~ By Milou Koenings
A few years ago, I was clearing out piles of papers on my desk.
Note: This is a recurring goal of mine. I have fantasies of clear, minimalist workspaces. These are tempered by facts – studies prove people are more creative in messy spaces and I am very, very creative.
Back to point. I was clearing out piles of papers on my desk. It was part of my New Year’s Resolutions. Right there, number three on the list: Clear Off Desk!!!
One particular piece of paper caught my eye because it was a hand-scribbled list that, like the one on my mind at the time, was titled: New Year’s Resolutions. Double underline, plus a year – three years prior. Huh. Guess I hadn’t made it to number three that year.
I paused to see what else was on that old list.
And that’s when I pretty much gave up on New Year’s Resolutions forever. Because except for the order in which some items appeared on it, it was exactly the same as the new list. Sleep more. Exercise more. Write more. Publish more. Eat more healthy foods. Eat less chocolate. Clear Off Desk!!!
Right. So if New Year’s Resolutions didn’t help me improve, what would? Surely, I was not doomed to live in a den of disappointments with no hope of a better me, was I?
I chucked the resolutions and that was actually a transformative year for me. Many things happened that I can only liken to an earthquake shaking up my prior existence.
Here’s what I learned: Just Do It may work for Nike, but it didn’t work for me.
Setting more and more goals didn’t help me accomplish more. It only grew my stress and disappointment. What I needed was this:
Great ideas for novels sometimes come a dozen at a time. Nora Roberts may be able to publish a dozen books in as many months (and leave me begging for more), but I am not. Pick three (two, one … one half …). And say no to all the others.
Blog posts, short stories, articles, group projects – they’re wonderful. So much fun. They could do such great things for my career! Pick one, pick two. Say no to all the others.
Social Media. Facebook fifteen times a day, Pinterest three hours a day, Twitter every thirty seconds … Excuse me, who has time to write a book? Make a plan, write it down and stick to it. And then say no to all the rest.
All those papers on my desk? Still too many, I’m afraid, but before they even land there… if they don’t need to be there, just say no.
It isn’t the most sophisticated goal-setting program I’ve ever seen, perhaps not even a very inspiring one. But saying no helped me hit that year, for the first time, all the major professional milestones I had hoped for, whereas I’d managed, with a whole lot of work, blood, sweat and tears, to publish precisely zip in the eighteen months before that. And it keeps on working.
I thought I’d reinvented the wheel. I was sure I was going to publish a book about this epiphany of mine. I already could picture my best-selling book cover: Just Say NO!
Then a friend burst my bubble by sending me the following quote from Steve Jobs. Not only did Jobs beat me to it, he did so more eloquently:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done.”
Guess I’ll be saying no to that particular book idea, then, so I can say yes to the contemporary romances I really want to write.
Yes, to the books that are close to my heart.
And yes, to more chocolate, sleep and exercise. Celery sticks … meh …
Milou Koenings is an award-winning USA Today bestselling author who writes romance because, like chocolate, stories with happy endings bring joy to the world and so make it a better place.
She’s lived all over the world, working as a freelance travel and technology writer, but loves to stay home with her family more than anything.
You can join her newsletter at www.miloukoenings.com
Milou’s a proud member of Sweet Romance Reads, where she blogs monthly every 21st of the month, and you can also get to know her better here: