2019 Planning and How I Got to 2020

There was a lot I wanted to accomplish in my 2019 writing practice AND there was a lot going on in my job.  To balance work/personal/writing life, I turned to a planner.  Well, I went through several planners to get to my current system.

Why a paper planner when I’ve used Jorte for years?

2018 was very stressful for me and there was a lot I was tracking.  My Jorte calendar was too cluttered.  Looking at it created my anxiety than it alleviated. And nothing is as satisfying as checking, crossing out, or highlighting a task or series of tasks.  Paper and pen is a comfort for me in times of high anxiety.

My Organizational Journey

I started with a huge monthly desk calendar.  BUT in the first week it became clear that there was TOO much for even the largest monthly wall calendar.  I needed a monthly and weekly glance.

Next purchase was a Simplified Planner.  It had a hard cover with gold edges and bright cheery colors within.  The weekly view let me carve out the time I worked vs my “free time” and it gave me a heads up regarding what was pending.  It’s major drawback was combining the Saturday/Sunday in the weekly view.  As a retail person I need the most detail on my Saturday/Sunday either when I work or when I have it off.  Most things in my life happen on these days.

So I moved on to an Inner Guide Planner and a paper journaling system in July.   The Inner Guide gave me more than a full 7 day a week spread, it also helped me make monthly goals in different categories like the professional, creative, family, fun, etc.  This helped me figure out what I was spending time on and if it was what I wanted to spend time on.  This planner helped crystallized the need to change day jobs, and it helped refocus me on my novel publication countless times.  I think most people would find the Inner Guide Planner of immense value, especially for its price point.  It was $32 and even using it only from July-Dec, I got that value back.

A blank journal gave me freedom and space to write whatever whenever.  Lists, complaints/venting, future plans, progress reports, research, etc.  It also gave me unlimited space, and I’m long winded.

However, I wanted more.  I wanted a space to write my plans and goals and another space to record actual progress on those goals.  There wasn’t enough space in a weekly planner for that so I did some research and purchased a She Plans Daily Planner.

I love this planner.  It’s a quarterly softbound sewn book I carry with me and make notes regarding the way I spend my time.  At a glance I can see how much time I spend working, blogging, on social media, or “wasting time” gaming/watching YouTube by color blocking my day off using the half hour 6-8:30 pm marks provided in they system.  There’s an untimed space for “to do” where I make notes on ideas/shopping needs/tasks as they come to me and review them each week to prioritize what I need or should plan out.  There’s a space for inspiration I fill out with a writing quote every day.  Tracking my time helps me clarify what I want and what I’m willing to do to get it done.

And all this lead me to 2020 organizational routine.  For 2020 I have a desk full of plans to keep me on track with my writing, health, and work.  I will share the current 2020 system in my next post and talk about moving forward.  I hope this post helped offer some tools you could use to help you achieve your goals.  Are you a planner or a seat of the pants type writer?  Do you have goals and what do you do if you meet them?  What do you do when you don’t reach your goals?  Do you have a favorite tool: what is it and why?

Bells and Whistles: Habitica for Fantasy Writers

Habitica is a free online site (and phone app because everything is a phone app right now) that allows you to write goals and track your progress.  Like all progress trackers, Habitica gives users satifaction by checking off completed tasks and clearing a dashboard.  More than just checking a box, the site gives the user points that allows them to customize and build a small fantasy character.  Doing dishes or completing a writing goal isn’t just exciting in its own sake, now your little character can level up to achieve better armor or a better attack.  While “gamifying” work can appeal to anyone, I thought the fantasy character nature may appeal to fantasy or scifi writers.

 

There are three styles of habits one can write.

 

“Habits” or goals that a user strives to repeat daily or 2-3 times a week.  They are important but the user doesn’t want to be penalized if they don’t get around to completing these things every day.  Instead the habits will color coat, suggesting how good a person is at completing them but not setting anyone back if they don’t get to an item every day.

 

“Dailies” are mandatory tasks that renew each day.  If you DO NOT complete them, they will negatively impact your little avatar.  This is a more carrot/stick method of goal planning where completing the goals gives your character great bonuses but forgetting to do them too often will lead to your avatar passing out.

 

“To-Dos” are one time, one-day style tasks.  Finishing them is epic, but there’s no set timeline on getting to them and there is no need to repeat the tasks.

