The Ninja Writer’s Secret Weapon

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I love a new year.

I really do.

I love the feeling of a fresh start. I love the reminder to stop a minute and really think about my goals.

I might have a little planner addiction. No kidding, I use six of them:

  1. A monthly planner (this is like a wall calendar, in book form) that I use for meal planning.
  2. A regular old weekly agenda-type planner.
  3. A month-over-two-pages planner that I use as an editorial calendar for all manner of writing.
  4. A bullet journal for lists, and just for fun because I love it so much.
  5. A Passion Planner for goal setting.
  6. A page-a-day calendar for my daily to-do list.

That’s a lot. And I have a lot going on. Ninja Writers. My own book writing. Three kids. A husband. My parents-in-law living in our basement apartment. I’m a major (and unapologetic) soccer mom. A house that I try to keep from falling into hazardous-waste territory. Plus, I’m getting ready to start my second semester of graduate school.

I’m also super right-brained. Yes. Yes, I know. Right-brained isn’t really a thing according to science. But you know what I mean, right? I’m a creative type. I’m great at starts and suck at finishing anything. I love the planning and not so much with the follow-through sometimes.

Sometimes it seems like getting in over my head is my super power.

So, I had to come up with a way to actually get the things done that are the most important to me.

I call it my Secret Weapon.

It consolidates all of those planners into a system that really works.

It’s not a replacement for a regular weekly or monthly planner. It’s more like an enhancement.

It’s a booster.

In the last 18 months I’ve used it to help me: write two books, lose 120 pounds, and start Ninja Writers (which is the coolest, most amazing thing I’ve EVER done.)

I’ve quit my day job. I’ve made serious progress toward getting out of debt. I got accepted into a graduate program.

My Secret Weapon facilitated all of that.

Seriously. It’s that powerful.

I want to give it to you for free.

Just fill out this form and I’ll send you a downloadable PDF with the Secret Weapon and instructions for using it.

The Ninja Writer's Secret Weapon

Ninja Writers finish their first drafts. We just do. That's our THING.

If you want to finish your first draft, I've got your secret weapon.

Leave your email address and I'll get it right to you.

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The Magic of 100 Days

The Magic of100 Days

My 100 Day Experiment saved my life. I know that sounds dramatic–but the results really were THAT dramatic. Whether you want to make a habit or break a habit, there is something special about 100 days.

The 100 Day Experiment is a game changer. Whatever habit it is you want to make (or break)–there’s something magical about picking a thing and doing it for 100 days. It’s enough time to make a difference, but not enough time for panic about doing something uncomfortable FOREVER to kick in.

In December 2013 I decided I had to do something. I was sick. So sick. Everything hurt all the time. My whole body was swollen and miserable. I was starting to have trouble moving. I was so tired that I could barely function.

Then I came across this blog post that talked about how much a person needed to to eat just to survive. It was way more than I would have expected. In desperation, I decided to try eating at or above that amount (instead of continuing an insane cycle of eating far too little, followed by far too much) and exercising for 10 minutes a day for 100 days.

It changed my life. By the end of the 100 days I felt better. A lot better. Better enough to keep going for another 100 days.

Since then, I’ve used the 100 Day Experiment in lots of ways. Including helping me get back on track when I lost my way with writing. Seriously–try writing for 10 minutes a day for 100 days. Just see what happens.

I think there’s a kind of magic in 100 days. It’s long enough to internalize a new behavior and make it your new habit. I know, I know–that’s supposed to happen in 21 days. It doesn’t for me. After 21 days, it’s still too easy to go back to my old habit. But after 100 days–just about three and a half months–whatever is going to stick from what you’re doing is stuck. You aren’t doing it just because you’re supposed to anymore. You’re doing it because it’s just what you do.

It’s also short enough not to trigger panic at the idea of doing something new FOREVER. I don’t know about you, but that’s the worst feeling for me. Even if something feels good, the idea of just never not doing it makes me anxious. I love that 100 days is just the right amount of time. Long enough, but not too long. There are plenty of things that I don’t worry about doing forever. I don’t panic at the idea of having to read books until I die or never being able to stop going to the grocery store.

Turns out that 100 days is long enough for something to stop being what you have to do, and start being just what you do. And if it’s not–well, it’s a good thing there’s another 100 days coming up right behind the first, right?

