Planning 2010’s Projects

by Ali on January 4, 2010

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In a few quiet days between visiting various sets of relatives, I took some time to look at what I’d done in 2009, and what directions I want to take in 2010. At the start of each year, I write down my annual goals in a notebook: this is what I wrote for 2009:

  • Move away from website work & just do writing
  • Finish the first draft of novel
  • By the end of the year, earn $500/month from passive income streams
  • Have three short stories published
  • Build up savings account – target of £5,000 extra by the end of the year

It’s always interesting (even wryly amusing) to look back at how differently my year goes compared with my initial hopes. As I go on through the year, and as I start to see new possibilities to take, plans fall by the wayside. My aim to get three short stories published, for instance, didn’t grab me: but the first draft of my novel did, and was completed well ahead of schedule, by the end of September.

Some of my big projects in 2009 – like this blog – didn’t appear in the plan at all. At the start of 2009, I hadn’t planned on carving out my own space in the (crowded) personal development segment of the blogosphere.

And on one goal – to save an additional £5000 – didn’t happen at all. I took money out of my savings, for MA fees and taxes. I’m not up to $500/month of passive income consistently, but I did hit that target some months (including December).

When I looked at what I wanted to accomplish this year, I had to bear in mind that 2010 is going to be a year of big changes. We plan on moving out of London in July, I finish my MA this summer, and we’re getting married in September. So I’m going to maintain my focus this year on two core projects: my novel, and this blog.

Here’s how.

How I Plan (With Examples)

Last week, I wrote out a high-level week by week plan for the next three months (until Easter, where we’re planning a week’s break and some family events).

I’m keen to get my novel finished by July, in order to take advantage of the invaluable feedback from tutors and fellow students on my course. I also have various short and long term plans for Aliventures (including a couple of ebooks) which you’ll be hearing much more about in due course.

To give you an idea of how I approached the planning, here’s the table I drew up for my novel. As well as including the work on the novel itself, it encompasses some non-novel events (an essay, SXSW and a synopsis) and meta-work (creating the next part of the plan – which will be a chance to assess how well I kept up to the first part)

2010novelplan

Do copy and use this template for yourself, if it’s handy; I found it a useful way to get my head around what needs to be done!

None of this is set in stone, and I may well shift things around to revise the first section of the novel during February (to meet a competition deadline). But setting out a plan like this made me realise that I do need to knuckle down and create serious time for my novel if I’m going to meet my targets.

Coupled with my plans for Aliventures (in a very similar table), I’ve got a lot of work to do on these projects over the next three months. I also have smaller projects and tasks: my regular freelancing, some church tasks, a book I’m working on with a friend, a stack of books I want to read, and a wedding to plan…

Avoiding Meltdown

I’m all too aware that I have a tendency to try to do too much. I get very enthused by new projects and by the wealth of possibilities – and the actual work required can come as a bit of a shock! Over the past few years, I’ve learnt that I need to take time to rest and recharge if I’m going to work effectively. Plus, as Charlie Gilkey and others have gently reminded me in recent months, my happiness counts.

So, coupled with the big two projects of Novel and Blog, and half-a-dozen small-to-medium projects which I’m engaged on, I’ve got a handful of goals that focus on building and maintaining habits to support me along the way. These appear on my list under the heading “Getting Everything Done and Staying Sane Too”…

Here’s what I’ll be aiming for, and the resources I’ll be using to help me:

Getting up at 6.30am

I’m a morning person and have been all my life; I invariably have a more productive day when I’m awake (and well rested) early.

For this one, I’ll be using Dave Navarro’s Becoming an Early Riser (reviewed here). I’ve dipped into it before, and had some short-term success, but I didn’t see it through consistently – my fault, not Dave’s! I plan to post about how I get on using the program, and I’m hoping it’ll see me sleeping more soundly and waking consistently early.

Taking Quiet Time

My retreat in November 2009 taught me how much better I feel when I pay attention to my spiritual needs. By “quiet time”, I mean time when I read the Bible, read personal development literature (beyond blogs!), pray, meditate, sit silently, and see the truly big picture of life.

I’ve got some Bible reading notes, and a small book of prayers, which I’m keeping on my desk to remind me to take some quiet time before rushing into the day. I’m also making an effort to sit and eat meals without distractions, giving myself a chance to enjoy the food and to re-energise my mind along with my body.

