Are you still with me on this long-term planning journey? I hope so! This month I’d like to share Step 3 (of 4) of the planning process – the one-year plan. We dreamed big in June (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/anything-but-ordinary) and charted our five year goals in July (http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/planning-part-two-charting-your-5-year-plan). Now it’s time to take that five-year plan and map out the first year, looking at the first large project or set of smaller projects you’d like to undertake.
As I’ve said before, the fall is the perfect time of year for planning and goal setting. We’re rejuvenated from our holidays and vacations (or just plain ecstatic the extended family has gone home!) and the humidity is finally dropping. This leaves us with enthusiasm and renewed energy for our tasks.
Assessing Your Time
The first step in laying out an annual plan is to think about how much time you have to devote to your writing or other creative pursuits in the twelve months ahead of us. It’s important to be honest and realistic about what lies ahead. Family demands, buying or selling a house, hosting visitors, workshops and conferences, and “real job” requirements all drain your time. These events must be factored into your plan as accurately as possible.
For me, I write 20 minutes a day, not matter what. During the school year, I have an additional 20 hours a week, which ends up being more like 15-18 hours once I factor in errands, doctor’s appointments, and unexpected demands. I make sure to flag certain weeks I know I won’t be productive. My daughter has a tech week for a musical? Forget it. I might only get 8-10 hours of writing in those weeks because of last minute errands, visitors, etc. The organizations for which I volunteer also have predictable events that require more of my time, so I go lighter on writing those weeks. I also block off the week before Christmas. In each of those weeks, I do my minimum 20 minutes of writing each day, but they’re not weeks I should plan to finish any drafts! Keeping in mind these variables in my life, I make a guestimate for the year.
Once you have an idea of how many of the 52 weeks will be productive weeks and how many hours you think you can devote to your craft, now look at those projects. Remember, these estimates must include research time, any number of drafts, simmer or resting time, critique time, and any editor/agent research or submission tracking that might happen. All of these steps take time.
Laying it out
Now it’s time to lay out your plan. Ask yourself the following questions:
· At the end of twelve months, what are you expecting to have accomplished? Write that under the heading “One year from now.”
· What is halfway for that goal? That will be your six-month target. Write that under “Six months from now.”
· What is halfway to your six-month goal? That will become your three-month goal or quarterly target.
· From there, the quarterly goal is broken down into monthly goals (one third of the goal for each month). We'll talk about the quarterly and weekly plans next month!
And there you have it. A year at a glance!
It’s important to do this when you have a couple of hours of uninterrupted time. Brew a cup of coffee or tea and sit down with your notepad. Look at those dreams from June and your five-year plan from July. Then think about what comes first in your priorities.
I’ve attached a couple forms that might be helpful in laying out an annual plan, but quite honestly, a pad of paper is all you need! Write a one-year header, followed by six months, then three months, and you have a plan in place to get started.
As I mentioned above, next month we’ll talk about making weekly plans and really getting to work! Until then, happy planning! And have a great month!