Rr: Review, Reboot, Reward
Revitalizing Your Daily Effort
Inevitably, your daily practice will wax and wane. When it wanes, there are three things you can do to rejuvenate your effort.
First, regularly review the results of your daily effort. Inventory all of the pieces and parts you’ve been working on for the last few months. As you make your list of Projects Underway, you’ll see all of the work sprouting at different stages and how much you’ve accomplished — even if no one project is near completion. Daily work really does add up if you stick with it for more than a few weeks. Also, note which pieces and parts could be combined, which feel ready for completion, which feel most compelling, and which seem to have gone cold. Appraising your stockpile of work will re-ignite your love of your craft and help you prioritize what to work on during your daily practice. (See also, O.)
Second, when necessary, reboot. Although I still stand by my point in Aa about the alluring promise of tomorrow, making a mindful and deliberate fresh start can help you recover quickly when you miss practice for a number of days, weeks, or have a sporadic month. Even though tomorrow (or whatever date you declare as your fresh start) you’ll most likely be the same person you are today with the same challenges, rebooting means recommitting to the tenants of daily practice, diving back in with renewed dedication for a set amount of time.
After trying to write daily for about six months, I had a sporadic month. It felt harder to practice, I arrived to the desk quite lackluster, and I skipped a lot of days for no good reason. So, I chose the first of the next month to reboot, and told a few friends about my intention so I’d feel accountable. I simply re-dedicated myself to practicing every single day for the entire month—with a twist. If I managed to practice all but maybe three days that month, I would get a reward. I needed the idea of a reward, of formal recognition of my efforts, to be the carrot luring me to the desk.
So, third, lure yourself back to the daily grind with a reward. Rewards are for those who have done the work and met the requirements. Your reward must be something special and rare, something you can long for and work toward. The treat must also match the effort it’s rewarding. I wanted a trip to Hawai’i, but that was both way too much for my budget and way over-sized for the work it would reward. And lastly, the reward must be delayed, delayed gratification. You don’t get mini-bites of your reward to nibble throughout the month. The reward sparkles four weeks ahead, luring you back into good work habits and faith in your self and your craft.
One friend rewarded herself with an online celebration of all she’d achieved that month. Another friend suggested I buy myself something cool from Etsy (because why not support another’s craft while rewarding my own?). Chocolate, fancy dinner, a massage, a movie … all of these came as suggestions.
I’ll be eager to hear what you choose as a reward. Although I wrote nearly every day that month and it reinvigorated my efforts for many months to follow, I never gave myself my reward. Because, as much as I used to role my eyes when I’d see that bumper sticker “It’s the journey, not the destination,” that’s exactly what I discovered during my reboot.
The re-dedication to my craft and daily effort was its own reward.