Writing in my Journal

I’ve always found writing a comfortable medium, not just for communicating my thoughts to others, but also for the pleasure of creation (writing fiction) and for working through emotions or worries (by journaling). I find it hard to keep up a journal consistently, and a daily journal feels like too much at the moment, so I’ll be aiming to write in my journal twice a week to begin with.

I’m tracking this goal, along with the above ones, on Joe’s Goals.

Easy Tasks after 4pm

Early in my time working for myself, I found that my energy is consistently at a low between 4pm – 5pm. I find it hard to feel motivated or enthused at this time, and struggling on generally leads to sub-standard work and makes me miserable.

In order to push myself into doing something gentle at 4pm, I’m going to be catching up on the SpeakEasy calls (Naomi Dunford) that I’ve not listened to yet, and the More Buyers Mastermind ones (Dave Navarro and many awesome big names from around the blogosphere). If you’re interested in More Buyers Mastermind, um, I’ve only listened to two calls so far so I suggest you check out Jade Craven’s excellent More Buyers Mastermind review.

I’ll also be using the early evening to do routine tasks like tidying and cleaning; otherwise, these can all too easily take over my productive time earlier in the day.

Blocking out Novel Weekends

Paul and I often fill our weekends with theatre or cinema trips, visits to family, church activities, or meals with friends. All of these are great in themselves – but I’ve found that having a free weekend once a month to do some enjoyable work (for me, that means fiction) and to have time to relax, helps to keep life on track.

My “novel weekend” for January is 22nd – 23rd; I’ve blocked out the days on the calendar, and I’m official “busy” if invited to do anything. ;-)

Staying On Track

I find that I easily get knocked off track, in big ways (committing to too much; letting goals slide for weeks or months) and on a small scale (Twittering when I should be writing; checking emails when I’m stuck).

So I’m tackling the issue of focus at different levels. On a big-picture scale, I’ll be having a short weekly review each Sunday afternoon, where I look at what I accomplished the previous week and what I hope to accomplish during the next week. I’ll be keeping up my practice of writing down key achievements at the end of each month.

At a daily level, I’ll be checking off my mini-goals (like waking up early) on Joe’s Goals, and, as I’ve been doing for months, keeping my to-do list and diary in [name’s] The Journal.

And hour-by-hour, I’m simply trying to remain conscious of my ability to be distracted, and to put measures in place to help me focus, like listening to instrumental music while writing.

A few resources I’ll be using along the way include:

  • Dave Navarro’s 30 Hours a Day (an amazingly packed audio program; you can get it for a $10 donation)
  • Tim Brownson and John P. Strelecky’s How to be Rich and Happy (reviewed here)
  • A handful of other great books … I’ll try to review them here on Aliventures, too, over the upcoming months

Your Goals for 2010

I imagine you have goals for 2010. They might involve continuing on the path you’re on – perhaps consolidating what you began last year – or they might be the start of a new direction.

Whatever your goals, set yourself up for success from the start. This is what’s worked for me, and, judging by what I’ve read, for a lot of other folk:

Choose goals you’re passionate about (Tim Brownson has just published a great post with a vivid example of this: Call That A Goal? THIS is a Goal!)

Give yourself specific targets. Deciding to “lose weight” or “save money” is too vague. How much weight? How much money? Same goes for words written on a book, or hours worked on a project.

Set deadlines. If possible, look for external ones; my novel schedule is partly determined by the submission deadline for a conference I want to attend.

Get accountable. The lovely Willie Hewes – who’s celebrating the second birthday of her comic book publishing company, ITCH, is my butt-kicking partner, and we keep one another on track. I also have T, a friend at church who helps me stay grounded and focused. Can you find a friend (online or offline) to encourage you towards your goals?

Find sources of energy and inspiration. I love listening to Dave Navarro and Naomi Dunford’s various audio products, because they’re both people who get me enthused and excited about my own goals. Reading books like Career Renegade (reviewed here) and the 4 Hour Work-Week (reviewed here) have the same effect. What (or who) helps motivate you?

