Why Slacking Off Might be the Key to Achieving Your Goals

Big news!

Today I am the guest poster on Marcia Richards’ blog, Married with Stories (my first guest post ever!). Marcia is a fellow writer and one of the lead organizers of the Life List Club. The Life List Club is a group of writers who have connected to support each other as they work to achieve their goals.

Marcia writes posts about the writing life, the married life, and everything in between! I’ve really enjoyed reading her blog, so I’d highly recommend taking a peek. My guest post gives tips on how to create bite-sized goals and (unbelievably) what sushi and life goals have in common. Feel free to check it out here.

Even more big news!

I couldn’t be more excited to announce the first guest post on my blog! I’ve been a long-time fan of Pam Hawley’s blog about her writing adventures, so I am so, so happy to have her here as a fellow Life List Club member and guest poster.

Without further ado, here’s Pam!

Pam HawleyPam Hawley is a writer living in Baltimore, MD. When she’s not working at her day job, writing or in the gym, she can usually be found at her family’s pub, Hawley’s in Baltimore. So far, her new approach to achieving goals seems to be working – her first published short story, “A Wingding and a Prayer” appears in the July issue of eFiction Magazine. Pam blogs regularly at Hawleyville

By nature, I’m a slacker. I love a do-nothing pajama day. I’ve never been much of a list-maker, and my desk is a friendly pile of chaos. How did a navel-gazer like me end up participating in the Life List? More importantly, if you’re a regular reader of Carrie Mumford’s blog, you know she’s pursuing her writing ambitions with both foresight and focus. Why would she have a self-proclaimed slacker who shares her ambitions guest posting about attaining goals?

Maybe the universe works in weird ways. Or maybe slacking now and then is one of the best things you can do to achieve your goals. Hear me out here.

We are our own worst enemies when it comes to goals. That isn’t because we’re unmotivated or lazy. It isn’t because our “get up and go” sometimes “gets up and goes.” It is because we are our own worst critics. In the past, I’ve been a prime case in point.

In my mid-30’s, I decided to write every day. I did this, and did it well, for several months. Then my boss made me a project lead for a major software implementation. I transitioned from a job I could do in 40 hours a week to one that regularly ate 60-70 hours like a chocoholic snarfing down a Hershey Bar.

If I wasn’t bleary-eyed and cursing in my office, I was in the gym. I came home exhausted and sat at the keyboard, but words wouldn’t always come. If I was lucky, I got in some “real” writing time 3 days a week.

A wiser woman would have taken a deep breath and assessed the situation. She would have recognized that some progress was better than none at all. She would have acknowledged her change in circumstances and adjusted her goals accordingly.

I wasn’t that wise woman. Instead, I beat myself up over missing my mark. My daily trips to the keyboard became something I feared. I turned writing from a passion into a dreaded chore, and caught a case of writer’s block that lasted for three years. Instead of moving forward at slower pace than I had hoped, I actually took a giant step backwards.

My failure came from my “all or nothing” approach. Instead of seeing the value in what I was writing, I focused solely on what I wasn’t achieving. Frustration mounted and my writer’s self-esteem took a nosedive. No one likes to feel like a loser, so rather than struggle, I abandoned my efforts altogether. Instead of writing less than I’d hoped, I wrote nothing.

This time around, I’m taking a different approach towards my goals. For once, I’m not being any harder on myself than I would be on someone else.

My current fitness goal is five days a week in the gym. My writing goal is once again to weave words daily. But there will be days that I get on a serious word-roll and don’t make it to the gym. There will be times when a crisis at my day job or an unexpected chance to see an out-of-town friend will keep me away from the keyboard.

Without allowing total slackitude, I’m going to chalk those days up to “life happens.” Because let’s face it, I’d be much more lenient on anyone else. If my artist friend told me she skipped a day of painting to take an extra shift at work, I’d say “great, the cash will keep you in art supplies.” If a workout buddy says she’s skipping the gym for an impromptu camping trip with her hubby, my first thought is “good for you. Life is to be lived, not scheduled down to the second.”

We easily applaud our friends who are making progress in their goals without judging the speed or method in which they are doing so. Let’s show a little of that love to ourselves. We need to be our own “hall monitors,” but that doesn’t always have to mean being our own worst critics, too.

