How I Avoid Getting Derailed After an Unproductive Week

Last week was not a productive week on this book publishing project. In fact, last week easily saw the least progress of any week since the beginning.

Circumstances happen. Last week was the perfect storm.

  • I was the sick for the first three days of the week — the amount of sick where I’m somewhat functional, but not fully functional.
  • There was a big launch at my job, the culmination of several months of effort. So the hours when I did have energy during my sickness, they went toward focusing on that.
  • Later in the week, even as I felt better, I got busy with March Madness; a time I prioritized socializing due to a special occasion (a rare appearance by my alma mater in the tournament). I always remind myself to grab those moments and not choose to stay home plunking on my keyboard rather than living life.
  • A busy weekend with the family, which, again, is always a priority. One of my pledges when I started this project was I wasn’t going to choose working on it over family time.

So, as a result, I made minimal progress.

I didn’t figure out a solution for my children’s book that turned out so disappointing after the first draft (which I discussed last week). I did make some progress on my ’80s toy book and did my longer term accountability and marketing work, like my weekly newsletter. I kept alive my writing streaks.

But otherwise… I’m sitting here, typing this as I do on Monday nights, and lamenting my lack of progress for the week.

Which brings me to a moment that happens periodically in the life (especially the early life) of any project. It’s when the initial burst of enthusiasm and energy is gone, the rewards have not yet manifested, and momentum takes a hit.

So… how do I keep from getting completely derailed? And how do I stop a bad week from turning into a bad month — or the ultimate death of the project?

I’m glad this 100 books endeavor isn’t my first time taking a big, self-motivated swing. Because I have learned techniques over the years to power through this “dip” moment to get things on the right track again.

  • Easing back in rather than trying to make up for lost time. There’s an instinct to overcompensate for the slow week by going crazy and attempting to do a ton of work on the first day or days back. I’ve found that’s a move that often leads to feeling overwhelmed, ultimately doing very little (or nothing), and exacerbating the slump. The key is getting back into the rhythm, not trying to hit the equivalent of a 6-run home run after a bad inning.
  • Setting a tough but attainable goal for the week. It’s good to end the week back with one clear victory to show for the effort. That helps re-establish momentum.
  • Using it as a chance to recalibrate. It’s easy to get into patterns of doing lower value work or work that makes you feel busy but isn’t really advancing what you’re doing. I had already diagnosed I was struggling with that before my slow week. Now, in the wake of my slow week, I had time to rethink recurring tasks and re-prioritize within the greater overall project.
  • Powering through the following weekend. I’ve found it’s not too tough to get back into a nice rhythm during the week. But then the weekend comes, routines are out the window, and you remember how you slacked off just a few days ago. To keep that from becoming a pattern, it’s essential to keep the rhythm going through the next weekend, no matter how tough it is.

So I’m back, following my own advice to myself — and getting things going properly again.

To see what I did for the week (or, in the case of this week, how I did mostly the bare minimum), you can check the Work Log.


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