I met this lady who could plan the problems out of her life – or so she thought. Truth is, you can’t plan your problems away, but there is a lot you can plan for, and it will make an immense difference in what you can accomplish and the quality of your life overall.
There are three types of planners: no kind of plan, effective planning, and the overplanner. I wasn’t a planner to begin with. Maybe I should start there.
When I was younger, fresh out of college with a few years of short-term mission trips under my belt, I went on my first long-term missions assignment, teaching young children music at a small Anglican private school in a third world country. I sold what I could of my belongings, dropped the rest off at Goodwill, and took off for the inner city streets of Nassau, Bahamas.
I had no plan for where I would stay, how I would get food, how I would get around, or even how to call someone for help. I look back on this with the wisdom of an adult and I wonder how I survived my own stupidity. The answer is, of course, God. He carries us through. We just forget it as the busyness of life takes over. So try not to forget it. And remember, even if you plan the snot out of your life, it’s God who makes anything good happen in this world.
There in the Bahamas, without a plan, I was left to sleep in an abandoned parish until I could get an apartment. Without thinking things through, I didn’t have the resources to meet my basic needs. Sometimes, no planning is necessary, but we can probably agree that a plan for certain things would most certainly make life easier. Well, that’s the truth for writing and starting your own business.
I was a pantser. Threw my words on a page like Picasso’s paint! They were everywhere, but they weren’t everything. Picasso had a corner on the artist’s market, but in the world of words, there are expectations, readers want something specific. Something, I hadn’t learned yet. So I began to study several great authors who shared how they cut down the time it took to write a novel, and how to make sure what they wrote was sellable.
Planning was the key!
There’s a saying by Benjamin Franklin. “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
So, like any newbie I shot for the sky and made huge plans. Soon, I was overwhelmed by insurmountable goals and tasks that left me frustrated and defeated. Now, a quick note here, any time you try to learn something new, you will hit a wall. It’s frustrating – exhausting even – to learn. So don’t start out trying to plan and think you’ll get it right the first time. You’ll have to learn it just like everything else in life. Take it in baby steps, and remember, babies fall down all the time, but more importantly, they get back up.
When planning, your goals need to be achievable in the time frame you set out and measurable. This is to make sure you are doing what you need to, to prepare and land you in the best possible position for success. This is not something that someone else can tell you how much or how little to do. Each person’s stamina, perseverance, dedication, and outside needs are different. It’s like an appetite.
I was always amazed how my grandmother could bust open one of those tiny six packs of crackers, share one with each of my two brothers, my sister, and myself, leaving only two for her, and she’d savor those two with a smile. I would have devoured all six and checked the box for the next pack. No, she had a different sized – one might even say disciplined – appetite.
Planning is an essential tool. Here are three things I do to plan for success.
1 – LIFE PLANNING: Anything that can be planned to increase daily productivity is planned. I have a school I teach at, a family I love and raise and homeschool, and an author calendar that’s busy with three books a year. Each core calendar is color-coded and combined on one Google calendar app on my phone so I can easily manage the major activities of my life. I used to be a diehard physical calendar user – and I still am – but when things got so busy with each kid going in a different direction, three drivers in one household, and highstakes opportunities that I couldn’t miss for my business, I finally caved to the online platform and I’M SO GLAD I DID!
Now, I share these calendars with their respective impactees (mainly my husband and my students) and everyone is ON THE SAME PAGE! It’s beautiful and so incredibly helpful. Many people ask me: how do you manage a full time magnet school classroom load, homeschool your kids, manage your household and family’s finances, all while also putting out three books a year? The answer is: Careful diligent planning that adjusts with the needs of each group.
You have a life outside of writing and hobbies. The only way to protect your time with these activities is to have a plan. Otherwise, things will fall to the wayside. You’ll forget things. Frustrate those who’ve made plans with you. I know. I used to do it too!
