When you schedule a difficult task—on paper, especially—you make it harder to lose focus on it, blow it off, or both. You set yourself up to get it done.
I have a go-to bag of tricks I (must) turn to whenever I need to write something important.
First, I have to eliminate all distractions, current and potential, to cater to the introverted imperative to focus solely on the difficult task at hand.
I have to close every program on my computer except for the one I’m using to write my piece (or, often, scrap the computer completely and write the piece out in longhand).
I have to disconnect 100 percent from the Internet, which means not just shutting down my web browser but disabling the wireless connection altogether.
I have to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my office door, along with a note to my kids that says “there’d better be blood.”
And my cell phone? Ugh, my cell phone: It can’t be anywhere near me. So I put it out of sight and out of earshot, clear on another floor of the house or out in the garage—and on silent mode to boot.
Once I’ve taken these basic steps, I’m ready to sit down and write.
I’m lying, of course, to you and me both.
Because now—just as Ethan Kross describes in his book Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It—I have to deal with the voice(s) in my introverted head saying things like “who cares what you think?” and “you don’t know enough about this” and “uh oh, this might finally be the time when the words elude you.”
The Voices Don’t Stop
I have learned over the years that I’m not alone on the writer-hearing-voices front, which in itself gives me confidence that I can overcome all the taunting.
But what really helps me is a technique I learned from my counselor, Gail: She says the voices are simply trying to protect me, and that thus I am to thank them for their service—out loud—and then tell them “please disperse, nothing to see here.”
It actually works.
I end up talking to myself, but it does indeed work.
And so now, having eliminated distractions and tamed—or at least tempered—those pesky voices, I sit down and start to write.
I’m not lying this time.
Once in a while this is indeed how the process plays out for me.
But usually there’s one more step I need to take—the day before I have to write my important piece.
I need to schedule it.
Schedule the Difficult Task
If I simply think to myself that I will write my important piece between, say, 9:00 a.m. and noon tomorrow, I may or may not end up writing my important piece between 9:00 a.m. and noon tomorrow.
I may instead end up writing it later in the day.
Far more likely?
I’ll end up not writing it at all.
If, on the other hand, I write down my plan on a paper schedule, it is a virtual lock that, come tomorrow—unless there is indeed blood (mine or my kids’)—I will follow through and write my piece between 9:00 a.m. and noon.
There is something magnetic about a physical schedule that turns intention into focused commitment, especially when you’re an introvert and your task is intimidating.
Consider my online course and coaching program “Be the Introvert You Are!” for example.
After all the thinking and research I had done to develop the program, the time eventually came for me to start writing it—to get it out of my head and into the tangible form that became the course itself.
The distractions, as usual, were all around me. The voices too. I knew I’d need to go beyond tricks. I knew I’d need a schedule.
So I made one. And followed it.
Because for whatever reason, a printed schedule somehow makes inaction a near impossibility.
Before I knew it, out from my brain flowed an eight-module course and coaching program for introverts.
So if you have a difficult task you really want—or need—to get done, schedule it.
You’ll find that you have a hard time not focusing and following through.