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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 #4: Focus on Facts


Detective Joe Friday knew how to track: Focus on facts.

When you track Process, Self-Care and Product Time, keep your attention on two facts: “This is what I said I’d do. This is what I did.”

One of the benefits of tracking is that the feedback allows you to recognize changes in your patterns and decide what action to take to stay on track (or get back on track) and moving in the direction you want to go.

Judgment denies you this benefit. You can’t discern patterns and trends if you’ve leaped to judging the data. Judgments, either positive or negative, make it impossible to see what’s really happening.

Negative judgments include thoughts or comments like:

  • “I had a bad week (or a terrible week).”
  • “I’m disappointed (or frustrated, disgusted, etc.) with what I did this week.”
  • “I didn’t do well this week at all.”
  • “This was a tough week.”
  • “I was too busy and let other things get in the way.”
  • “I’m really bad at this.”
  • “I could have/should have done better.”

Positive judgments include:

  •  “I had a good week (or a great week).”
  • “I’m really happy (or satisfied, proud, etc.) with what I did this week.”
  • “I did really well this week.”
  • “This was a productive week.”
  • “It was easy to make time for my writing.”
  • “I’m really getting good at this.”

These positive judgements are fun to make and you can claim any of these LATER. But first, track your progress for the week. As you do that, make no evaluations. Make no excuses. Don’t go into long stories or explanations.

When you notice that you’re judging or making excuses (and you probably will continue to do this as you retrain your thinking), acknowledge the mistake, “Oops, that’s a judgement. That’s not what I need.” In other words, don’t judge yourself for judging. Redirect your attention to the facts: what you said you would do and what you actually did.

Once you’ve identified the facts, you can and should celebrate your accomplishments. Even if your judgement would be negative (if you were letting yourself judge), even if you need to make adjustments, the fact that you’re tracking is reason to celebrate. Give yourself credit for what you did, identify what action you want to take in the coming week to either correct the course or maintain your momentum, and keep going! And keep tracking where and how you go.

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