I wrote a series on goals a few months ago; if you missed it then (or if you need a refresher), you can find the posts at:

Best of luck with your goals! I’d love to hear about what ventures and adventures you’ve got planned for this year – just leave a comment below.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

girlxoxo January 4, 2010 at 9:46 pm

wow – this is so detailed. I love it as a blueprint. I can see now that I need a little tweaking on my plan of action thanks to your inspiration.
.-= girlxoxo´s last blog ..Yes You Can Even If It Snows for 4 Days =-.

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Jade Craven January 5, 2010 at 3:41 am

Thanks for linking to my review :-) Was a nice surprise.

Dudette, you’re gonna rock it this year. Thats a given. However I wont be joining you in waking up at 6.30. I did that yesterday to meet @manvsdebt while he was in Melbourne and I’m still reeling from it :P

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Archan Mehta January 5, 2010 at 3:52 am

Hi Ali:

Charlie is right on the money: be kind to yourself, your happiness matters.

Listen, I want to make a suggestion after reading your latest post: hope my comment proves useful.

A lot of people feel drowsy after lunch. So, you are in good company. Instead of slaving through your tasks, why don’t you take a break? Siesta is a tradition in many cultures. In countries like Greece, Mexico, Spain, Italy….shops and companies close down between the hours of 12 to 4. Studies show that our productivity dips during the afternoon. So do yourself a favour and take a short nap.

Taking a nap will help to elevate your mood; it will make you feel less cranky. After you wake up, make sure to wash your face (or take a shower) and drink a strong, hot cup of tea. You will feel refreshed.
Working through the entire day is not a good idea, methinks. Take frequent breaks too in other ways. After you finish one task, go for a stroll in one of London’s famous parks. Kick off your shoes and dance to the beat of music. Sing a song or hum a tune with your choir. Play with the children. Meditate. Take a yoga class. Stretch your body. Go outside and exercise or work out in the gym.
Be kind to yourself, above all. Hope this helps to improve your life. And have a great day! Thank you.

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Hulbert January 5, 2010 at 5:31 am

Hey Ali, very cool post. I admire your writing skills because you wrote in a way organized and clear-cut, and it probably explains how you are in real life because you plan out your day so well! I’m more of a free-flowing, spontaneous, whatever-comes-up type of person and I think one of my goals for 2010 is to become more organized and have a daily strategy of plan. Congratulations on making your goals; I hope they happen with the novel and all. Good luck and you have inspired me! :)

P.S. I just bought your Staff Blogging Course. I hope it works!
P.P.S. You mentioned that your novel weekend partially on the 22nd. That’s my birthday!

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Ali January 5, 2010 at 11:53 am

Thanks for the comments, all!

girlxoxo, good luck tweaking that plan. I tend to find that my plans never quite fit reality — I’m getting used to it!

Jade, thanks! :-) I think this is gonna be your year too. Plus, my 6.30am must be somewhere in the evening for you… ;-)

Archan, good to see you in the comments! I did used to take an afternoon nap back in my student days … now, I tend to eat a light lunch to avoid getting drowsy, and that seems to work well. None of London’s famous parks are all that near me, though we do have a couple of lovely but non-famous parks nearby, and I often try to go for a half-hour stroll round one of them during the day. Tea is definitely my pick-up, but I try not to have too much — usually two cups a day.

Hulbert, thanks! I’m probably a bit *too* organised (just ask the people who have to put up with me in life. ;-)) I’m actually trying to get a bit more spontaneity into my life; I’m sure between us we’d have the perfect balance! Good luck with your goals — and with the Staff Blogging Course. I hope it works for you too (no-one’s returned it for a refund yet, but y’know, I’ll forgive you if you do…) And happy birthday in advance!

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Helen Calder January 6, 2010 at 2:53 am

Hi Ali, I had just finished writing my list of big goals for the next few months when I came across your post–talk about great timing! I really like your planning ‘table’ and I’m going to give that a go for my current projects.
Another tool that has helped me in the past is a Gant chart, which gives a visual picture of your timeline and goals and how you are going with them. This is great to have sitting above your desk somewhere where you have a constant reminder of where you’re heading.
.-= Helen Calder´s last blog ..Prophetic Exercise For 2010 =-.

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Endy Daniyanto January 6, 2010 at 3:40 am

“I’m also making an effort to sit and eat meals without distractions.”

