How I Ditched Distraction and Beat FOMO to Write My Book
How I Ditched Distraction and Beat FOMO to Write My Book
I’m writing a book.
Akk! I can’t believe I just put that out into the world. Nevermind, I take it back, I was just kidding.
No, really. I am writing a book. Not surprising it's a book about focus, rejecting hustle culture and the magic of Post-it notes. It’s also a real live case study of all the things I teach. It's been a hands-on test of all the research I’ve ever done and an implementation of all the frameworks I’ve ever created to get important work into the world.
I needed all the tools in this book in order to write this book.
You’ll be hearing plenty more about the book over the next few months, but for now I want to share 3 things I learned (or relearned) in writing this book:
- The world needs your important work.
- Break your projects into doable tasks.
- Ask for help and accountability.
That all comes together in one place, and we’ll talk about that too. If you’re writing a book (or creating a course, or putting together a TED talk, or tackling any other big project), keep reading. And if you dream about doing any of these things, but feel like you just can’t … keep reading. You can do it and you should.
The world needs your important work (even if it's scary)
To tell you the imposter syndrome was loud during the process of writing my book is an understatement. Who am I to write a book? Hasn’t everything already been said about this topic? Will anyone even read it?
My inner critic was loud, and the number one way she showed up was to remind me of all the other important things in my life I ‘should’ be doing.
“Oh, my team needs me to be in this meeting to make important decisions!”
“I better use this time I’d set aside to write to update the checklist of things my daughter needs for her dance competition.”
“My client wants to know if I have time for a quick call? Of course I do, I’ll do this writing later…”
While my distractions seemed important and noble and even crucial to the running of my business and family, they were just that, distractions.They were a way for me to manage my inner critic. I wasn't procrastinating on my book, I was doing other VERY IMPORTANT THINGS that only I could do and only in that exact moment.
I had to get really honest with myself that I wanted to write this book. That I believed it would be an asset to the conversation around productivity and burn out. And that I was capable. It was not and still is not easy, but by identifying the things I was using to distract myself, I was able to work around them.
Break Down Your Projects
I started the book contents in 2021, thanks to Alexandra Franzen’s Tiny Book Course. Then my draft sat stagnant for over a year (see imposter syndrome above). It felt overwhelming to start again. I wasn't sure if I should use what I’d already written or start from scratch. I had new ideas and had learned new science, and we had an entire year of running Focus Sessions under our belt since I first started my book idea.
I spent weeks messing with the outline, rethinking and overthinking the main topics of the book. Then I realized I was procrastinating again, ‘protecting’ myself from writing.
So while I sat waiting for our takeout order one Saturday night, I opened a blank note section on my phone and wrote: The book should be about 3 things; how to focus, how to find the time to focus and what to focus on. Each of those 3 topics needs 3 subtopics. Add an introduction and conclusion. I had my outline by the time our burgers were ready to be picked up.
Armed with my outline, I sat down at my desk the next day with a stack of post it notes and brainstormed everything that needed to get done to have this book live and in someone’s hands. I mapped out everything from completing the writing, editing, proofreading, design, layout, all the way through publishing. I broke each section into the smaller tasks that had to happen. Not just Layout, which is a project, but all the tasks: find a layout person, hire the layout person, get them the completed text, check their draft, make edits, etc. Once I knew all the tasks, I could map them out on the calendar and build in plenty of buffer time too. The whole project seemed a lot more doable when I could just take one piece at a time.
I know this. I teach this. Spoiler alert: there is a section in the book on breaking down a project. But I needed the reminder. It’s so easy to put projects on our to-do list … and it doesn’t work. Break it down. Put tasks on your to do list. Schedule them. Get it done!
Ask for Help and Accountability
I tend to do things in a vacuum. I think I can do everything myself. I feel like I’m supposed to be able to do it all. We aren’t meant to do it all alone.
I know (from my research for the book!) the power of collaboration and accountability. I knew that if I told my team I needed to block out time to work on the book, they would help me honor that time by picking up the slack needed in the business. If I told my two business writing friends I wanted to publish a book this year, they would enthusiastically (and repeatedly) ask when they could read it. I told my kids and my husband what my plan was so they could cheer me on and understand why I wasn’t always available for their needs.
It was hard to ask for help, but it made it so much easier to stick to my plan. And having people check in and ask me about the book reminded me that this work matters and I needed to stick with it.
Putting the Lessons Together: Focus Sessions Work
So I knew I needed to get this idea out into the world. I knew I needed accountability to get it done. I had broken my project down into subprojects and tasks. There were a lot of tasks that needed time and focus.
To get words on the page, I needed dedicated, distraction-free time scheduled on my calendar to make it happen. I did that with Focus Sessions.
I set a goal of having a “shitty first draft” done before I left on a trip in February. Armed with my outline broken down into all the ‘scenes’ I needed to write, I signed up for enough Focus Sessions to get most of the writing done. (I also scheduled a few additional blocks of time on weekends.)
I attended over 24 Focus Sessions in the 6 weeks before I left town. Instead of showing up to “write the book” every day, I showed up for each session ready to tackle one of the sections I had outlined. I showed up, went through the Focus Flow, declared my Deep Work task, put my head down, and put words on the page. When I wanted to open Instagram or make a list of things my daughter needed for dance, I’d look at the Post-it note that said “Write chapter 3, section 1.” I’d look up at the other people in the little Zoom squares heads down at their own focus tasks — and I’d get back to work.
I had my purpose. I had support and accountability. I had a plan — and used my Focus Sessions to keep the time dedicated to that plan. And I handed a very rough first draft to my amazing team member and editor, Sara, the day before I left. I started Focus Sessions knowing people needed them, but even I was a little shocked at how well they worked to help me complete that first draft.
So what’s next? More Focus Sessions.
I used a session this morning to ask a few of our members for case studies to include in the book. I'm using a Focus Session right now to write this blog post. And tomorrow, I have slated a Focus Session to map out the book tour. Setting aside time to work on the book is becoming second nature.
I’ll resist the urge to delete this whole blog post before you get a chance to read it, because it feels really scary. But maybe by coming along on my journey and being honest about my struggles, you’ll feel better about putting your most important work out into the world. And if you need help with how to do that… I might have a book recommendation for you 😉
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Ready to Focus?
Sign up here to get your FREE Focus Session.