Tag Archives: reasonable expectations

A New Year – 2019

I’ll be back to short stories next week, but a year ago I was blogging primarily for writers, talking about reasonable expectations, looking back, motivational boards, and planning. I was on a roll, getting things done.

On my About page, I’ve just posted an update describing my second half of 2018. Where writing is concerned, I got off track, stopped using my spreadsheet to plan each week, changed direction ineffectively, didn’t achieve my primary goal, didn’t get my new book out . . . lots of negatives. My accountability partner and I both moved this year and fell out of the habit of weekly planning together, but the last two weeks we’ve gotten back into it, using our spreadsheets to plan and track progress. I’m trying to have reasonable expectations for the 168 hours in each week, leaving time for sleep and other basic human stuff.

KeepPaddlingOn New Year’s Eve the last several years, I’ve made a habit of listing accomplishments for the year, making a new plan, and creating a new motivational board. I didn’t really want to do it this year, with all those negatives, but I did. My list of accomplishments did not include my writing goal for the year. However, I did make a respectable amount for writing, editing, and formatting work – considering the time put into those activities. I did keep this blog going, even when I was on the road for months. The switch to free fiction feels right, and there are more followers each week. I attended the RWA conference in Denver, which got me off track when I pitched Peg’s Story, but I attended many informative sessions and expanded my network. Seeing what I’d done right perked me up and got me planning for the new year.

Previous years, I just had one page of large print, listing things I wanted to accomplish during the year ahead – something to keep posted on my wall to stay focused. Last year, I got fancier. I had one main writing goal with three objectives that would help me reach it, then steps to reach each objective and actions to reach each objective. In fine print it fit on one page with narrow margins. It was overwhelming. This year, I’ve gone back to larger print on that one page. My goal is a dollar amount for the year. I have five potential avenues for achieving that goal, so I listed all five. Of course I came up with ideas for each area, and I did pop them into the list (so I wouldn’t lose them), but it’s not nearly as rigidly picayune as last year’s. To make it less intimidating, I color coded the print: first, second, third, and later priorities. Anything like this blog that’s done regularly is highlighted. The red items are the priority for the first weeks of January.

My motivating phrase for 2018 was “Keep Paddling”. Well, the board got packed up at the end of June and kept in a storage unit with most of my things – and my motivation, direction, and drive floundered. Having no set work space didn’t help. I just pulled it out from under the tarp where many of my belongings await a place in my new digs. I’ll keep it leaning against the wall wherever I’m working, until I have a spot to hang it up.

I’ll keep paddling.

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Reasonable Expectations

My to-do list tends to be insane. At times it’s grown to multiple two-column pages. That may be okay for long range planning or keeping track of little details, but when it’s multiple major projects it can lead to paralysis and a sense of failure because I never get it all done.

I’ve developed something that’s working better.

A couple months ago, I set up a spreadsheet to track the hours I spend on different writing activities. The first column has the categories: writing new material for blogs or promo; writing or revising stories, novels, etc.; research; routine business; new business; networking; critique groups and reading for them; marketing activities; and writing/editing for pay. I estimate how much time I’ll spend on each activity each day and the hours for each activity are totaled for the week. Then I’ll type in the estimate totals in a separate column and erase the daily estimates.

Each day I keep track of how I’m spending my time in a day planner, then enter those times into the chart and compare the actual time spent weekly with the estimates. This gives me a realistic view of how I’m spending my time and whether or not I’m maintaining an effective balance. I also can see when I’m pushing myself too hard or slacking off.

After the first week or two, I added two more columns—one to list what I plan to do in each area, and one to record what actually got done. The to-do list! Because I’d been keeping track of my time, I was able to come up with reasonable estimates for the time needed for similar activities and make this more reasonable.

One or two sixty hour weeks when a project’s near completion is reasonable (for me), but to maintain any kind of life balance, that level cannot be sustained. During the holidays, when family time expanded, the hours I expected myself to work on writing decreased. Since I know I do those sixty hour weeks, it was okay to have some short ones.

Thanks to this system, I’m getting closer to reasonable expectations for each week. My goal is to routinely complete everything planned in the time allotted each week and sometimes do a little more if time allows. Then I’ll feel competent consistently.

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