On Tuesday we talked about why planning is necessary: it gives us our Purpose, Excitement, a sense of Accomplishment, and Sanity. Hopefully I shared something to cause you wingers out there to give it a try. (I’m looking at you, Sara.) Which leads us to today: the how.
I’m a lucky girl, in that my mom taught me early in life to set goals. She also hammered into my head that goals are different from resolutions. I don’t know about you, but that is such a freeing concept to me.
Goals require five components and—bless some unknown soul’s heart—they broke it down into an acronym. Our goals need to be SMART:
There are countless posts available about creating SMART goals, so if that’s something you need to look into, have at it. For the purpose of this post, I’m working with the assumption that we all know what goals we are planning for.
In order to help illustrate the how of planning, I’m going to state one of my goals and break it down.
My goal is to write a book for work-at-home moms that I will publish as an eBook by September of this year.
For the record, some of that is real and some of it I pulled out of the sky. I’ll leave it to you to determine what’s what. 😉
So are you ready? Let’s get to it!
Big Picture Planning
Despite the well-worn phrase about assumptions, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you own a yearly calendar. If not, please run to the dollar store, Target, or download one online before proceeding. And if you happen to be a digital planner…I’ll do my best for you. As often stated, I’m a paper girl all the way.
The first step in big-picture planning is to enter every event/trip/commitment you know of on your calendar. While you may be great at storing these details in your head, I believe we benefit from having a visual reminder of those commitments.
Now, working with my hypothetical case, it’s time to sketch out a rough plan for accomplishing my book. Since I want to ePublish in September, that means I need to have the book proofed and set up by the end of August. Writing the first draft by the end of May gives me time to do a few rewrites and get feedback from friends. Which means I need to have an outline ready in March so I can begin writing in April.
This is what my big-picture planning looks lie:
- March: outline book
- April-May: write first draft
- June-July: ask for critiques and do rewrites
- August: proofread (or hire a friend) and design the book layout
- September: publish and party!
These would be added into my calendar on my monthly pages…right next to my reminders to sanitize our water cooler, register for fall activities, gifts I need to buy, and who I need to call this month.
Towards the end of the current month (that looks like right about now, as March is four days away), I take a look at the upcoming month and see what’s already on the calendar. In my case, we have four birthdays, Easter, MOPS, weekly Bible study, training night, and my teaching and jewelry show commitments. Due to the birthdays and holiday, I know it’s going to be a busy month, so it’s in my best interest to break down weekly goals for my book project.
- March 1-5: Determine chapter divisions for the book
- March 6-12: Create post-its of subtopics and shuffle until they flow
- March 13-19: Run the outline by trusted friends
- March 20-26: Create any necessary changes, locate necessary resources for quotes, photos, etc.
I also have a list in my planner of what my recurring daily, weekly, and monthly tasks are, so that I don’t have to work from scratch or reinvent the wheel each day/week/month. By taking a look at this list, I can schedule in when I plan to enter expenses, clean out my phone, pay bills, etc.
While it seems like a lot, monthly planning feels the most organic to me. It just happens as it happens. The only true effort goes into the things I have to make happen—like my book project.
Let’s move onto my favorite aspect of planning, shall we?
There are different events we each need to plan for. Home and family responsibilities, work tasks, volunteer commitments, and fun/personal growth projects are my main ones.
If you’ve never heard Steven Covey’s talk about big rocks, take four minutes and watch this video. It’ll save you hours of stress in the long run, I promise.
Okay, do you have a clear picture of your big rocks? Not only do we have big rock items (for me those would be family and work commitments), but inside those realms we have big and little rock items, sand, water, and whatever else we can squash in there.
For example, sweeping the kitchen floor is a little rock. Spending quality time with My Guy and kids are big rocks. Checking email, though necessary, can be a little rock for me. It must get done today, but if I do that before I spend time writing (big rock), chances are I’ll run out of time or energy to write. Basically, big rocks are the tasks that give you the greatest bang for your buck, so to speak.
Each Sunday night or Monday morning I sit down with my calendar and look at the following:
- What is on our schedule this week
- What I missed last week
- What’s on my weekly checklist (see above)
I fill these items into my weekly task list, along with my big rock goals. Going with our illustration, next week my big rock goal is to determine chapter divisions for the book. So I might break that down into the following steps:
- Monday: Brain dump. Pull out all my notes and see what’s missing.
- Tuesday: Shuffle topics around until I’m certain that it flows
- Wednesday: this is our crazy day, so I’m 90% sure I won’t have time to work on this project.
- Thursday: Create a chapter division outline. Sit with it to see that it makes sense.
- Friday: This is our family Saturday, so nothing. 🙂
Even though I don’t have a lot of time to spare for this project, by planning it out I know it will get done.
To me, one of the best things about planning on paper is having a record of those brain dumps that happen randomly. Just this morning I thought of two items I need to research but have no time for this week. So I jotted it in my “future” notes and when I plan out next week, I’ll see if there’s room to add them.
Everyone plans differently because our minds are unique and our lifestyles are completely diverse. Your method of planning might look nothing like mine, so thanks for sticking with me to the end! Please jot a note below and share with us–what’s your favorite planning secret?