Planning for Success When You’re Not a Planner

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Sticky Notes in a PileI have a confession to make; I’m not much of a planner. I've finally got the daily To Do list thing down but when it comes to long-term planning, I'm a mess.

I adore the idea of having my future mapped out in neat, little boxes but I fall apart when it comes to the actual execution. The planners (multiple) that I bought the first week of the new year are empty and abandoned by St. Patrick’s Day. The supplies I invested in because I was sure that a range of stickers and colored gel pens would keep me on track – they’re in a box in the garage waiting for the passion to return. The big projects that I swore I'd crack last year are still just ideas scribbled in a notebook.

Believe me, I’m not happy about any of this. I know and firmly believe that the projects I started three years ago would have been finished by now if I had stuck to the plan. So why didn’t I?

At first, I blamed the projects themselves. Clearly, I would have finished them if they were worth finishing.

Then, I blamed the planner. If only I had an expensive planner, all the stickers and the right pens, then I’d plan every night for the next day and never end with an item undone.

Next, I went with. . . ooh.. . . wait, what’s that pretty thing over there. . . shiny object syndrome. It’s not my fault that I can’t finish what I start, it’s just how I am and there is no cure.  

Then I decided to make January planner month here at IndieMade. I talked to planner experts like they were therapists and it wasn’t long before I realized that it wasn’t the projects or the planner or pretty objects in my peripheral vision.

The reason I don’t plan my year is because I’m afraid of failure. Which is ironic because of that famous quote: “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Exactly!

What happens if I fill in all those neat little boxes with promises I can’t keep? Write 5,000 words on the novel. Hire a cover artist for the next book. Launch a podcast. Review a TV show on the blog every week! Drink 8 glasses of water. Go to the movies once a month.

Ack! Even the fun things become chores when you write them down in a calendar. I was supposed to go to the movies last Wednesday but I helped my mother-in-law movie instead. I’m a failure! If only I hadn’t made that promise to myself, I wouldn’t feel bad about it now.

Clearly, this craziness has to stop. And it’s going to stop now that I know the secret. I learned it from Kara Benz of Boho Berry. The secret to getting past the planner failure blues is sticky notes. Really, that’s the whole secret. Write all of your plans on color-coded, mini sticky notes. Blue for blog posts. Pink for marketing. Green for client work, etc. Then stick each note on the day when you think you’ll get around to doing that task.

Now, here’s the important part. Are you paying attention? When you get to that day, and you don’t complete the task, just peel it up and move it to next week. Deadline? What deadline? That task isn’t due until next Thursday.

Instant guilt relief.

Obviously, this system doesn’t work for tasks that have real-world deadlines. You don’t want to postpone doctor appointments or a necklace your customer needs by the first of the month. But there's a funny thing about tasks with hard deadlines, they usually get done on time. It’s the personal goals and the wish list items that get back-burnered. That’s why a lot of side gigs remain on the side. You can’t grow your business or grow as a person if you keep putting everyone else’s needs above your own.

Time to make a change.

This weekend, go to Target or Walmart or Staples. Buy some mini sticky notes and a set of color pens and a planner.  Don’t go home. Drive to a Starbucks or the library or a park if it’s warm enough and start planning. Spend an hour if you can. No email. No Facebook. No family members asking ‘where’s the peanut butter’ or pets begging for a walk. One hour – just you, your thoughts and your planning materials.

Go wild. Make a sticky note for everything you’ve thought about doing in the next two months. Things you want to make. Blog posts you want to write. Books you want to read. Break big ideas into small tasks and put the tasks in order. When you have a pile, stick them all over your planner. Remember, the joy of sticky notes is that they can be moved so don’t sweat the initial placement. When you’re done, take a photo of your calendar pages so you can remember this moment.

This is the start of a new year. The year when you’re finally going to make more, earn more, finish more projects than you ever thought possible. Because if you thought drawing a line through a To Do list item was cool, wait until you experience the power of tossing a sticky task in the trash and calling it done.

I surely do love it when a plan (ner) comes together.

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