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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Tricks of Tracking #3: Set, Ready, Go!

Your tracking system should highlight two questions: “What will I do?” (as you set your intention) and “What did I do?” (after you go into action).

Even though your tracking system may not highlight it, the “ready” between the “set” and the “go” is equally important.

Set Yourself!

At the beginning of the week, set your intentions in whatever tracking chart, table or tool you’re using. For each day of the coming week, record what you are committing to do (for Process, Self-Care or Product Time or some other activity).

Be sure to set zero intentions on your days off; for example, record “0 minutes for Process” on the days you don’t intend to do Process. That way when you do 0 minutes on that day, you know you’ve honored your intention (not “slacked off” or “missed” or any other pejorative phrase your Saboteur might try to use against you.)

Setting intention is vital. They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the road to limbo is paved with no intentions. As the Caterpillar tells Alice in Wonderland, “If you don’t know where you are going, it really doesn’t matter which road you take.”

Ready Yourself!

When you know where you want to go and what you intend to do, you need to prepare yourself to go there and do that. Make sure you have the resources you’ll need.

Reserve time in your calendar to do what you commit to.

Make sure you have the supplies – it’s pretty hard to honor your commitment to play with clay for 15 minutes for Process on Tuesday, for example, if you don’t have any clay to play with. You either need to get clay before Tuesday or change your intention to a Process activity you already have supplies for.

Give yourself enough options to be flexible, but not so many options you don’t know where to start. Have maybe three or four things to play with for Process, but don’t spend all your Process time wandering around trying to figure out what to play with. Keep in mind that if you’re sick or injured, what you do for Self-Care needs to change (from working out to taking a nap for example). Remember that any activity that needs to be done to complete a writing project counts as Product Time.

Go Track Yourself!

Ideally, your next step is to do what you intended to do (and as you develop and strengthen your habits, you will do what you intend more and more often). Whether you honor the commitment or not, record what you actually did right after you do it. If you don’t do anything, record “0 minutes” at the end of the day.

Be specific and factual. (“Tuesday: Played with clay for 15 minutes” for example or “Tuesday: Spent 5 minutes looking for clay, didn’t find any.”) As we’ll explore in the upcoming Tricks of Tracking #4, it’s vital to focus on facts and avoid judgment.

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