Sometime between Christmas and New Year, I take time to plan what I want to accomplish the next year. My method is one I worked out for preparing the annual budget for my client company, back when I was working as senior accountant at a property management firm.
My starting point was the finished product with its completion deadline. I broke it down into components, determined the sources, worked backwards from the final deadline to arrive at deadlines for those, notified the people from whom I needed the information with clear requirements and deadlines, and followed up to ensure I got everything in time to put it all together.
The planning part was easy. Handling other people over whom I had no authority, to get what I needed when I needed it, was harder. Most were somewhat cooperative, but a few guarded the data like it was a treasure and I was a pirate. Nevertheless, I persevered and made a budget so accurate there were few variances to explain when the financial statements were released.
I used this method to plan 2020.
Planning for my own finished products should be easy, right? I don’t have to depend on anyone else for the components that go into them, most of the time. I just have to get my butt in the chair and work.
Piece of cake.
To say I bit off more than I could chew would be like saying a trickle of water cascades over Niagara Falls.
To start with, I had several books I wanted to complete. I had first drafts for them. Finishing and publishing them shouldn’t be such a big deal. So I set my deadlines for getting each of them out, and worked backwards to assign deadlines for things like getting covers done, sending them to beta readers, final edits, etc.
Then I made a daily schedule to cover all the bases, like writing, chores, and various projects I am working on. Every hour of every day of the week was planned. Tightly. Rigidly. Impossibly. There was no room for surprises. I didn’t plan for days off or sick days or power outages or any of the other myriad things that could go wrong.
That was my first mistake.
I also seriously underestimated the time it would take to do any of the thousand things I planned and needed to do. And I had forgotten to include some things that experience should have warned me about, like listening to webinars and taking courses.
By the end of January, I was already behind schedule. About a month.
The best laid plans of mice and men….
Then the tsunami that was 2020 hit.
My husband started working from home and our schedules and work requirements don’t mesh well.
Someone who was going to create a cover for one of my books went out of communication, and I wasn’t happy with another I’d commissioned. So I decided to learn how to do it myself. How hard could it be? I bought a graphics/photo manipulation/publishing suite and did an online course for the basics. I loved it, but still didn’t know enough to create artwork good enough for a cover.
And periodically, when I sat down to write, the muse would whine, “I don’t want to work on that anymore. I have this new idea. Listen to this…”
I don’t know about your muse, but mine is rather like a three-year-old. Or my cat. I have to pay attention to her when it’s convenient for her. If I don’t cater to her whims, she sulks and refuses to speak to me later when it’s convenient for me.
And then there were medical issues and other emergencies.
And days when I just couldn’t get up any enthusiasm. Or just needed down-time.
So now it’s 2021, and I haven’t completed any of the books I intended to publish in 2020. I’m roughly ten months behind schedule. OK, eleven.
So for 2021, I’m going to be a little more relaxed about schedules. I still have a tight daily schedule, and the first thing on it every day is writing. There are more chunks on it just called “work”, where I will do whatever is next on my list, whether that’s writing, editing or sending to a beta reader. I’m going to try not to be surprised when there is a holiday, and schedule down time. If my daily schedule is unworkable, I’ll tweak it until it does work.
I am lucky enough to be able to spend most of my time doing what I love, and I am damn well going to enjoy it.