2 – SIDE HUSTLE PLANNING: I called this type of planning Side Hustle because yours might be different then mine. However, the biggest thing I can share with you today is the idea that all tasks need to be divided up into daily accomplishments that are in fact possible to accomplish. This may take many tests and attempts before you are confident in the time and ability for your schedule to bear the time required to pursue your dreams.
I cannot emphasize the importance of achievable measurable goals. I started with a goal of one word. I’d write one word a day. Then a paragraph. That quickly grew to be two pages, but when I got overwhelmed I’d fall back on the paragraph and celebrate that I’d written. This kind of testing and growth will continue. I’m way into my career as an author now, and my current goal is 6,000-10,000 words in each long “rough draft” drafting session. And on weekdays because of life, kids, and my job, my goal is 2-4,000.
This is where my physical calendars and several digital elements come in to play for me.
I keep a physical daily agenda where I track what I’ve completed each day. This might be posts on social media, events I’m hosting, communication I need to make sure I complete, pages I’m revising, new “rough draft” words I’m dictating and so on. This record helps me plan for the future, and I can see with a visual how many times I’ve had to shift something. A lot of shifting lets me know when I’m thinking “pie in the sky” instead of “small accomplishable steps.” I want to remain in the latter for several reasons. We all need to feel a sense of accomplishment. We need to be there for the people who love us. If I set a goal, I tend to keep it come hell or highwater, and that costs the people who love me. So I need to protect them from my poor planning. Heck, that kind of goal keeping costs me. I’ve been sicker this year than ever before, and it’s because I was out of balance. Everything was clicking along except I wasn’t prioritizing and maintaining healthful rest.
Everything and anything it takes to reach a goal should be on your physical Daily Agenda calendar!
Finally, I have a wall calendar. It’s my newest addition to the circus of planning, but I like it. When I walk into the office I have a quick, on the wall, visual of what I need to do. It helps center me on that day’s tasks, and it’s saved my butt several times.
3 – SELF CARE PLANNING: Prior to planning this portion of my life, I had absolutely NO time for myself. I gave everything to my kids, school/students, and husband, and I’m sad to say, I hated my life! I struggled with depression and the sense I was stuck on this torture wheel of life working from the moment my eyes opened until they closed only to get up and do the exact same thing again. I wondered why I existed. It seemed stupid, because I wasn’t investing in myself. We are meant to be whole. The Bible says be still because in the stillness we experience God. In the busyness of life, we are robbed of our true spiritual center, and its cost is that empty ache of darkness that wants to burn you up each day.
So, on my schedule is prayer life, rest, time with God, the birds, gardens, my family, coffee, baths, walks . . . Don’t let the most important things of life, those things that everyone takes for granted but eventually – if they’re lucky – discover is the real meaning to life, slip through your fingertips. For me, after my husband’s cancer, this started with trying to figure out what I enjoyed again. I’d forgotten who I was in the busyness of it all.
Baths. I love baths – especially day baths! Did you know your kids (at least my kids) won’t bother you/me if you are NAKED! Little known fact. I know! I love it. I’ll get in the bath for three hours. I pack a snack, coffee, bring in my water bottle, and at least three books. I mean, I set up shop in there and truly give myself quiet downtime.
I love sitting on my porch in a swing or rocker, watching the birds, feeling the breeze, listening to the soft noises of evening (not morning – I don’t like morning). I swear! I see God in those moments! I’m more connected to Him then, than any other time!
I still have to fight the busy demon. I make mistakes with my planning and get all jumbled up! But it would be so much worse if I weren’t planning, and honestly, I’m truly happier, writing faster because I know where to go, and am an attentive parent and teacher.
If you’re not sold yet, think of this point. My household used to fight over laundry day. Everyone wanted Saturday. Now with a family of four, each person has a day, and no one is fighting unless they try to hop on someone else’s day. Anything you do can benefit from planning.
Finally, even God has a plan. I figure that should be the final reason. If He, the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, has a plan, then I probably need one too!