Maintenance Mode: When Goals Need a Break

Time Management.jpg

It’s Memorial Day, the national holiday during which we honor those who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country. I’m fortunate in that no one in my immediate family meets this description. But my family and I are extremely grateful to those who do.

This is free week at the blog, and normally I would be sharing my reviews on the books I’ve read. But for some reason, this month I’ve been unable to complete even one! I’ve been reading, but I can’t seem to keep my attention on the story, despite the fact that there’s action, adventure, and a little bit of romance. The story is well-written, and I want to know what happens next. I should have finished reading this weeks ago, but every time I open the file (I read on my laptop), I find it difficult to read more than a paragraph or two before switching to another task.

I started to get really discouraged. Normally, I make goals and set up a plan to get them done. Sometimes, the goals aren’t quite met, and sometimes they’re met later than what I’d planned. But most of the time, when a goal is written out, especially if it’s posted somewhere, I manage to meet my expectations. Lately, however, I’ve really struggled to sustain focus on anything for more than a few minutes. Whether it’s reading, writing, researching, or sewing, I’m always moving from one thing to another.

Does this mean it’s time to cut back or abandon some of my goals? I was beginning to think so. But last week at my Weight Watchers meeting, the topic was “When to take a weight loss break.” We discussed the fact that sometimes we need to take breaks from pursuing our long-range goals, such as losing weight. It’s not that we need to let things slide or quit, but that there are times when we need to be satisfied with maintaining. When life forces us to focus on important things like health and family, we need to make adjustments. Extended family gatherings, holidays, and periods of stress are all drains on our time, our attention, and our energy, so we need to allow ourselves to simply maintain, rather than make progress.

The concept sounded intriguing and reassuring, but I’m not ready to use it in my weight loss journey. A recent diagnosis of pre-diabetes has me motivated to make major adjustments in my eating habits. But there are other areas of my life, like my reading goals, that are suffering, so I decided to see if I could apply the “maintain mode” idea there. Here’s what I came up with.

Reading: Since my original dilemma was my lack of reading, I figured I’d start with this.
Original goal: Read and review one book per week
Maintenance plan: Read when I can, for as long as I’m able to concentrate. I usually read during mealtimes, so that’s at least three times a day, unless we’re eating out. With a 300+ page book it’s taking some time, but at least I’m making progress.

Cleaning/Organizing: While I manage to keep track of what I need to have done and where I need to be, I’ve always had trouble organizing the THINGS in my house. And when I’m under stress due to an extremely demanding schedule, or problems that don’t seem to want to be resolved, the first thing crossed off my To Do list is housework. I’m fortunate that we have a family friend who comes over on a regular basis and keeps our bathrooms and floors from becoming uninhabitable. As for the STUFF, I’ve been working—slowly—to declutter. And no, I don’t thank each item for its service, despite the fact that I’m Japanese. Marie Kondo has a lot of good ideas, but I’m too Midwest Protestant for that.
Original goal: My May 1 goal was to get rid of a minimum of one box per day this month.
Maintenance plan: Whenever new stuff enters our house, an equal or greater number of things have to exit – or at least get placed on the giveaway pile (note to self: pack up the giveaway stuff and haul it away first thing after the holiday!). 

Writing: I’m always working on something, and usually several at once. I can manage to sit down several times a week to write, but lately I’m unable to keep my attention on my story for more than five or ten minutes at a time. I’m beginning to think I’m not going to be able to finish either of the two projects I’m currently working on.
Original goal: add 5K to 10K new words per month.
Maintenance plan: at a faculty writing retreat earlier this month, the facilitator suggested that we plan several mini goals and then set our timers for 20 minutes, during which time we’d focus on one mini goal. For me, it might be a conversation between two characters, or a description of a setting. It really seemed to work, and I made a lot of progress that week. I’ve been using this technique ever since.

So now that I’ve switched to maintenance mode in three areas of my life, I’m feeling a little better. I’m hoping that things will calm down soon and I can resume my usual goal setting, but if not… well, I’ll just have to re-evaluate.

How do you deal with goals that need re-adjusting?

