Craft,  Discipline

Fantastic Fridays: 3 Steps For Getting Back On Track

What do you do when your plans go awry or your routines get thrown off?

How do you get back on track?

My last couple of weeks have been a jumble and even my most consistent routines have fallen by the wayside. 

I didn’t even manage to post my Fantastic Fridays posts. 

It wasn’t that I couldn’t write them – I had decent drafts written – but I somehow didn’t manage to get them into WordPress. 

And, as always, once I had gotten out of my posting routine, it felt like it would be very hard to start posting again.

Fortunately, I have coached lots of people (including myself!) through this process before so I knew the steps to getting back on track. 

And I thought I would share them in case you ever need to find your way back to your routine, too.

background: a black and white photo of a person from the shoulders down. They have long dark hair, and they are wearing a denim shirt and holding a large analog clock.  A beige square in the foreground features the title of the piece in white.
Image description: background: a black and white photo of a person from the shoulders down. They have long dark hair, and they are wearing a denim shirt and holding a large analog clock. A beige square in the foreground features the title of the piece in white.

Step 1: Let Yourself Off The Hook

There is absolutely nothing to be gained by being hard on yourself about getting off track.

It isn’t a “sign” that you aren’t meant to be a writer. It doesn’t mean that you can’t follow a plan. In fact, it probably doesn’t have an overarching meaning at all. 

Your best way forward is to acknowledge what happened and let yourself off the hook.

For me, that went something like this: “I didn’t post for two weeks in a row because I was off track. That’s ok. This happens to everyone sometimes. I’ll make some adjustments and then post this week.”

(We’ll get into the adjustments part in Step 3.)

Step 2: Do The Minimum

When you have gotten off track, it’s tempting to try to pull yourself back on track by trying to catch up.  This usually involves some sort of superhuman effort to do everything that you missed and to do it in a ridiculously short time. 

Overwhelming yourself like that will not help.

Instead, try doing the smallest or easiest thing that you can think of that will still count as ‘done.’

For example, if you had planned to write 250 words a day and you haven’t written in a week, you wouldn’t want to try to write 1750 words today. Instead you could decide that the heart of your goal is to write every day which means that any writing counts, even the 25 words that you have time to jot down right now. Or if you find it challenging to write 250 words for your short story but easy to journal 250 words, you could decide that, until you get back in the writing groove, your journaling counts for your daily writing. Bonus points if you journal about your writing project.

For me, I gave myself the freedom to write about whatever felt easy. And I told myself that it didn’t have to be good and it didn’t have to be any particular length. This post was the result.  

Step 3: Make Some Adjustments (if needed)

Making some adjustments is not about being hard on yourself for things going awry. It’s being realistic about *how* things went awry.

Maybe your daily writing goal is too big to fit into your schedule. Perhaps you haven’t made space in your schedule for your writing time. Or maybe the type of writing you chose isn’t that interesting to you after all. And, of course, there are all kinds of family and work and life obligations that pop up between you and your writing sometimes. 

Maybe these things are temporary and you can just acknowledge that they put you off track for a while. Or perhaps you need to make some adjustments so it is easier to get to your writing.

For me, I overscheduled myself two Fridays in a row so I am making a practice of 1) trying not to overschedule myself on Fridays so I have time to revise and post 2) checking earlier in the week to see if I need to revise my post earlier and then schedule it to go up on Friday.

Back on Track

Everyone gets off track sometimes. It doesn’t have any huge meaning about you as a writer. And, while it is uncomfortable, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. 

You may need to make adjustments to your schedule or to your plans so you can stay on track more often in the future. Or you might have just experienced a few jumbled weeks and your schedule may not need any adjustment at all.

No matter how or why things went off track, be kind to yourself about it and take some small, easy steps back to your routine as soon as you can. 

Write on!