Some people love to sit down and just start writing with no worries whether or not the work is moving them toward their goals.
Others love to spend time making lists, making plans, setting everything up, scheduling down to the minute—devoting so much time to those tasks that they struggle to get around to the actual work of writing.
Let’s figure out how to do both.
Let’s find a balance.
Let’s set ourselves up with a plan that helps us truly move toward goals and level up, and then commit to the work, so we can meet deadlines, accomplish tasks, and make progress.
There are three things we need to do: we need to organize ourselves, schedule the work, and enact the plan.
Organize, schedule, enact. Each takes a slightly different mindset and represents a slightly different role. It’s as if you’re three people at the same time.
As you organize yourself, you’re like a project manager and you’ll need a project management setup.
Project Management Tasks
You’ll want to make checklists to create repeatable processes and routines that fit into your days.
Say no to things holding you back, so you can simplify and prune to focus and level up.
Make sure the plan you’re organizing supports your primary goals—that one-year and the three-month goal, but you’ll also want to break down big projects into smaller tasks and schedule those, as well. This is part of the reverse engineering I’ve talked about in the past.
Take all of that—the one-year goal, the three-month goal, and all the ways you’ve broken it down into—and back up. What tasks need to be done in each of the three months of the three-month goal? Then move to the month ahead of you and break that into two-week chunks.
Move down to the week ahead, then, finally, break down your tasks and goals into days so you know what you’re doing today on any given day—always knowing you are steadily, intentionally moving toward goals.
Project Management Systems
To organize all of this, you need some kind of system. It can be as complex or simple, or digital or analog as you like.
Some people use Trello, Evernote, Google Docs, spreadsheets, bullet journals, or a three-ring binder. It’s up to you. Use what works for you.
And stick with it, because you’ll invest time into organizing all these projects and all this content, goals, and tasks. You’ll input a lot of information into your system. To repeat that in a different system because you abandoned the first one after a week will simply delay the work of writing.
Set up a system and stick with it for at least a month. Don’t give up too soon.
After you organize all of your tasks and goals, it’s time to actually schedule. This represents another role: the scheduler who does the admin work.
Choose Your Calendar
Pick a calendar that suits you just as you picked a project management system that suited you.
Ideally, this calendar will weave together your personal appointments to accurately reflect your availability. Plus, you’re already using that calendar and you’ll have it with you at all times.
Many people like the visual effect of huge wall calendars, hanging a poster-size calendar for every month and filling a whole wall. They use Post-Its for projects, tasks, and goals, because the Post-Its can be color-coded to represent each item and can move around as needed if something in your life needs to be moved around and adjusted.
You might consider a digital calendar option, however, because most will sync with multiple devices and you’ll always have this pocket assistant wherever you are: at your desk or out and about.
With it comes the power of notifications to keep you on task. When a digital calendar notification alerts you to do something, it feels like an outside entity, like an assistant, is nudging you to get to the work based on decisions made by a supervisor.
All three of those roles were you at a previous time, but when you sit down to do the work, it’s as if you have support from the outside keeping you on task.
Reverse Engineer Tasks
Map out the details and add them to the calendar, reflecting deadlines and activities in sequence—that’s the reverse-engineering you’ll do with every project, task, and goal. You’ll see the end and work your way forward, so you have the right task at the right moment in the right sequence all the way up to your to-do list for today.
For example, if you have a deadline of an article due to an editor, reverse engineer that. If you need to do research prior to outlining and drafting the article, be sure to schedule in that research early in the process and allow the right number of days or weeks to complete the draft and final version you’ll submit to your editor.
Estimate how much time you need for certain activities and find chunks of time where you can do the work. Dedicate particular tasks to those chunks of time.
When everything is set up, it’s time to enact the plan. Now you’re in the role of doer, worker, writer.
Once you’re set up, don’t delay—don’t keep picking at the plan. The only way you can possibly level up is to do something.
It’s time to execute the plan. It’s time to do the work.
Don’t veer from the plan at first. Stick with the decisions you’ve made and the pattern, routine, or schedule you set up. Veering off right away is what gets you off task and off schedule and then you’re in danger of procrastinating or missing a deadline.
This whole process of leveling up is going pro. Be a pro. Follow through with what you’ve decided, organized, and scheduled.
As you start to enact this plan, evaluate it. What is the data telling you?
- If you were pushing out more articles on your website, did you get more visitors and more activity on your website?
- If your goal was to post more social media updates in order to gain a certain number of followers, did you achieve that goal?
- Did you create a freebie for people to sign up? If so, did they grab it and sign up?
- How are you feeling about the pace of this plan? Can you sustain it? For how long?
- Do you need to adjust something or move tasks and goals a little further out for a less aggressive approach?
- Maybe you see you can do this—you can surge forward for a two-week sprint of effort.
As you’re evaluating, you can reschedule and reorganize as needed.
But you might find some things are working well.
- What’s working that you can continue?
- Can you set up repeatable actions with checklists?
- Could those one day be delegated or streamlined to save you time and be more efficient?
- Can you set up a routine to follow daily or weekly?
- How long do you think it’ll be before you level up based on your goals?
You can figure these things out as you evaluate the plan you’ve enacted.
If you’re someone who loves to sit down and start writing without worrying about where you’re headed, take time to organize and schedule the tasks and goals so you move forward with intention.
If you’re someone who loves to dig down to the granular level making lists and plans, spending time in calendars, scheduling down to the minute, make sure you don’t get stuck there. Step back and say, “This is enough. It’s time.”
Find that balance so you can start doing the work. Because that balance is how you will level up as a writer and achieve your goals.