Monday 30th March 2020
There’s a line in the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons
“But you always knew that you’d be the one
That work while they all play”
That’s how I’m choosing to look at the current world lockdown. It’s shit all round and like the majority of the world’s population I’m stressed and worried.
I gave myself a couple of weeks to wallow a bit. Just like when I get a rejection, I give myself permission to feel bad. It’s OK if I haven’t exercised or have ate badly or done nothing constructive.
But at the same time, I’ve decided to look at this an opportunity. It’s a time to change old habits, develop new ones, to take my mind off the shit in the world by knuckling down and putting the time to good use.
So yesterday was spent doing a bit of planning.
I’ve changed my planning quite a bit over the last few months. In the past I’ve been very organised around the short term. I use tools like ToDoist to track my tasks and use a GTD methodology to triage them. It might sound like complete overkill but it’s allowed me to be super productive across all aspects of my life in the past. And whilst I feel far from super-productive at the present, I’d like to get back to that.
What’s new is the mid to long term planning. I’ve never been a long-term planning kinda guy and so much of this feels alien to me. Unlike my short-term planning I still feel like I’m finding my way with it a bit.
What I did at the start of the year was create some goals for myself. I’ve fallen into the trap in the past of creating goals I couldn’t control. So getting Black as Knight published isn’t a good goal because it relies on other people who I have no control over. However, getting a revised draft of it to my agent is totally in my control, and hence a good goal.
I made a bunch of these relating to all areas of my life. I wanted stuff that was realistic to be complete over the next 15 months, which some might argue isn’t really long term, but as I said, this is all very new to me.
I’ve then tried to break those goals down into milestones. Using getting a new book to an agent as an example, those milestones might be completing a first draft, or sending an edit to beta readers.
Next I’ve then tried to assign dates to those milestones. In my day job I’ve always hated milestones. Things take as long as they take, and in my day job, a milestone stops being something to work towards but a metric to be measured against. I’ve had to fight my internal prejudice and instead embrace them as a guide rather than a restriction. I’ve assigned quarters to them rather than an actual date which gives me some leeway.
I’ve also had to remind myself that these are for me and me alone. If I miss them, I only have myself to answer to. But let’s not kid myself – I am really struggling with this.
Those milestones then get broken down into tasks.
I’ve been using an application called Notion to capture and track this. I found a few year planners on the internet and have used their templates to set this all up. I know I won’t adopt all the process surrounding these templates and as such I’ll be making alterations as I go, but I’m still very much finding my way.
Originally, I wanted to bring my tasks from ToDoist into Notion and I even went so far as to build a database to manage this. But it doesn’t have the flexibility that ToDoist has and currently I’m trying to figure out in my head whether it’s best to keep the tasks completely separate in ToDoist or if I somehow need to link them.
There’s another part of the planner I’m even less clear on, and that’s the review part. My planner has a structure for yearly goals, quarters, months and weeks. The idea is that you review your previous week and make adjustments. If breaking goals down into task is the funnel down, then this is the funnel up.
I’ve now got it to the stage where the structure is there, but I’ve been really bad at doing it. This is mostly because I’m still struggling with it in my own head. I know that it makes sense on paper – break your goals down into manageable tasks and review as you go along – but I’m wondering if this is overkill.
Yet I was like this when I first started implementing GTD into my life. It felt odd and foreign and took me some time to adjust it to be optimal for me. I had to fight the (incorrect) thought that spending time getting organised robbed me of writing time. Instead, it made sure that I used my writing time more optimally and my productivity (and word count) soared as a result.
This is no different, and like the GTD I’m sure it will give me additional benefit once I’ve customized it and acclimated to it.
I spent a lot of time yesterday working on the review parts of this new process. I built new monthly and weekly review templates and now need to spend a few weeks with them before I can understand how well they are working and whether further adjustments are needed,
I’ll report back my findings as I progress but I’d be very interested in hearing anyone experiences and advice.
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