Advertisements

About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
This entry was posted in author's life, Daily life, Dealing with stress, decisions, goals, Goodreads Challenge, Patricia Kiyono and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Maintenance Mode: When Goals Need a Break

  1. Sherry Gloag says:

    Postive and uplifting post, thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. darcyflynn says:

    I too, have been going through a lot of stress. We’re renovating our house and living in it at the same time. The project has gone on much longer than expected and still with no definitive end in sight. I haven’t been able to write for the five months the workers have been here and that’s discouraging. The clutter is everywhere and trying to deal with what to get rid of has been stressful for me. I like your ideas of focusing on something small and manageable, deal with that and go on to the next thing. Breaking the project down into manageable pieces has certainly helped. Sounds like you’ve got things under control on your end. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Renovations are the worst! We’re going to have kitchen work done soon, and I’m not looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ll find lots more to get rid of, but as you say, dealing with what to get rid of is stressful!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Alicia Dean says:

    What a marvelous post. I often have trouble meeting my goals. I love the maintenance suggestion. Doing that can keep us from being so hard on ourselves for not accomplishing everything we want to accomplish. Good luck with all your projects!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks, Alicia! I’m hoping to ease out of maintenance mode on at least one of these areas soon! Thanks for visiting.

      Like

  4. Jeff Salter says:

    Very timely column for me, Patricia.
    And this certainly applies: “I’ve really struggled to sustain focus.”
    This calendar year so far, I’ve had the major upheaval of adjusting Mom (and ME) to the new “normal” of nursing home life. Attendant to that change, I’ve had 3 lengthy bouts of flu symptoms plus an inflamed xxxx gland. On top of all that, I have an external deadline to finish the first draft of the sequel to the title released last month, and my wife needs my help cleaning out Mom’s stuff from the cottage she’d been renting on our property.
    I really like your idea about mini-goals — not only for writing projects, but for the external obligations, the cottage clean-up, and all the legal wrangling between Mom, nursing home, and medicaid.

    Like

    • Jeff Salter says:

      the xxxx gland is in my neck, under my jaw bone.

      Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I think my problems began with moving my mom into an independent living senior facility. We were amazed at the sheer amount of STUFF she’d managed to cram into her house. Thankfully, my brother handled the legal and financial stuff. But since I’m the only one who lives nearby I’m still the one doing the transporting. Even now, seventeen months after her move, there are endless details that crop up. My to-do list is always long, and I think that’s why I keep bouncing from one area of focus to another.
      Hope your own health problems are resolved soon!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. pamelasthibodeaux says:

    Sometimes we have to let go of our immediate goals and take a little extra time and care of other things. Sounds like you’ve worked out something to that effect.

    Great post!
    Good luck and God’s blessings
    Pamt

    Liked by 1 person

  6. We put too much stress on ourselves daily by setting unrealistic goals.

    By mid-summer, I’d like to have my rewrite ready to be published. But if it isn’t , it will get published when it’s ready and not before.

    Each day, I set a flexible time for myself to start work, taking the first hours of the day to have coffee and breakfast with my husband first. Then, I start. First my emails and advertising, then the forum I run, next my writing and editing, and finally a bit on my monthly newsletter (which does have a deadline, but I whittle away at it).

    During the day, I don’t count the hours I’m working or the words written. When I feel I’ve done enough for one session, I take a break. During that break, I do some housework and prepared for the evening meal. Everything gets done, and I’m not stressed. And guess what, in all the years I’ve been writing, I’ve never once had writer’s block.

    I worked in the 9 to 5 world for most of my life, and during that time, I always had deadlines to meet, whether it was with advertising, reports, or making sure doctor’s notes were done timely. If you have a full-time, or even a part-time, job, and you have deadlines with that job, you don’t need them in your personal life too. Take a breather. I know, I started writing while working in an office.

    If a schedule for the day comes in handy, do one, but don’t stress over the increments of time running out. Otherwise, take the projects on one at a time when they come to mind. But while you’re doing one project, don’t be thinking about the next one. It’ll come up soon enough on its own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks for sharing your strategy! I taught elementary school for 28 years, and there were always so many details and deadlines there, I got used to juggling several things at once. Even when I’m not stressed, I find it hard to dedicate extended periods of time on one thing. My daughter was diagnosed with ADHD when she was in college. I suspect she got it from me.

