Okay, so the first week of January, you examined and reflected on last year’s accomplishments and, more importantly, last year’s non-accomplishments. You attempted to look at what worked and what didn’t work as you moved through 2017.
The second week of January, you took brainstormed and set some goals for 2018 and made them visible with a Vision Board (or scrapbook pages) and/or simplified your goal into a single word that will drive your progress through 2018.
It’s at this point where most New Year’s “resolutions” veer off the path to success and find themselves at a “dead end.” In fact, it’s at this point where people figure that there is little use in reflecting and setting goals because by the end of the year those goals have led them to a “dead end.”
Right now, you need to examine the reflections you did during week 1 of the non-accomplishments. Ask yourself, “Why didn’t I accomplish that goal? What led me to a “dead end.” Chances are you found the “dead end” because you didn’t have a plan, a map, or a route to get you from January 1 to the accomplishment of even one of your goals.
This week is all about planning. Planning your trip to success. Planning what route you will take if you find a speed bump or a detour.
The first experience you probably had was when a teacher suggested that you get a daily planner. In that planner you were to write homework assignments, project due dates, and test dates.
Remember back to high school when your teachers first suggested you get a daily planner? What was your response? Was it something like “Not me. I remember everything.”
How about when your teachers suggested you take notes? What was your response? Was it something like “Not me. I remember everything.”
Did you? Did you really remember everything?
I didn’t think so. You probably forgot at least one assignment in your four years of high school – forgot at least one important piece of information for a test or assignment.
MY PLANNING JOURNEY
I know I probably forgot more than I remembered when I didn’t write stuff down. This became more apparent when I became a parent, worked full time teaching high school, coached extra-curriculars, directed high school productions, and returned to college to get a master’s degree. It was at this point that I learned how to get real organized: color coded notes and calendars.
Unfortunately, after my children graduated from high school and moved out on their own AND I retired from teaching, I let my organization fall to the wayside. What a mistake! In the last two and a half years, the chaos and mess of life has overwhelmed me.
TIME TO TAKE LIFE BY THE HORNS AND STEER IT ALONG THE PATH YOU WANT IT TO TAKE.
My organization has changed and evolved as my needs have changed, but the relevant point is that it is necessary to WRITE THINGS DOWN and COMMIT TO THAT PLAN.
During high school and college, I used a simple purse calendar. You know, the kind that was given away by stores that sold cards. Homework, projects, and tests were written in the notebook and transferred to a wall calendar at college.
When my kids were both in elementary school, it was time to move from just a calendar where I listed appointments and deadlines, to some kind of notebook where I could record events by date and hour.
This lasted a few years and gave way to writing checklists.
Over the years, I have created several kinds of checklists according to what chaos life was handing me: morning checklist, before bed checklist, holiday countdown checklist, daily workday checklist, house cleaning checklist. I could go on, but I won’t.
Then there were meeting notes in a different notebook; project notes in another notebook; a notebook for each course I was taking and/or teaching; a notebook for … HOLD IT! I was carrying around far too many notebooks, taking the wrong notebook out or to a meeting, or worse, losing a notebook.
In 1994 (or so), I wrote on the front of my newest spiral notebook “THE EVERYTHING NOTEBOOK.” It contained my daily checklists; my work checklists; my notes from classes, meetings, and course preparation; and anything I figured I couldn’t lose.
It worked. One notebook in a bright color didn’t get lost. It got forgotten, but not lost.
I am back to using my “THE EVERYTHING NOTEBOOK”, but it has evolved. This is where I keep my PLANS.
PLAN = GOAL ACCOMPLISHED
When you need to see a goal through from inspiration through conclusion, you need a plan.
This seems foreign to many of us because although we have been asked what our goals might be we are rarely asked how we plan to get there.
You set a goal; you want to finish a project, eat healthier, lose weight, get a better job. It’s great to know what you want, but the secret to getting there is elusive, and the advice given by many is even more frustrating than the secret.
In 2017, one of my goals was to write more. Could I have been any more generic?
When I reflected on that, I realized that the goal needed more structure. It needed a plan. I needed to draw on my teacher preparation courses. I needed to work backward.
As I reflected on why I didn’t accomplish anything specific, I unearthed some startling questions that have driven the direction of my 2018 goals.
END GOAL: 2017: Write more.
- How much more is more?
I needed to put a time minimum or a word minimum to the goal of writing more. Just stating “more” doesn’t give me a specific amount to work towards. It’s too vague an amount.
- What am I writing?
This is probably more important than answering “How much more is more?” I had no idea what I was going to put my “more” into. I needed to define what writing projects I wanted to complete. Just writing “more” took me on a wild “non”-adventure.
- Is this something I should be striving to accomplish? Seriously, should I work toward this? Is this the right time to be working on this goal? Do I have the skills or knowledge to accomplish this goal? Should I share this idea with someone else and let them struggle with this?
- How am I going to accomplish that goal?
How indeed? Without a minimum time or length and without a specific project, how can I even determine if I have accomplished anything?
I confess; I gave up on National Novel Writing Month in 2017. The only tangible thing was that I would need to commit 1,667 words each day in the month of November, but write on what. I had no story idea and no plan for the protagonist.
Completing the rough draft of a novel in 365 days is doable; however, as a horrible procrastinator, I need to put a tighter deadline on it. If I don’t, I could find myself wasting 300 days or more because National Novel Writing Month has shown me that I can write 50,000 words in 30 days.
THE STEPS TO CREATING A PLAN
- Identify the END. You may have a goal, but is it the end product or a step in the right direction. For example, if you are working to become healthier, you have a never-ending goal; but if you identify that you need to lose 25 pounds, you have a tangible, visible target.
- Analyze what you need to do to complete your goal.
- Break the project into steps that fit your daily schedule.
- Record those steps somewhere that you can check each step off.
MY GOAL RE-VAMPED FOR 2018
GOAL: Complete the rough draft of a new novel.
- How much am I writing? When is the deadline?
I will write for a minimum of 15 minutes a day. This is concrete. I can set a timer and work until it goes off, but I can also continue if I want to.
- What am I writing?
I will write a rough draft of a new novel by the end of April.
- How am I going to write the rough draft of a novel? And breaking the project into steps.
- Write premise.
- Write character sketch of protagonist.
- Write character sketch of antagonist.
- Describe location.
- Write loose chapter breakdown. (I have more of a writer block when I use the word “outline” so I think of it as a chapter breakdown, what I want to accomplish in each chapter.)
These are just some of the steps I need to take as I journey to complete the rough draft of a novel.
- Record the steps in my “THE EVERYTHING NOTEBOOK.”
Do I always get the time in that I plan? No. Life sometimes interfers. For example, the three days my step-daughter and four grandchildren came to our house for Christmas were three days that I didn’t get any writing done. The days that my husband has doctor appointments scheduled in Nashville are days that I usually don’t get any writing done.
AS A TEACHER
One of the units in the creative writing course I taught was writing poetry; I called it “Exploring the Poet Within You.” When I taught that poetry unit, the end goal was for each of my students to create their own poetry chapbook. I had to determine how long it would take to compile the poems into book form (how many days in the library with the computers), how many poems the chapbook would contain, what poetic forms I wished to expose my students to, and what my students needed to learn about poetry. In order to complete each of these steps, I needed 15 class days or three weeks.
It’s time for you to work backwards from your goal and define the steps you need to take to get you there. Every project will require you to take different steps. Even if you have written a novel before, this novel may need more steps to complete, or fewer steps.
If you have questions or are struggling with creating a plan, share your questions and struggles in the comment section.
Thanks for reading.