 

How I use Habitica as a writer

While I first used Habitica for the “Dailies” section.  Forcing myself to either “put up or shut up,” I find it’s healthier for me to use the “Habits” and “To-Do” sections.  It makes me less likely to micro manage my time or fill up my goal list with things I KNOW I will complete so I can collect the points.  Checking off boxes and making plans makes me feel good and sometimes I’ll make a ton of plans instead of working on anything.  Habitica enables this kind of behavior, so if this is you, beware.

 

I use the “Habits” section to suggest things I like “check social media X for X amount of time,” “respond to 2 people in y forum,”  or “write x amount of words this week.”  Habitica can also be a reminder system.  It helps me remember to focus on general life or well-being items outside of writing specific goals.

Sometimes Habitica is just a tracking system.  If I am trying to decide between projects I wanted to work on, I might create a habit for each book/story and see which one I checked off the most.

 

I planned to use the “To-Dos” to manage all my creative writing ideas, but it’s unnecessary.  I’m excited about all my story ideas and can just keep a running paper list.  I jump into creative projects without problem.  Instead my “To-Dos” fill with ideas for blog posts and suggestions regarding what to edit next.  This way when I schedule time to write up blog posts, I don’t waste time wondering what topics to cover.

 

Overall, Habitica has helped me stay organized and focused as a writer.  While any list could do this.  There is extra incentive to do well when there’s a cute little avatar face staring back at me asking for the next couple points to level up.  I realize this won’t work for everyone, but if you’re in a rut, it might be worth trying.

 

Talk to me!  Do you use any habit trackers in your writing?  Do you use a planner at all or does all structure repel you?  How do you feel about deadlines and goals when it comes to your writing or creative process?

 

Looking for more productivity and planning goodness?  Check out my 2019 Goals Review. I’ve got a post on my 2020 writer’s goals, how I’m tracking those goals, and I have some advise on how to plan a rough draft for aspiring writers.

New Year’s Resolutions and Writing

Did you set any New Year’s Resolutions?  If you haven’t there’s no time like the present to commit yourself.

 

I love new things.  They’re shiny, unassuming, and a perfect for a fresh start.  You can always “start again” on your journey to improve.  No need to wait till January.  March, November, or any other time of year works too as long as you’re ready to put in the work.  Still, there’s something about the crisp cold dry air paired with scales and exercise equipment hanging out in every retailer that just seems to beg of you to start a project now.

 

If you’re like me and over commit, you’re starting with a spreadsheet of some 30 odd goals to track with the silent prayer all those little measurements will lead to a larger goal down the road.  I was planning for March to see major changes when I wrote my resolutions, but two weeks in and I’m already pushing back to April.

 

Three paragraphs in and finally I’m ready to talk about my writing commitments for 2018.

 

  • Writing Daily.  I’m using 365 Writing Prompts to start each day.  I’d like to write at least 500 words per prompt.  Of this year I’ve missed 3 days so far, but I haven’t given up on writing most my days
  • Taking these prompts and creating at least one edited complete story with them a month.  This is a lot harder for me but is the logical conclusion with the goal being toward churning one full edited story every two weeks.  A June goal at earliest at this rate
  • Reading 36 books this year.  Need to look at the larger writing and publishing world around me.  Also I require full books to research elements of stories I want to write.
  • More consistently reading and providing candid, honest, helpful feedback to my writer’s group.  I want to take part more in collective writing efforts.
  • Starting up our North Alabama Writers  Group Blog.  Pushed the group to set this up over the summer and I’ve let it lay fallow.  No time like the present to force posts.
  • Not so secret yearly goal I’ve no way to measure my progress to: I want to be published and more widely read.  Words can’t contain my burning, heart pounding, chest expanding, all encompassing desire to have a readership—to share my words and know others look at them.  Don’t even care if people like them so long as they read them.

As an impatient person, progress is not going as quickly as I’d like.  Who’d have thought changing 30 points of your lifestyle wouldn’t lead to a seamless transition of success?  But, I am seeing marked progress improvement and I am moving closer to having a life more inline with what I wanted starting January 1st.

 

Our writers’ group also has goals for 2018.  As a group we’ve pledged to:

  • Have a more structured group meeting
  • Have a writing exercise every other week
  • Have monthly write-ins besides our standard weekly meeting
  • Increase our group size
  • Do something with the Group Blog (which I’m taking on as a personal crusade but I expect others to join as they are ready)

What about you, mysterious anonymous reader? We’re 1/24th of the way through the year, and no time like now to come clean regarding your declarations.  Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?  Did any of them involve writing?  And how are they going?