If you make your goals a cage, eventually you’re going to claw at the bars and escape them. If you fit them into the ebb and flow of your life, they’ll become a part of who you are. Set your goals, and work towards them with all your being. But when life happens, don’t be so overwhelmed by frustration that you get derailed. Circumstances at work or home that force you to shift priorities will eventually be overcome so that you can get back on schedule. A little spontaneity, flexibility and fun in your life will recharge you. Enjoying life and taking those detours will keep you on the journey for the long haul.

A stroll through Carrie’s blog reveals a writer who isn’t just working towards her goals – she’s enjoying the journey and reveling in discoveries along the way. Perhaps, like Carrie and I, your ambitions center on writing. Or maybe your goal is to get fit, learn to cook, become fluent in a foreign language, finish a degree, get a new job or simply spend more time with your loved ones. Whatever your end destination may be, you’re much more likely to get there if you’re enjoying the journey.

Think of your goals as a rope. They are a tool to help you climb a mountain. If you stretch them too taut and put too much weight on them, they may break and send you tumbling down the mountainside. If you use them more gently, you’ll get safely to the top of the mountain and enjoy the view below.

This time, I’m choosing to cut myself some slack.

If you’d like to join the Life List Club or find out what it’s all about, visit the Life List Club page

Do you have writing goals? Have you found a little bit of slacking off goes a long way?

17 Responses to “Why Slacking Off Might be the Key to Achieving Your Goals”

  1. Yes well, my kind of slacking borders on eternal. :P

    I have the same approach to writing and life, Pam. The dreaded all or nothing. At first I thought it was exciting, never a dull moment you know, but then it turned into long periods of not writing or writing too much (by this I mean writing so much I forget to talk to people), and I decided that a sensible adult would find some kind of middle ground.

    I suppose that’s a goal within itself, isn’t it? Anyway, I like your new philosophy about goals. Pressure’s never good for anything or anyone. Keep at it as you are now and you’ll do great. I can only aspire to finding my magic recipe for success. I supose the Life List Club is a good start as any. Thanks, fellow life-listers! :)

    • I could easily slip into eternal slacking too … must be that all-or-nothing gusto with which we approach life! I have to watch that I don’t let “lenient” become “lazy.” : ).

  2. Pam, love the rope analogy! Sometimes we load our packs up so heavily, we slide right off that rope and down the mountainside! I’ve been known to do that myself.. Congrats Carrie and Pam–your post is the featured blog at WordPress today!

  3. Slow and steady wins the race, right? I think I’m going to take your advice and not kill myself for not accomplishing everything I want too. All too often I beat myself up even though I’ve been working all day. Thanks for the advice!

    • I’m feeling much better on the slow and steady route – then again, when I tried the “fast and furious” I ended up out of the race altogether!

  4. I do not know if slacking is good…but it is a part of my routine.
    Actually, a serious writer never slacks. That is the problem. We see two people talk, and suddenly our minds race creating conflict or love or desire in these strangers’ simple glances.
    My mind is always thinking of a theme, looking for some characters…yikes…make it stop…make it stop!

    Jaye

    • Excellent point, Jaye. Our minds never slack, even when our fingers can’t get to a keyboard or pen and paper. I think one of the reasons I so love those pajama days is they’re a chance to step up and get the thoughts and characters I’ve collected from a week of being out in the world out of my head and into some story or future story. Otherwise, they start to pile up in there and the “no vacancy” sign in my head lights up : ).

  5. I love your posts Pam. I’m convinced we were forced to share an office space for one month’s time and slept under our desks in sleeping bags. We probably survived on donuts if I had any say.

    Thank you for once again kicking my butt and showing me it’s all possible. You are amazing.

  6. Excellent! We need to be able to take joy in the process. I pared my goals way down because I was getting so stressed out and my writing was suffering horribly. I’d like to be writing more, but I want to be able to feel like I *can* meet my goals and even pass them…instead of feeling like I’m always falling short.

    • I totally agree. I want to challenge myself but in a way that is attainable. For me, too much pressure and stress leads to not-so-good writing. And we already get enough of it from areas in our lives that aren’t as much under our control. The journey should be fun.

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