“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” says time management author Alan Lakein. This is just as true for writers as for other business professionals—and if you want to sell what you write, you are a businessperson and you’d best act professional!
Planning can be the key to being professional. In the case of a writer, an assignment needs to be well-done and delivered on time. This may require research, interviewing, drafting, revising, and polishing—whatever it take to produce quality, saleable writing. Without a plan, many writers find themselves pressed to deliver a project to their standards on time. Nevertheless, many writers resist planning tooth and nail. Some go so far as to say that writing is an art and art cannot be planned. As an artistic writer and a business professional, I beg to differ. I can support my family because I plan my writing.
Many writers need planning to be easy, expedient, and effective, or else it just won’t get done. Microplanning is the solution. Many writers crave flexibility, so flexibility is built into the planning process. But to succeed, many of us also need a structure and microplanning provides that, too! You can plan a month’s worth of work in under an hour. All you need is a monthly calendar, scratch paper, a set of goals, and a general idea of what you’ll need to do to achieve those goals. Starting with those simple ingredients, microplanning boosts your success.
Take a few moments to reflect on where you are, where you want to be, and what you want to do over the next month to get yourself from here to there. Jot down your assignments, commitments, special projects, and any other time-sensitive, now-or-never opportunities. In First Things First, Stephen Covey called these priority items “big rocks.” Without a plan, we usually try to work our big rocks in after we’ve filled our days with sand. Instead, you’ll put these big rocks in first and build your schedule around them. Take a pen and write down anything that has a set date or deadline. Then, pick up a pencil and write down your remaining “big rock” activities. Take a few minutes to look things over and move your rocks around until you achieve a balance you are comfortable with for the month ahead.
Next, take some time to think about the things you should do to give your career more momentum. You may need to improve your writing or business skills. You may need to do the money-generating work that makes ends meet. You may need to research likely markets for your work or write queries for new assignments. List all the things that could make a big difference in your career that you usually put off. Consider this the gravel that paves the road to your future and pencil in these activities around your big rocks.
Finally, there is a set of “business as usual” activities that we do. This list may include social media, blogging, or other any other activity we can call work that doesn’t necessarily generate forward momentum. This is the sand that we fill our days with on those days when we aren’t getting anything done. Sure, a social media or blog post could be the one that gets you discovered. But, honestly, a little sand goes a long way. You don’t write these things in your calendar, because they’re not really a priority. Fit this stuff in wherever you have spare moments in your day.
Now, you have a tentative plan that will carry you through the month ahead. Some hard-and-fast commitments are inked in, but mostly you have flexible, penciled-in commitments. Start each day by checking your commitments and moving things around to keep yourself on track. Microplanning gives writers the flexibility so many of us crave, while also creating the structure so many of us need to succeed. Things can and will shift during each month and your plan can and will shift with them. That’s the beauty of the microplanning system. You can adapt quickly in order to achieve the successes the month opens up for you.
Stephanie Allen Crist is a writer, advocate, and marketer. Stephanie’s first two books, Discovering Autism / Discovering Neurodiversity: A Memoir and First Steps: Understanding Autism, are available now. Learn more by visiting http://www.StephanieAllenCrist.com and be sure to check out Caressing the Muse, Stephanie’s writing blog.