As a writer, except when editing assignments come up because of a contract, I have to set my own goals, make my own schedule, and pace myself. This is always much easier said than done. A lot of things interfere with meeting goals and sticking to plans, so I’ve learned how to at least brace for the unexpected.
Thus, here’s a list for you writers out there and for anyone else because, no matter the field or subject, we all find ourselves in positions where the following tips might come in handy.
1. Expect the Unexpected: Cliche, I know, but it’s too true to leave out. No matter how well any of us plan, no matter the number of Plans B, C, and so forth, things will always occur that demolish our carefully laid schemes. It can be an illness, last minute commitments, a computer crash, or a power outage. Doubtless, you can think of many more. Whatever the unfortunate occurrence, the unexpected can wreak havoc.
2. Expect Each Task to Take Three Times as Long: Even a task we know well, especially mixed with the unexpected, can topple well laid plans. Normally, I might spend three days on a certain round of edits, but I try to give myself a week because, more often than not, something slows me down. Sometimes, it’s simply stress or weariness from those unexpected things.
3. Assume the Plan Will Look Nothing Like the Original When Complete: When in our lives do things ever go exactly the way we anticipate? I cannot think of a single instance in my life. If you expect things to change or come out differently than originally intended, surprises will not appear so dire.
4. Find Humor and Fun in the Chaos: This one can be a real challenge, especially with a deadline looming. However, a good laugh or an appreciation for irony can blunt the sharpness of surprise or strain. Additionally, laughter and a better mood help anyone more deftly adjust to unexpected change. They also relieve stress.
5. There Will Be an End: No matter how difficult things become or how horrendously a plan gets knocked off course, not even when your goals and dreams are hurled miles farther than you thought, things will never remain the same. This can be a haunting truth, but it can also be a consolation. Eventually, circumstances will change, a deadline will pass, or a path toward a goal will become clearer. The best part about this is that there is always hope to restart or readjust, and in that, there is always a chance for success.
So to handle most of this, lately, whenever I can, I try to build a cushion into my planning when I lay out how I intend to reach my goals. Learning this takes time and it doesn’t always work. For example, this month, I’m utterly swamped with intense edits, kids getting ready for school, family issues, family events, and life in general. This month, my cushion has evaporated into feathers that a tornado ripped away. But it gives me a greater appreciation for how wonderful that cushion of time, humor, and flexibility is when I manage it. I hope in your endeavors you find it equally useful and comforting.
What helps you withstand when plans go awry or goals seems impossibly far? How do you approach making a plan to reach your goals, knowing you will likely encounter roadblocks?