      Like

  7. Kara O'Neal says:

    It’s comforting to read a post like this and the comments with it. It gives me comfort to know others struggle with the same stuff! If I can’t reach a goal, I re-adjust it and then pay attention to why I couldn’t reach it and fix whatever I need to fix.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      That’s what’s great about belonging to a community like ours, isn’t it? No matter what we’re going through, it’s reassuring to know you’re not doing it alone. Thanks so much for visiting!

      Like

  8. Jenna Barwin says:

    Great post! Tweeted!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good Job, Patty! I am the first one to appreciate stress. I hope that your mother os adjusting well. I worked as a cook in a local Assisted Living center for a while and a good one is a godsend to many people.
    As for goals and maintenance, I am trying to get back, now that I am nearly a year past my neck surgery.I have aged rapidly, but I am getting things done slowly.
    As for writing, since I have gotten a ‘kick-start’ via a recent guest, I am working on past starts and I believe that will be my Friday post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      The food is Mom’s only complaint about where she lives. They had a wonderful chef when she moved in, but he left and they haven’t found anyone who comes close.
      I’m glad you’re writing!

      Like

  10. Love the post, Patricia! At the end of last year I realized I was suffering from burnout from dealing with my husband’s illness on top of professional commitments. I tend to suffer from Fear of Missing Out and say “yes” too often, LoL! I don’t know if you’re familiar with Chris and Becca Syme of the Smarty Pants Book Marketing Podcast, but I like their philosophy that you don’t need to do everything. I’m working on customizing my own maintenance mode goals!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I knew you’d be able to relate! My husband had neck surgery in January and had difficulty recovering. Now he’s scheduled for back surgery in July and I’m worried about his ability to bounce back. I’ve never heard of the Smarty Pants Podcast, but I’ll have to check it out. I totally agree that I don’t need to do everything, but Maintenance sounds better than Cutting Back.

      Like

  11. Little goals on a daily to-do list can help with the sense of accomplishment when you get to scratch them off as done. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Great post, Patricia. When I got through my edits last October, I hit a wall and found myself playing way too many games of solitaire on my phone. As you point out, it was my mind, body, and soul healing from that stress. I like how you break your tasks down into smaller goals that are manageable. “Baby steps, baby steps” as they say in the movie What About Bob? And I like your lesson in forgiving ourselves if we don’t achieve the goals we set. Sometimes we can only do what we can only do. And that’s okay. Thanks for sharing these words of wisdom.

    Like

  13. What a wonderful post Patty! Very positive. I think I will try the mini goals for my own writing. I’m not a goal setting sort of person and perhaps that is part of my problem lately. I can’t focus on anything when I sit down to write, clean, or read. Part of it has to do with just being tired but maybe the other part is that I don’t have any goals set. So when I do a little I don’t feel that I have accomplished anything. I think mini goals will really help me out. Thank you so much for this post.

    Like

  14. Great post, especially on maintaining. I love the section on “stuff” which is one of my goals this summer. I want to de-clutter my entire house. I, too, have decided that I’m not going to let my writing drive me to near hysteria when I don’t write the number of words that I had hoped to. Life gets in the way. We need to accept that and enjoy the moments.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thank you, Judy! Things seem to have calmed a bit this week, so I’m hoping to do some catching up this week. But you’re right. We need to accept that life is going to intrude on our plans. Thanks so much for visiting!

      Like

  15. Diane Burton says:

    Although I heard the same message at my WW meeting last week, I didn’t think to apply it to my writing. I’ve written very little since the release of my newest book at the end of March. I understand where you’re coming from. I hope your new maintenance system gives you some relief.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks, Diane! Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the stress is from the outside, or from within myself. Either way, I’m sleeping better now that I’m in maintenance mode!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Elaine Cantrell says:

    I like it idea of giving yourself permission to just maintain for a while. I think probably you’d avoid burnout that way.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s