It’s when we don’t act on our goals that we feel overwhelmed or underachieved. Sometimes we think the goals are overwhelming us, but goals can be flexible. Often the cause is a lack of a clear plan for the action we take to meet those goals to live our vision.
Some of you might think, “Holy wild horses, she’s going to never stop talking about planning.” I promise; I’m not on a big New Year’s coffee-induced planning binge. It’s just that there are three phases and this is the third:
- Vision (your north star that guides your journey).
- Goals (FAST: flexible, actionable, sound and timely).
- Action (the steps that will get you closer to your goals).
An action plan is a timeline that shows what to do by when. It can be laid-back for the pansters or all out list-nerdy for the planners. My suggestion is to use Excel to create a simple chart for weekly activities or download a free calendar template. I use both and will explain the practical application of each.
Keep in mind I’m actually self-identified as a pantser, but my career path taught me the benefits of planning. I plan once a year and monitor progress periodically or at the end of the next year. If you do not plan in January, bookmark this post for when you do plan.
Calendar Timeline is useful for large projects with multiple parties involved. For example, I manage a client’s newsletter and coordinate with the client, contract writers, designer, print-house and distribution. It’s important that all involved understand the deadlines and who does what by when. Apply these steps:
- Start with your end date (this can be a book launch or a reoccurring publication date).
- Work backwards to identify the steps for success (if you are launching a book in three months, what happens between then and now).
- Include all involved (helpers, reviewers and others you will work with).
- Mark all the steps on your calendar (this is your action plan).
- Refer to the plan periodically and communicate with others involved.
Weekly Chart is useful for tracking multiple goals and activities. Blogger-slash-freelancer-slash author, this is you. This is me. I have an Excel spreadsheet on my desktop with three tabs representing the next three weeks. I’ll admit that I don’t refer to this schedule often because the plan is in my head. Creating it, helps me frame that head-plan, though and if goals or deadlines clash, it is my best tool for figuring out how to adjust.As you can see, I list multiple ongoing projects, processes and even personal goals.This chart is a snapshot of the action that keeps me in motion.
Last week I mentioned making flexible goals. If you are like me and in the midst of a major learning curve (such as, the book industry) you need to be flexible. If you work a day job, take clients or parent, you need to be flexible.
However, it is important that you be consistent. If you want to write a novel, you have to write page by page. If you want to blog, you have to manage a schedule that fits the time you have for it. Think of consistency as the fuel for your action. If you want to walk every day, you have to walk. That’s consistency.
Consider this essay by Gregory Ciotti about The Under-appreciated Benefits of Creative Consistency.
If you start to feel overwhelmed or like you are not getting where you want to go, check up on your action. Does what you do every day (or week) align with what you want to accomplish? If not, figure out why, adjust your action or your goals to fit your circumstance and then get at it! Action is motion. Do.
But don’t forget to be.
Writers need imagination time; play dates for creativity and a chance to look at art or birds or waterfalls. Live life in the present moment. Be inspired. Be open to new ideas. Be aware of others. Be who you are.
This week we are going to let our stories be. January 7, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that describes a moment of being. It can be practical, such as what it’s like to be a traveler on a crowded plane or a working parent trying to get breakfast served. It can be reflective, such as what it’s like to experience prejudice or a pilgrimage. It can be silly, scary or surreal.
Respond by January 13, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.
Being at the Creek by Charli Mills
Winnie left her pants on a granite bolder at the creek’s edge. She left her shirt, underclothes and shoes, too. Water streamed past her ankles, cold and clear as summer ale. Grainy sand and walnut-sized pebbles pressed into the soles of her feet. At thigh deep, Winnie faced the rapids that poured into this deep hole. Churning water dominated the evergreen forest like surround sound. Without going deeper she simply sank to her knees and bobbed on the balls of her feet. Cold squeezed her chest, lapped at her neck. She balanced. Arms spread wide, she watched the current.
Next week, look for a few cosmetic changes and additions to Carrot Ranch. Surprises are coming for the Rough Writers and time to put on your thinking caps, dream bonnets or lucky pajamas because we are going to collaborate. On what? That is for the group to decide!