multiple times a day. It is impossible to look good and get better at the same time. This detail is especially true in the arts. You’re not going to be the best cartoonist, the best guitarist, the best filmmaker right away. I’ve found it’s also true in investments, real estate, test prep, athletics, and coding. But even the smallest step in the direction of your dreams gets you closer to them. So do the small things if small is all you manage today. A year of small things will get you there. And as a result of your putting in the time, you will, by default, tackle the bigger and harder tasks as you go.

Maybe you feel you’ve already gone off track with your grand plans for the year. Whatever else you take away from this post, just remember that you don’t fail unless you stop trying. Really. I’ve taken to giving myself a certain number of days a month on which I’m allowed to fall short in the pursuit of a specific project. I never know when those days will occur. But this way, when they do, it’s an expected setback that doesn’t throw me off. It’s part of the process, part of the progress. I’m still advancing. After all, it’s worth pursuing those goals that make up our dreams, no matter how many times we stop, start, and start again.


  • Lauren February 1, 2017

    Love it!! Good ideas!!

  • Charles February 1, 2017

    Glad to be reading your stuff again, my friend! Excellent advice and reminders. I especially love the “It is impossible to look good and get better at the same time.”

    I think being fully aware of that fact when we begin working toward a new goal will help a lot with managing the inevitable discouragements and hanging in there!

    • Clarinda February 9, 2017

      Thanks Charles. Keeping it in mind has definitely helped me.

  • Julia February 1, 2017

    I appreciate this post! I think you have addressed ideas most people like to put to the side. Tasks are the green beans at the dinner table. No child wants to eat green beans, but their parents force them to because it makes them healthy in strong. No one likes deadlines or finishing tasks, but they make us organized and efficient people. As a college student, I have started to notice this adult clock you wrote about in this post. It’s a daily timeline that consists of balancing necessities, obligations, and interests.

    In high school, it was easier to accomplish tasks because everything was automatically typed in scheduled time blocks. From 8:00am to 4:00pm, I knew I would be in classes. After school, I knew I would have three hours to do my homework…and so on.

    Once I got to college, I made rules for myself–as if I was my own parent. These rules forced me to finish tasks, whether it be homework, applications, exercise, or downtime. For some people, however, that’s not the case. There’s a lot of free time in college, but if people don’t use this time wisely, the clock doesn’t wait. It just continues to move clockwise every second, every minute, and every hour. The popular word for students my age is procrastinate. Yes, I have been a victim to this to this monster many times, but I try to avoid it as much as possible. This monster is dormant until it meets your Monday. Before you know it, you have a big presentation, three tests, and a club meeting–all on the same day. As you have said, doing tasks in small increments makes it a lot easier to complete them. Those three tests, presentations, and meetings don’t seem as daunting, and you have a better product. Those ten minutes each day could really alleviate that feeling of panic the night before that due date, test, or deadline. Simply, swallow the green beans–they’re good for you!

    • Clarinda February 9, 2017

      Julia, thanks for your lovely comment and useful insights. I’m curious: what rules do you set for yourself?

  • Alex February 2, 2017

    I tried the 10-minute one today. It worked. I’ll report back in a month.

    Anyone else try any of these?

  • Casie February 3, 2017

    Thanks for posting! And congratulations on achieving your long held goal!

  • Casie February 3, 2017

    Thanks for posting! And congratulations on achieving your long held goal!

  • Casie February 3, 2017

    I like to say things twice!

    • Clarinda February 9, 2017

      I like reading them!

  • Nelly February 9, 2017

    Follow your dream and make it happen. Delightful piece! Well written Clarinda!

    • Clarinda February 10, 2017

      Thanks! =)

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