Monday, May 21, 2018

Three Mindset Shifts To Help You Have A (Realistically) Productive Summer

Stephanie Morrill is the creator of and the author of several young adult novels, including the 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street (Blink/HarperCollins). Despite loving cloche hats and drop-waist dresses, Stephanie would have been a terrible flapper because she can’t do the Charleston and looks awful with bobbed hair. She and her near-constant ponytail live in Kansas City with her husband and three kids. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterPinterest, Instagram, and sign up for free books on her author website.

Earlier this week, I followed a link to an article called something like, "10 Ways to be Super Duper Productive!" I'm a sucker for those articles. I hardly ever get anything out of them, but they're like a flame to my inner moth.

There was nothing of use in the article, but the tone of it irritated me more than usual. "Make your bed first in the morning! Then you'll have at least accomplished one thing!" And, "Spend fifteen minutes picking up your house at the end of the day! That will help keep it clean!"

Look, these are fine things. When I worked from home and had zero children, I did make my bed first thing every morning, and there was no need for me to pick up my house at the end of the day because both my husband and I clean up after ourselves. Productivity has gotten increasingly harder as I've gotten older and my responsibilities have grown.

That article did not understand me or my productivity struggles, and to be fair, I was probably not the author's target audience. All the same, when I saw that the blogging topic I jotted down on my calendar for today was, "Being a productive writer during the summer," I just laughed.

I graduated high school in 2001 and immediately went to work, so the last real "summer break" I experienced was in 2000. At this stage of life, it's easier for me to be productive during the school year because that's when the majority of my kids are occupied during the day.

Truthfully, I can only offer this advice from my memories of what it was like to have a summer break stretching before me. Maybe these thoughts on summer and productivity will completely miss the mark for you, but here are my ideas, and I welcome you to include yours in the comments.

1. Think Something, Not Everything

When my inbox gets overloaded or my to-do list gets real long, that's when I become so overwhelmed that I don't even know what to do first. I find myself scattered. I'll start to answer an email, then allow myself to get sidetracked by checking for that book on Amazon, then remember I need to draft a blog post, then realize I'm still halfway through that email...

Sometimes we can't help that a day holds a lot of need-to-dos, but when I can, it's best for me to think small. To think of the one, maybe two, items that I want to cross of my list. Or the one scene I want to get written, rather than the whole chapter.

That's what the 100-for-100 challenge is about in a lot of ways. (Just a few more days to get registered, writers!) Aiming low because we know that getting something done each day is better than hoping to get everything done.

2. Think Training, Not Mastery

I don't know if you're like me, but I tend to want to rock something right away. If I decide I want to take up running, I determine I'm going to start running a mile everyday. If I'm feeling motivated to eat better, I decide only salads for lunch and absolutely no sugar ever.

I don't want to bother with that whole training process. I want to master that thingeverything from running to writing a novelNOW.

Writing stories is fun, but it's also a long journey that requires endurance and training. You probably won't be able to go from writing 0 words every day to 5,000 words every day. Start with something smallagain, that's why we do a 100 word challengeand then bump it up a bit as time goes on.

3. Think Today, Not Tomorrow

"I'll start that tomorrow" is the phrase I used to say to myself all summer, until I would realize school started back up next week, and I hadn't touched any of the assigned books that I was supposed to have read by the first day of school. Whoops!

I regularly have to resist glamorizing and glorifying what person I will be tomorrow. Because guess what? I will be the same me. Tomorrow I will probably still be wishing I had gotten more sleep last night, my writing time will still be shorter than I would like, and there will still be far more interruptions than seem necessary. My struggles tomorrow are often the exact same as my struggles today.

Have something you want to make progress on? Today is a great day to start.

At the same time, don't put pressure on yourself to hit the ground running with productivity on day one of summer. Or day one after you've been on vacation or have been sick. (Isn't being sick during the summer just the worst?) Rest is good for our creative souls. Pressure and stress are not.

I'm looking forward to starting the 100-for-100 challenge with many of you on Thursday! Jill, Shannon, and I have spent the last few months lining up great authors to be our guests this summer, and next Monday I'll give you guys a peek at who will be stopping by the blog!


  1. LOL, I just wrote a post on productivity on my blog, so I chuckled a bit when I read the title! I really loved your points, particularly the one on training instead of mastery. That's huge, especially when mastery is something that may never be attained. There's always something new to learn.

    Thanks for sharing! I love this! And I can't wait for the 100-4-100 challenge to start!

    1. Many of us seem to be thinking about productivity with the season change! And that's a great point. I'm never going to MASTER writing.

  2. This is a wonderfully-timed post, as work and farm life is really busy right now (not to mention I've been sick)...

    But even just tackling a few things a day helps loads to get things done. I've had so much stuff get put on the backburner because I put it off "for tomorrow."

    1. It never seems like a convenient time to get sick, does it? I hope life slows down a bit for you soon!

  3. What a great post, Steph! This is all SO TRUE! I always have such high hopes for the summer and then . . . BUT! This year I have a plan and your thoughts encouraged me on. THANK YOU!

    1. I love plans :) I hope you have a wonderful, productive, and FUN summer, Shannon!

  4. This is a great post! Your point on making progress today instead of tomorrow really resonated with me. Here's to a more productive summer!

  5. As a chronic procrastinator, I really needed this post at the beginning of summer. :) Thanks so much, Mrs. Morrill!

    1. I wrote it as much for myself as you all, Megan, so I get it!

  6. Thanks, Stephanie! Really encouraging post! I'm currently bogged in that place where you stopped writing because of busyness and then you feel out of your element when you pull the document up again. And realize you should have plotted better. xD BUT this was helpful. I am looking forward to starting the 100-4-100 and using it as a good boost to get out of this self-diagnosed funk. :)

  7. All great points! Thank you! Looking forward to trying out 100 for 100 and attempting to (finally) get some words down again!

  8. I LOVE this, Steph. Great advice. :-)