Planning for Success, One Week at a Time

Planning is something I’m really good at. I love makings lists. I love creating tasks and goals. And I really love imagining winning outcomes. But the actual implementing? Not so much.

That’s because what looks great on paper, often doesn’t match my reality. Sure, pitching a new magazine, contacting an editor I’ve worked with before, and researching book publishers is easy to accomplish on a daily basis during my long summer break.

But once I’m back at work, expecting to come home and turn myself into a superstar writer is not realistic. I might manage it once in a while, but certainly not every day of the week. 

On the other hand, it’s more than possible I can hit all of these goals on a weekly basis. Since my last blog post, I looked at my detailed plan and spread it out over an entire week. Over the last few months, I’ve updated it several times to make sure it meets my needs and helps me reach my goals.

Here’s what my plan looks like at the moment.

Writing Plan 

Written in big, bold letters at the top of the page followed by the date. I like to date my plan so I can see when I last updated it. 

Goal

What am I trying to achieve? This is important. Without a goal, a plan has no meaning. In one sentence, I nail down exactly what I want to accomplish with my writing.

Reminders

Here I jot down a few things I want to keep in mind. It gives me that little extra boost I sometimes need to put my plan into action and avoid procrastinating. 

Daily 

These are tasks that I feel must be done every day. I keep them to the barest minimum so they don’t take up the whole of my writing time.

Monday to Wednesday / Thursday to Sunday 

I spilt my week in half. Each half gets specific tasks. During the first half, I study new magazines. When I find mags I want to write for, I come up with ideas and send them a pitch. During the second half, I pitch ideas to editors I’ve worked with before. Since I’m more likely to hear back from these editors with a positive response, I save the weekend to create the bulk of the actual stories.

Monday to Sunday 

If I still have enough energy after I’m finished with the above tasks, I then set to work studying book publishers. I give myself the whole week since I don’t expect to get much done every night. But if all goes well, I’ll have at least one pitch ready to send by the time Sunday comes along.

The very last thing I do before stopping for the night is to set my tasks for the following day based on what I’ve managed to accomplish and what still needs to be done.

Following Up

At the end of each week I sit down with my Weekly Follow Up chart and take a moment to reflect on my writing process. I ask myself three questions: 

  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • What needs improvement?

Notes

At the end of my chart, there’s a space where I jot down notes on anything that may have helped or got in the way of my goals. Did anyone approach me with a writing project out of the blue? Did I get knocked out with a bad cold? Did I waste too much time on Facebook?  

Every time I feel it’s necessary, I adjust my plan, rewrite it, and change the date. I save all of my plans so that later on I’ll be able to refer to them if needed.

Now all that’s left to do — and this seems to be a recurring problem for me — is to figure out how I can fit in writing more blog posts. Because one thing I learned is that if it’s not in the plan, it simply won’t get done!

Hope this planning tip helps you prepare for the new year. 

Happy planning! 

Are You Sticking to Your Plan?

Wow, it’s already February! How did your first month go? Are you sticking to your plan or is the shine of the new year already wearing off? This month is super important—even more so than the last. Take some time now to review the fabulously inspiring goals you made in January.

Start by taking a look at what’s been working so far and what totally bombed. The first is easy, but the second requires a bit more thought. You’ll want to ask yourself a few questions to figure out what went wrong:

  • Why did this goal fail to move forward?
  • Did I give it enough time and attention?
  • Is this goal something I really want to work on and achieve?
  • Should I keep it or replace it with something else?

When writing part-time, it’s easy to overreach and fail. But worse is to keep chugging along, struggling with things that don’t work and keep failing until you’re tempted to give it all up.

In my case, on the third week of January, I noticed a couple of flaws in my monthly tracker (a system I use to make sure I’m working on the right tasks-see previous post). Some of these tasks included various forms of writing such as magazine pieces and book manuscripts. But because I spent a great deal of time studying markets, I didn’t do that much actual writing. I discovered that it’s really easy to get carried away when studying markets. The deeper I dug, the more markets that popped up. I got distracted even more by creating lists to keep track of them all.

This means my tracker looked pretty empty even though I hadn’t been slacking off. To fix this, I added an extra row in my February tracker for market study. This should help me better balance my time between the two so that I get more writing done.

Another thing that came to light as I reviewed the previous month was that I needed to plan my days better in order to make the most of my tracker. So the very first row of my February tracker is reserved for daily planning. It acts as a reminder for me to take a few minutes the night before and decide what tasks I need to work on to move me towards my goals. This way, I don’t waste valuable time the next day wondering what to work on or get sidetracked working on things that may be fun or interesting but that won’t take me in the right direction.

As the weeks go by, I expect to be doing a lot of adjustments to my monthly trackers. That’s the beauty of this system, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Ready for 2017? Reach Your Goals!

Like most of you, I have spent a lot of my free time this month pondering my goals for next year and how best to accomplish them. I’m a fantastic list maker, but seeing them through to completion is always a challenge. My biggest problem is that I can’t predict what will happen in one day, let alone an entire year!

So I dug around in my writing toolbox and here’s what I came up with.

First, the lists. I started off by jotting down all the things I would like to work on or see happening in 2017. I then separated these into two lists: professional and personal goals.

For my professional goals, I shuffled the items on my list and grouped them into three main categories: landing more writing gigs, maximizing my two websites, and expanding my social media presence. All of which, I hope, will lead to my main objective: a substantial increase in my income for 2017. I then analyzed each category and trimmed it down to those items which I felt would help me reach this objective.

The next step involved figuring out how to make each one of my goals a reality. The thing about goals is that unless they are paired with concrete actions, they’ll very likely never see the light of day. As I dug around in my writing toolbox, I pulled out my monthly trackers and decided to see if I could adapt them to propel me forward.

Monthly trackers are extremely popular with fans of bullet journals. They’re basically charts used for tracking activities or habits. The first column contains a list of actions you wish to keep track of. The following columns are numbered to reflect each day of the month. So, let’s say you wanted to track the days you spend promoting yourself on Facebook every month, you would add a check mark or colour in a square for each day that you did. Here’s a picture of what I mean.

goals monthly tracker

This particular tracker contains both professional and personal goals and starts in the middle of the month. The ones I’m working on right now for January will contain one page for professional goals and another for personal goals and will cover the entire month. My professional goals tracker will list specific actions that I feel will help me reach my overall objective. And by colouring in each day that I complete an action, I will have a clear visual guide to ensure I move in the right direction. By the time we near the end of January, I’ll use my tracker to help me plan for February and so on. Maybe I’ll notice that some actions work beautifully while others need to be modified or changed completely. But whatever happens, I’ll be able to adjust as needed so that by the end of the year there’s an excellent chance I’ll have reached my main objective.

Now excuse me while I go finalize my trackers before January 1st comes along!