My experience actually using a calendar for one month.
Towards the end of 2021, the only real resolution I had heading into this year was to ‘get focused’. I felt that I got a glimpse of what “focused” me was in the second weekend of November when I was working on Going Green*. 10+ hour days only spent on filmmaking, writing, and being creative. It was the highest 3-day stretch of consistent focus/dedication towards a creative project that I’ve ever had. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the most driving one is probably the external force of wanting to do a good job for all the people who came together to help make the thing that I wrote in my room.
It was after Going Green that I realized the pattern of always going through ‘pushes’ of creativity in times where I felt I was given an opportunity by another person. The push to finish a script by date x to show person y, (usually someone who I believe could help me on my journey in some way) was stronger than the push to finish a script that I was only writing for myself.
Something clicked when I had that realization. It became clear that the only logical next step for me was to try to jumpstart this push when working on my own projects. It felt like I became immediately cognizant of the biggest thing that was holding me back from that. I wasn’t focused enough.
I had the dedication. Writing every day wasn’t an issue for me. But the writing I was doing was too abstract. I wasn’t tracking the time I spent writing. I wasn’t making notes of where I was in the story, or what I had written last week, I was simply treating each day like it was new. This isn’t horrible, since I was still making progress. But it was mistaken. I needed to develop a method in the same exact way people develop fitness plans at the gym. But I couldn’t do that yet because I wasn’t focused enough to do it.
So I needed to get focused.
Ok, but how do I get focused? I needed to get discipline.
Ok, but how could I get disciplined without being…focused?
I bought a calendar. A big 3ft by 3ft long calendar from Target. A few days later, I was gifted a box of multi-colored pens (the good ones too) from a work Christmas party, and as far as I was concerned I was locked and loaded. However, starting this ‘focused’ process a week before Christmas just sounded like a surefire way to be disappointed. And besides, my calendar started on January 1st of 2022. And so, on January 1st of this year, I decided to get focused.
Tomorrow is February 1st. For the last 30 days, I’ve been keeping track of my life through 5 different categories.
Projects in purple.
Reading in red.
Gym in green.
Studio Jali in orange.
And blog in blue.
I color in a dot by the date for each corresponding category I’ve completed and write a brief description of each one below. For example, Monday, January 3rd was my most productive day of the month. It was also the only day of the month on which I got all five dots.
Below the 3rd, I wrote:
P. 42 — revised PB/Lisa — Ariel Damian
2 ½ hrs +1hr for blog
Gym — upper body
The purple is a short film I want to make this year. Red was referring to the ‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ book by Quentin Tarantino. (Another Christmas gift from a friend) and green is…the gym. And remember a blue dot for the blog. And an orange dot for Studio Jali. Which for now means the days I post on the Instagram account.
My first single dot day was January 16th.
Dante’s Badge 1 ½ hours
Watched “the house”
Here are some other data points from my calendar.
I had 14 total 3 dot days
I had 7 total 2 dot days
I had 7 total 4 dot days.
From the 13th (the first day I broke my 2-week sober streak) to the 22nd I tracked the days I smoked weed and or drank alcohol. They were:
13th, 14th, 15th, 18th, 19th, 21st, 22nd.
I was sick for 4 days in January. I wrote in a different shade of green and drew frown faces.
10th sick : (
11th sick : (
12th sick : ( (but healthier)
13th sick :( (almost at 100%)
I wrote on 30/31 days on two different projects for a total of 73 hours. I did not track the last 5 days of January (more on that later). The only day I did not write was Friday, January 21st. I wrote:
No substantial writing — went to play pool with David then went out
I finished Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on Sunday, January 9th. And started Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov on Monday, January 10th. As of Sunday, January 30th, I was on page 99.
I went to the gym for 14 days. (Not including today, the 31st, since I’ll dot today tomorrow morning). And posted on Studio Jali on 28 days.
And tomorrow is February 1st.
What stood out to me most while dotting my days was that measuring the literal amount of time I spent writing was a terrible measure of the actual work being done. Yes I wrote down what I did, and occasionally I’d write down what page number I was in, but overall I realized that this was an inefficient way to track progress. So on January 26th I wrote:
Pool Boy rewrites/edits
–going to new system
P. 81 Brothers K
The new system is a 3 page per day method that I first learned about when reading through C. Robert Cargill’s Twitter page. He’s someone I’ve mentioned before on the blog. And as far as I know, the only professional/successful writer that gives out both functional advice and steady motivation for other writers. Here it is:
“I cannot stress enough the idea of low daily page counts. When you judge yourself by your best days, you only end up disappointed & frustrated the rest of the time. Set a page/word count you can finish in an hour. It staves off procrastination and leaves you feeling accomplished.
I’m a professional and my goal is only 3 pages a day. That’s 750–900wds. But when I hit that every day in a week, that’s 15 pages. Do that for 6 weeks and I have a script. Every page I go over that is gravy. Slow and steady wins the fucking race.”
And so the ‘Cargill Method’ is the one I’ve been doing the last few days. And the only measure of my writing I’ll use for my February dotting.
And on the 28th, I’ll let you know how it all worked out.
Until next Monday,