I propose that we make the 100 Day Experiment the lynch pin of the Slow Down Revolution. Instead of trying to find the shortest route to a new habit, we’ll take it slow. Make habits that stick, instead of constantly trying to beat them into ourselves, three weeks at a time.

Here’s how to set up a 100 Day Experiment of your own.

CHOOSE A THING YOU WANT TO INCORPORATE INTO YOUR LIFE.

Don’t get overly ambitious or complicated here. Think of something simple, but that will have a big impact. It can be BIG and difficult to do (trust me when I say that in the beginning, the idea of exercising for even 10 minutes made me want to cry)–but it should also be simple. That way there’s less wiggle room. 

If you’re trying to build a daily writing habit, my suggestion is: Write for 10 Minutes a Day.

MAKE A COMMITMENT TO DO THAT THING FOR 100 DAYS

Write it down. Tell someone. Tell everyone. Get a calendar and some gold stars and give yourself one for each day that you follow through.

When it gets hard, remind yourself that it’s only 100 days. Just focus on doing what you’ve promised yourself you will do today. Instead of focusing on the end goal, when the going gets tough put your effort into just making sure that today isn’t the day you quit.

KEEP A JOURNAL

This is optional, but I found it really helpful. I started a Tumblr blog and wrote about my experiment everyday for 200 days. It helped. If you’re not quite the over-sharer that I am, just get a notebook and jot down a few lines everyday. Write about how you feel. Record your little victories. Pay attention to how doing your thing is affecting your life.

TAKE ANOTHER 100 DAYS IF YOU NEED TO (OR WANT TO)

I wasn’t ready to stop after 100 days. I didn’t feel like I was ready to. So I didn’t. I just kept going for another 100 days. It was obvious to me when I didn’t need to formality anymore–I stopped wanting to write about it. My journal entries started to be come routine, instead of full of new discoveries and wonder at how good I was feeling. If you’re afraid you’ll go back to your old habit when your 100 days is over, that’s okay. Just keep going.

Want a PDF of the steps to starting your own 100 Day Experiment, enter your email below.

The Magic of 100 Days

I'd love to send you a printable 100 Day Experiment Journal.

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Writer With a Life: Meal Planning

Writer With a Life-Meal Planning

I have a lot going on. A lot, a lot. There’s Ninja Writers. And managing a new business. And working on my next book.

Plus, I have three kids. We’re deep into soccer season. My parents-in-law live in my basement apartment.

I’m super busy. Like non-stop from 5 a.m. until I fall into bed at night busy. And I have a feeling that you’re reading this (I almost wrote ‘sitting there,’ but chances are pretty good you haven’t sat since lunch), you’re crazy busy, too.

So here’s what happens when I’m this busy. Especially on soccer nights, when Ruby and I don’t get home until after seven.

Me: I’m hungry.

Ruby: Me, too. Let’s call Dad.

Kevin (on the first ring): Don’t even say it. I already picked up pizza.

It’s so easy to fall into a pizza-run or drive-through habit when you’re insanely busy and time just slips away from you. Alternatively, it’s just as easy to spend your writing time cooking. Because your family needs to occasionally eat something that isn’t pizza or a five-dollar foot long.

There is literally no way to be as right-brained as I am, as busy as I am right now, and successfully have a home-cooked meal most nights if the first time I think about it is on the way to soccer practice or as I’m finally coming up for air in the afternoon. It’s just not going to happen.

I’ve tried every single meal plan out there. I’ve ordered eMeals, which was fabulous, but not flexible enough for me. I’ve at least considered a fairly complicated system I read about on a blog that involves an online calendar and a lot of looking up recipes to load it up on the front end. (There is no way. No. Way.) I’ve tried just writing down a meal plan once a week like a normal person. I’ve tried winging it.

Just like with everything else in my life, I need something that’s both flexible and structured enough to help me get out of my own way. And something that leaves me room for writing, somewhere in the day. So, way, way less than someone else telling me what to eat every day or (shudder) using a computer program to track Pinterest recipes. And more than me scribbling something in a notebook and keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll stick with it.

After months of thinking on this and trying things, I’ve finally hit on a system that works so well it’s almost like magic.

Click here to download a free download of the Meal Planner Checklist.

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