That’s an idea I might try for myself. I think it’s a good idea to enjoy the meal and try to leave some room to breathe in our minds as we do so. Because thinking about work while eating might not be so good for the health, ya?

I think you and I have quite a lot in common, Ali. I’m a fairly organized person myself, and I’ve also been trying to get more spontaneity in my life since 2003! I think I’ve succeeded to a certain degree, but definitely not as spontaneous as some of the people who inspired me to be so (and ironically, one such person says she wants to be more organized … so I guess it’s all about balance, huh?).

And like you Ali, I think I’m starting to start more projects than I can handle later on when the schedules start to overlap. But since NaNoWriMo, I’ve learned to embrace the spirit of imperfection and just do it! If it’s worthwhile, then it’ll last, and if it’s not, then it’ll naturally get dropped, right?

While we’re on the topic of projects for 2010, here’s mine: For a Happy and Productive 2010.

Cheers,
.-= Endy Daniyanto´s last blog ..Why People Hate MLM People =-.

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Creative Times January 6, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Hi Ali – Thanks for being specific about tools you use for setting and reaching goals.

I’ll tell you an experiment I am trying right now: a 30-day fitness challenge, the goal being to exercise for 30 minutes a day for 30 days in a row. I am on Day 8 and it is going well. I even started a blog where I log my daily success! http://brooklynfitnesschallenge.blogspot.com/

Here’s the reason I decided on a 30-day challenge. I set goals for every area of my life before Jan.1, and what happens is I never really put my full attention on one particular goal, so my energy gets diffused. Setting aside to do something every day is making a HUGE difference. And 30 minutes is a doable amount of time; it could even include taking a walk!
.-= Creative Times´s last blog ..PAINTER MICHAEL SORGATZ MAKES PARK SLOPE 100 LIST =-.

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Ali January 6, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Helen, great tip on the Gantt chart – I used to use them in the day job, in my very brief attempt at junior project management (I hated it and left soon after!) Never thought of applying them to my small biz stuff, but may have to give it a go now!

Endy, I guess that just shows you can’t please all of the people all of the time! I love “embrace the spirit of imperfection” — I still have a hard time accepting that things will *never* be “perfect”, and I just have to get on with it and adjust course as necessary…

Creative Times (sorry, don’t know your name!), I’ve heard a lot of people recommend 30 day challenges. I’ve sometimes done something similar – I gave up alcohol for Lent a few years ago, and that was a good experience; I do drink now, but not nearly to the same levels as I did before then! (My liver is grateful.) 30 mins sounds like a good target to me; anything less and you probably won’t see results, anything more and it’s easy to think “I don’t have time”.

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matthew needham January 8, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Great start to 2010!!

For me I would add EXCITING and REWARDING to my goal setting criteria (the goals though, I’m still working on!!).

Goals need to be something you really want to do. Not I want to loose weight, but I want to loose 3kg’s so I can walk up Killimanjaro in June (say)

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Ali January 10, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Thanks Matthew! Great addition there. Yes, I agree there’s not much chasing a goal if it’s something that leaves you going “meh, why bother”!

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Melanie Yarbrough January 12, 2010 at 8:47 pm

This is such a great outline! Thank you for sharing. As a recent grad, I’m still reeling from all of the different directions my career can take, and it’s nice to see that with some diligent planning, I don’t have to choose just one!

Good luck with everything.

Melanie

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Scott Webb January 20, 2010 at 3:14 am

I have to re-read this, but I that you noted “easy tasks after 4pm.”

I have thought about this for a while and think it would be really good for me. I get so frustrated by every little noise as I try and think later at night.

I normally get up at a pretty good time but I want to get in the habit of having that extra 1.5 hours in the morning to get the quiet time and pump out some free-form writing.

I’ll be back for sure!
.-= Scott Webb´s last blog ..WooFramework V2 Makes All WordPress Themes Jacked! =-.

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Ali January 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

Scott, I’m just the same … I end up spending more energy trying to focus myself in the afternoons/evenings than I do on actually working! I think it’s partly my daily rhythms and partly that if I’ve been working hard most of the day, I’m just plain tired. Struggling against it only makes me end up overtired and fed up, which isn’t good for productivity…

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