Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Best Laid Plans...

Photo Credit: weheartit.com
I am amazing at planning.

When my parents decided to homeschool me, I was going into the 5th grade. And every year in September from 5th-9th grade I would get all my new books together, make myself a daily schedule (like the ones teenagers had on TV), and plan out all my assignments and homework for at least half the year. 

And then I wouldn’t do any of it. Instead of I would go to the library and read from the time they opened until they kicked me out at closing. 

I was the same way in college. Every semester I would get a new planner, new notebooks, new folders, and new binders with pretty tabs. I would be perfectly organized. I printed out all my syllabi, wrote all my assignments for the whole semester into my planner, and print out the first few weeks’ worth of readings and handouts for my binder. 

And then I wouldn’t do any of it. By about week 3 I‘d generally start to fall behind and from then until the end of the semester my planner would be buried and forgotten under a pile of clothes or books as I rushed to catch-up. (I also do my best work under crazy-pressure!)

So when I first started writing it was the same way. I’d buy gorgeous notebooks. I’d print out every method of outlining and plotting and file it. I’d buy every book on craft that I came across. I’d have stacks of colored index cards with matching colored pens. And all of these materials were perfectly organized on my bookshelf. And then I wouldn’t write anything. 

I am amazing at planning, but not nearly as good at DOING.

It has taken me a long time to realize (and an even longer time to accept) that there is a real difference between the desire to do something and the self-discipline to GET IT DONE. Once I realized this I knew that it was going to mean re-training my brain to continue with a plan once it was made. So I bought a new planner (I know what you’re thinking, just bear with me for a second) and I started to make a list of everything I wanted to do on each day for my family, myself, my house, and my writing.

And at the end of each day I check off what I did and cross out what I didn’t do. Some days all those cross outs are pretty depressing, but the days when everything gets checked off are awesome. Even better are the days that I can add things to the list that I got done without planning to do them. An extra hour of writing I wasn’t expecting to do or a blog post I got done during lunch that I had scheduled for the next day.

Looking back at what I’ve done (and haven’t done) over the past few months has really helped me to evaluate my priorities and learn what I’m capable of accomplishing. In turn, this knowledge has helped me set goals that are realistic. Last week I checked off every single item on my list for each day. And the sense of accomplishment I felt after realizing that put me in such an inspired mood I ended up writing an extra 2K that evening. 

Photo Credit: weheartit.com
I am amazing at planning. And I am getting better at doing. But it wasn’t until I was honest with myself about my own shortcomings and fears about writing (the real things that were keeping me so focused on the “planning” stuff) that I was able to let go of the extra stuff and just start writing. Some days it works really well and I do a little mini-celebration. And other days, I fail miserably, and I remind myself that tomorrow is another day with unlimited possibilities. 

So now I want to hear from you! How do you organize your time? How do you hold yourself accountable? And how do you celebrate when you get everything done? 

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