On Planning and Setting Goals (Or Not), A Love Letter

I’m such a sucker for reviewing and planning at this time of year. I’ve tried a million systems, some expensive, some not, some helpful, some way too detailed and structured to work for me. I’ve bought programs from Michael Hyatt, and calendars from Leonie Dawson.  Often I buy expensive planners that promise to make me more productive and focused. By February, they are abandoned.

Photo by Renáta-Adrienn on Unsplash

I tend to make elaborate plans, complete with ambitious, unattainable goals. Mid-year I look back and wonder what on earth I was thinking. I don’t want to do that this year, and yet I do love the process of planning (probably too much) and I don’t want to skip it. And so this year I am doing my my best to keep the process loose and open.

And still, I am a sucker for any post or article about end-of-the-year reviewing and planning.  This year, I’ve found some good ones, and luckily for me, they are pretty simple. You might be interested in:

The Max Daniels planner, which is a short PDF, and for $10 a great starting point.

I loved this post from Cynthia Morris, also very short and simple.  (I highly recommend getting on her list to be notified of when her next Devoted Writer program comes around).

Jeffrey Davis, who is running a month-long program on planning that it is not too late to join.

Michele PW has a good blog post on goal setting in a different way.

Taking a little bit of this, a little of that, and much inspiration from the above resources, here’s the plan I’m following (loosely, as always). And I’m still in the middle of it, so the jury is out as to how well it will work. Come next July I’ll know for sure!

–I’m using plain sheets of computer paper, though usually I prefer to work in a journal or spiral. But for this I felt I needed to see a bigger picture.

–I turned the paper sideways and drew a line down the middle, then labeled each half a specific month. With the help of my 2018 calendar and the photos on my phone, I was able to note what happened in each month. This is the first time I’ve done it this way and it was really helpful.

–Here is a wonderfully helpful tip from Cynthia Morris: review your year in terms of your values.  How did what you did align with what you hold most dear in your life? I loved this idea and it became key for me in mulling over my year.

–On a fresh piece of paper, brainstorm all the things you want for 2019. Note your writing-related goals. What projects do you want to finish? To start? Which ones need to go out into the world? Are you going to indie publish or look for an agent? Maybe you want to try something new, like writing memoir or essays rather than fiction or short stories. Write it all down.

Then there’s the personal, of course. The usual—lose weight, eat healthier, exercise, meditate, fun stuff, travel, hobbies, etc. This is an initial brain dump, off the top of your head. You can organize it later.

This may take more than one sheet of paper, and if you are so inclined you might also want to do it mind map style.  (Write 2019 in the middle of the page and draw lines out from it for each area of goals.)  As you do this, consider your values. Is what you’re writing on the page in line with what is most precious to you?

–Take a break. Go eat chocolate. Or drink wine. Or a nice hot cup of tea.

–Look at your brain dump. What are the things you really, really, really want to spend time doing? To quote Marie Kondo, what sparks your joy? Cross off everything else. (This is the hard part for me, and I’ll be honest, I’m not good at it. I want to do all the things.)

–Then create the same matrix of months as for 2018, only label them for 2019.  Write down all the things that are already scheduled, and then add in the things you want to make happen.

–From here, you can transfer these intentions/goals/desires to whatever you like best to work in—a bullet journal, a regular old-fashioned journal, your phone, a Word doc, one of the many gorgeous planners that are available. I’m partial to the Erin Condren planners, but at the moment I’m using my phone and a minimalistic bullet journal (no fancy hand-drawn spreads for me) to organize my life, time, and goals.

Et voila, there you have it—your year, planned, without too much muss and fuss.

Leave a comment and tell me how you like to review and plan at this time of year. Does this “system” appeal to you, or do you follow something else?

News Flash!—We’ve had a cancellation for the February Astoria Workshop. It filled up quickly, but one person had to back out for personal reasons. So there’s an open spot! Is it yours? Check out all the information about it here ,    and if you’re interested, reply to this newsletter.

 France 2019—We’ve posted the information for next year’s workshop! Find all the details here.  We’ve already had a few sign-ups and there’s a discount if you commit before the end of the year.

Coaching—I haven’t done a lot of it this past year, but I’m taking on a few new clients in January. If you are interested, reply to this email and we will talk.

Facebook Group

And of course, don’t forget to join the Facebook group if you haven’t already.  I post lots of good links and we often have lively writerly discussions going.

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