How the best laid plans can go awry

How The Best Laid Plans Can Go Awry

Don’t you just love a fresh start – a blank sheet of paper in the book of your life to fill in as the year progresses? I always start each new year with curiosity and anticipation, wondering what it will bring.

Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, ‘Life can only be understood backwards but it can only be lived forwards.’

How true. In the present we can only act according to the knowledge and experience we have at the time, and often we are caught up in the emotions of the situation. But we can only understand and make sense of our actions looking back from a distance, when we have some perspective and objectivity.

Accordingly, each new year is a good opportunity to look back on the previous year, and apart from celebrating our achievements, decide what didn’t work so well and why, and put in place plans for improvement.

Sharing your goals with the world

Many brave people, including author Joanna Penn, make a list of their goals on their blog at the beginning of each year, then do a round-up the following year listing what they have and haven’t achieved. There’s nothing like public accountability to get you motivated.

I did a similar thing in my post a year ago, Back to the Future, in which I listed what went well in 2014 and what I could have improved. I also outlined my Magnificent Plan for 2015, which I estimate was about 50% achieved overall.

To be fair to myself, some of my plans were derailed due to circumstances behind my control – always a risk of being under the illusion that we are actually in control of our lives.

My Magnificent Plan for 2015

Here is a summary of my Magnificent Plan.

Finish the first draft of my next work of fiction by the time my partner and I go to Spain in mid-September

This was the one goal I actually surpassed - as we didn’t go to Spain. I not only finished the first draft of my novella An Affair with Danger, but I completed the final draft by the end of the year, with only the copyediting to be done.

Undertake the Camino Frances pilgrimage across northern Spain

As mentioned, we didn’t go to Spain as I had some health issues to contend with; however we plan to go in September this year. Eight hundred kilometres is a lot of thinking time - as well as sore feet and blisters, I hope to return with inspiration for a dozen more books.

Practise more efficient time management and stick to the tasks in my weekly planner

This I did probably 75% of the time, so my weekly planner, which sits right in front of me on my desk, is definitely looking more cheerful and loved. I have found that spending some time the night before planning the activities of the next day is very beneficial – it forestalls the 'What will I do today? I'll just make myself a coffee and think about it' scenario, where you are still thinking about it an hour later and have been sidetracked into re-organizing your spice rack/bathing the dog/painting the house.

Compile a book marketing plan and set aside a certain amount of time each week to carry it out

(Cue ba bom! buzzer). This didn’t happen and I have since decided that setting aside a specific time for marketing doesn’t work for me. Many authors will tell you that marketing is promotion’s evil twin and that they hate it, but drilled down to its simple elements, it’s about connecting with readers who enjoy your books and hopefully will tell others. So in that respect it’s not something that lends itself to a set time each week, but happens on an ongoing basis.

Having said that, when I’m in writing mode, I don’t allow anything to interrupt me – marketing, floods, nuclear attacks or even running out of chocolate.

Take myself on an artist’s date each week

In her book The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends taking yourself on an artist's date each week - ie spending time alone doing something you enjoy as a means of re-filling your creative well. I listed this goal to try and circumvent end of year burnout. However one of the main causes of my burnout, a demanding and stressful job, was removed from my life when I left it in May last year to become a full-time author. Consequently, I didn’t feel the need for artist’s dates and for the first time in years, I experienced no burnout.

I am keeping it in mind, however, as being an author does have its stressful times as well, particularly when the Evil Formatting Fairies get into my computer and play havoc with my manuscript.

Divest myself of my commitment to my local writer’s organisation

I successfully did this six months earlier than planned. I am undergoing a course for indie authors called Creative Freedom which has a very supportive and knowledgeable Facebook community, which more than makes up for the lack of a face to face group.

Continue my health/fitness/meditation practices

The first two were easy for me to do as I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle. I eat a modified Paleo diet and exercise regularly. However I fell down badly on the meditation. I had started a practice of 10 minutes meditation after dinner at night before getting back to my writing, but I derived little benefit from it and often used it as a way of putting off the inevitable moment of sitting at my desk. So I ditched it.

One thing I have learnt from my Magnificent Plan – sometimes it is counterproductive to set up rigid schedules, with daily or weekly to-do activities, particularly in the area of lifestyle. I feel as if I’ve failed when I don’t stick to them and with activities such as meditation and artist’s dates, it’s more beneficial for me to do them when the need arises, rather than forcing myself into a ritual that can feel like a burden.

My goals for 2016

For 2016, I’m paring my goals down to the essentials – to publish two books and write a trilogy of novellas before our trip to Spain in September. After that, a pilgrimage will be a welcome break!

If you’d like some challenges with a difference, check out Leo Babauta’s post on Zen Habits - Six Ways to Create an Awesome 2016. Amongst other things, he suggests setting a challenge for yourself for a month, and if you fail, a friend agrees to have something bad happen to them. Note that you and the friend must agree beforehand on what that will be – tipping a bucket of ice over him/her because you’ve failed your challenge without prior mutual agreement is very unsporting.

The idea is that you will be more motivated to succeed because you don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s misfortune. Unless you're on a TV reality show, in which case it would be mandatory.

How did you go with last year’s goals? (Your secret’s safe with me!) Have you made any for this year? I’d love you to share them in the comments box below.

About the Author Robin Storey

Robin Storey is an Australian author from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. She is a certified book nerd and has no weird hobbies or unusual pets.

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