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Choice and Accountability

Annette and me at the First Annual Jane Austen Tea Party, May 2012

Annette and I are blogging about the same topic today. Here's what she had to say.

When people first learn a little about my life--that I am a writer with a husband, six busy children, and a demanding Church calling--they tend to marvel (or ask disbelievingly), "How do you do it all?"

My first response is, "I don't do it all."

My second is, "I don't do any of it very well."

But my third response is the real truth, and it's more than a self-deprecating one-liner. 

Writers tend to live isolated lives, and often, so do stay-at-home mothers. Anyone who's both (as I am) has a double whammy to handle. Yes, being both is awesome and fulfilling, but it's incredibly demanding as well.

Isolation occasionally means blissful solitude, but for me, isolation often means being overwhelmed to the point of anxiety-filled paralysis. That, coupled with chronic depression, is my reality. 

Enter my secret weapons, a duo that sounds like a Jane Austen novel: Choice and Accountability.

Long ago, Claudia Bushman gave me this sage piece of advice. "When you want to take on a new project, sit down and consciously decide what you will give up in order to make room for it." In other words, make hard choices, and make them up front--at the beginning of the project and at the beginning of each year or month or week or day.

My choices take the form of daily lists. I write down what needs to happen, from scripture study to laundry to a word count for the day. Once I've written down everything necessary, I write down some optional stuff that would be nice to get done, if possible. Please note that my list often includes things like "Power Nap" or "Read several chapters of [Fun Novel]" I want to live mindfully and not run faster than I have strength, and renewal has to be part of my daily routine. 

I'm sure lots of people make similar lists. The real power comes from the second half of that duo: Accountability. Reporting one's small successes to someone else is amazingly effective. It somehow makes them more real and gives them the satisfying weight of accomplishment. 

I have the tremendous blessing of having an official Accountability Partner--my angel friend, Annette Lyon. Annette is a talented, successful writer with the most incredible work ethic of anyone I've ever known. More than a year ago, she and I formed a partnership. I was flailing about, directionless and despairing, and I called Annette to whine about it. She listened compassionately and then suggested we work together on a return-and-report basis until I was out of my rut. The rest is history.

Thanks to the miracle of modern technology, it doesn't matter that we live in different states. Nearly every work day since our first accountability pow-wow, we have done the following:

1) Either the night before or early in the morning of a work day, we email each other our highly detailed and specific To Do Lists. We will usually include a couple of paragraphs of ranting or venting or rejoicing over whatever is going on with us, but sharing the list is our basic intent.

2) Throughout the day, we'll text each other whenever we've completed something on our list: "Scriptures studied." "Laundry swapped, clean load folded and put away." "Bread rising, beans soaking." "Scene edited." "1000 words written." Stuff like that. Sometimes we'll respond: "Great job!" "You rock." "Yessss!!!!" Other times, we'll simply counter with our latest item completed. 

3) We don't always get everything on our lists done. That's okay; we just make a new list for the next day. Sometimes items migrate for days until we can text victory. Doesn't really matter; slow progress is better than none. Overall, I know that I am vastly more productive because I know Annette is waiting to hear from me. Her triumphs inspire me, and I hope mine do the same for her.

What would I do without Annette? I don't plan to find out. I envision us 50 years from now, holovideoing each other from our retirement homes and reporting on our latest plot problems or character dilemmas solved. When you get something this wonderful going in your life, you don't want it ever to end. Thanks, Annette.

Click here to read Annette's side of the story.

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Reader Comments (6)

Oh, I can totally see me hobbling with a walker over to the holovideo chat spot to report. The idea brings a huge smile to my face.

Thank YOU!

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnnette

Dedee and I have been doing this for years now. She is my anchor, my motivator, and often my saving grace. Smiling so hugely after reading this (and I'm off to read Annette's now). What a wonderful blessing to have such a friend!

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberly

It works. It's amazing. When I am having a no-report day, my production decreases significantly. Yay for awesome to-do/done list partners!

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEowyn

This made me smile. I'm glad you two are so close, and that you are able to motivate each other.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeffalump

What an awesome friendship! Your is an inspiring story and I'm glad you shared it. I needed it today.

October 24, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkristine N

cool concept!

Funny enough I also use to do lists on days that I home alone, while usually I absolutely hate it.

November 14, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergoofball

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