Goal Setting: Lauren Graham’s Kitchen Timer Strategy

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my most recent book recommendation: Lauren Graham’s Talking as Fast as I Can. If you’re a fan of Graham, Gilmore Girls, or Parenthood, you have got to read this book. And I suggest on audiobook, because Lauren Graham is such a delightful voice to listen to.

When it comes to celebrity books, I usually expect some sort of ghostwriter to be involved. And maybe there was one, or an amazing editor of some sort, who worked behind the scenes in Graham’s book. But she really seemed like she wrote this one herself.

Why? Because, in addition to mentioning how smart she was, she had this amazing chapter about making time for writing.

It has completely changed the way I look at making time for my passions and hobbies.

Graham called it “Kitchen Timer Writing.” One block of time completely devoted to your craft. And as long as you keep yourself away from distractions (THE INTERNET!) and keep your appointment with yourself, you’ve succeeded. You’ve passed. You can go on to Day 2, and 3, and so on until your passion becomes a habit, and your habit becomes a way of life.

The book’s been out for two years, so naturally, there are plenty of blogs and articles about this life-changing chapter from her book. If you’re curious and can’t buy the book or find it at your library, I suggest you check out this blog (which copy/pasted the strategy, but not the whole chapter) or this article (which boils down the big ideas).

For me, these were the big takeaways:

  1. Make an appointment with yourself to devote to your craft.

  2. Keep your appointment. When you sit down for that block of time, you are to put away all distractions and only work on your craft. What really got me was that it is OK to just sit and think, or to sit and be stuck. As long as you give yourself that time to just sit and be with your craft. And if you’re stuck, you may as well work on your writing journal — write and practice until you get your groove back and you can get back to your project. For those of you who are joining me for the 10 Minute Challenge, but you’re working on other skills besides writing: if you’re feeling stuck or uninspired, use this time to learn. Watch/read the masters. Do drills. Do something that is devoted to your craft, even if it is not actively working on your project.

  3. Celebrate the keeping of the appointment.

  4. If you missed your appointment or couldn’t stick to the entire period of time, don’t punish yourself by making yourself do more the next day. Start fresh. Either try again the next day, or adjust the commitment. Maybe you can’t do an hour–but you can do 30 minutes. Or maybe just ten. Do what you can, as long as you’re doing and moving forward.

  5. Repeat: Honor the appointment. Celebrate your accomplishments. Adjust if necessary.

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This has completely changed the way that I look at goal setting. Instead of punishing myself or “owing” myself hours, I am allowed to forgive myself, adjust, and move on. Instead of forcing myself to meet a daily word count or post artwork everyday, I am allowed to practice my craft by learning, meditating, and experimenting.

It has been so very freeing.

By focusing on celebrating my accomplishment and adjusting when I fail to meet my goal, I am encouraged to keep going despite failure. I develop grit and confidence when it comes to pursuing my goals.  

When it came to lettering, I realized that I sort of naturally fell into Graham’s strategy… because it was purely a hobby for me when I started. My appointment with myself always fell around 8pm, when my daughter fell asleep and when I needed a mental break from a long day of being an adult. After a year and a half of practice, 8pm is now drilled into my brain as time to practice lettering.

Now, I’m trying out writing. Fiction writing. Again. But I’ve got a better gameplan this time. I’m going to forgive myself and I’m going to keep my appointment. I’m not going to punish myself with word counts. I’m just going to keep my appointment.

Now, my new time to watch is 11:30. It’s when my husband has gone to bed, and about an hour before my daughter wakes up and wants me to cuddle her back to sleep. That’s my new magic hour.

What goals are you working on? Have you tried making an appointment with yourself? Leave a comment with your goals!

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Goal Setting: Why You Should Forgive Yourself When Life Gets In The Way

One thing I’ve learned about myself since joining the Instagram art community is that I love encouraging people. It must be the teacher in me.

As part of my 10 Minutes a Day challenge, I want to cheer you on and build you up. I absolutely love finding new goals and finding ways to accomplish them. I soak up the tips on goal-setting I hear on podcasts and read in books, and I love applying them to my own goals. I want to share some of those tips and tricks with you!

Today’s tip is hopefully a freeing one. No matter when you started your 10 Minutes a Day goal, there’s a good chance that you may have missed a day (or two… or in my case, nearly a full week) and you lost some momentum. Because guess what? Life happened.

In the past, I used to add up all those missed opportunities and make myself catch up. If I tried NaNoWriMo and I missed my daily word count, I’d add those to my next day until I caught up. And you know what? I never caught up. The number kept getting bigger, and I eventually got discouraged and gave up.

