Being okay with 60%.

I'm about to tell you something radical. Get ready. 

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In my experience, the goals you set, the plans you create, the schedules you obsess over, the systems you use, are less important than this:

Being able to be okay with a 60% day.

I have seen clients finish their dissertations under a variety of conditions - teaching or working full time, navigating a family, working through serious health conditions, having restarted halfway through - and not one of them used the same skills. They used different software, different schedules, different workspaces, and different workflows. 

But they all decided to release themselves from needing to use any of those tools 100% of the time, or to 100% of its efficiency potential. They got comfortable with a 60% day, feeling good about what they did do, paying attention to what could be better and working towards a better flow all the time without tying their emotional state to that 100% benchmark. 

Use whatever structure works for you. Do you love goals? Go for it! Set as many as your heart desires, but I encourage you to not let the structure overwhelm the reasoning. The goals are there to give you something concrete to focus on, but it's your commitment that actually moves the project forward. 

100% is amazing, but difficult to sustain. Life, invariably, happens. So if you have a tendency to always strive towards the 100%, and lapsing into frustration, avoidance or anxiety when you don't hit it, try focusing instead on seeing the good in a 60% day - What did you accomplish? What did move forward? What made you feel good? Conduct an experiment where you track how you feel over a few weeks where you focus on smaller, more focused bursts of work - are ten 60% days better, overall, at moving you forward than two 100% days? Commitment, not the perfect work day, is what moves you forward. Commit to showing up, and maybe even learning to value, for a 60% day.