When it comes to goal-setting, the best thing I’ve done for myself is forgiving myself for missed days. Instead of counting up missed opportunities, I focus on the possibilities of today. It has been so freeing to just let go. I no longer feel discouraged or guilty because life happened and got in the way of my personal goals. In fact, letting go allows me to actually feel excited when I finally do have the time to pick up my goal again!

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So let me be a little vulnerable here and confess what my goal is for the next three months: I want to write. I want to write fiction. It’s always been a dream of mine. So I’m going to work toward that. By Christmastime, I want to establish a habit of writing, planning, and learning to write a fiction novel.

…but I dropped off on my daily goals last week. I was traveling, then I missed on sleep because of my toddler, then I slept too much to catch up. Life happened. Instead of making myself stay up and get caught up on 50 minutes of writing in one night, or even forcing myself to do an extra ten minutes until I was caught up, I let go. I started each day as a new one with just ten minutes to steal.

It’s been a whole week, but I finally feel fully revived and ready to get back to ten minutes today. And I don’t feel bad about it. Actually, I feel excited to sit down and get my ten minutes today!

No matter if you’re two weeks or two days in with me, if you dropped off on your goal, it’s OK. Let’s focus on today. What can you do with today? Fight for your 10 minutes. Steal them if you have to. It’s so worth it!

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If you’re joining me on the 10 Minutes A Day Challenge, leave a comment here or find me on Instagram @nerdladydraws! I’d love to cheer you on as you move closer to that thing you wish you could always do!

 

Whiteboard Lettering: Week 1

School started, so now I’ve got 135 students standing between me and lettering practice. To keep up my daily lettering goal and build on my practice as an English teacher, I have a new project for the school year: whiteboard lettering with literary quotes.

Part of the new Texas teacher evaluation system requires that teachers have a professional goal that they actively work on throughout the year. Mine is to incorporate a short book talk and 10 minutes of reading time at the beginning of every class period as a way of encouraging reading in my classroom, and my school. That’s where the lettering comes in. To start my book talks, I share an essential quote from the work–a quote that I have lettered on the board. Because my school is a strange one that has no walls and no assigned classrooms, I get to leave literary quotes throughout the building, hopefully getting not just my own students curious about a book, but the others at the school. In about a month or so, I need to start turning over book talks to the kids, so I may have to adjust my goal. But for now, I’m loving it. Here are this week’s boards and a little of my experience so far:

Day 1: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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I have ALWAYS wanted to say Dumbledore’s words at Harry’s first Hogwarts feast on the first day of school, and this year I got the chance! Very few students admitted to knowing the quote on the first day. Three days later, after I had thoroughly shown my nerdy side, the majority of the students were proud to raise their hands and admit that they knew the story of The Chosen One.

Day 2: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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I got the idea for daily book talks from the NTCTELA conference in June–basically, a huge gathering of North Texas English teachers. The keynote speakers were Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle, celebrities in the ELAR world. Gallagher led a session about guiding kids through confusing pieces, and used Jekyll and Hyde as an example. Hearing him speak about the continued relevance of classic literature, when I feel like I am stuck in a world that is emphasizing only vocational reading and writing, was absolutely refreshing. Most of my book talks this year will be classic pieces because I want my learners to be aware of literary works that have and continue to influence our modern culture.

Day 3: Not really CS Lewis

This was to get kids started on reading an essay that I hoped they would be able to connect to. It was also a good chance for me to talk about Google quotes–this one is often attributed to C.S. Lewis, but it’s actually from Shadowlands, the biopic about him.

I found out that I could play with filters on my phone to clean up the glare and grime from my whiteboard, but then it looks like digital lettering… so I’m choosing the #nofilter route to show that this is, in fact, lettered on a whiteboard.

Day 4: The Namesake

Because I draft and practice the night before on paper, the whiteboard lettering process has only been taking me about 10 minutes. It’s still a fifth of my planning time in the morning, but it’s also 10 minutes of “zen” time that helps me calm down and get in the zone for teaching.

Day 5: The Lord of the Rings

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At this point in the week, the kids were comfortable enough with each other to raise their hands when I asked if they had read The Hobbit, and even give a little exclamation of nerdy excitement to see that I was going to talk about Lord of the Rings.

This project has been fun and scary… When there are no walls to hide behind, it’s scary to think that your work is valuable enough to share with a whole school. Stay tuned – I plan on sharing my boards and reflections every week (as long as grading doesn’t get in the way)!