Why do we have to talk about planning?

I’m a SUCKER for a plan.
Personally, I find the creation of a plan both very soothing on times of stress and overwhelm, AND exciting in times of apathy or boredom.
A good plan gives you direction, motivation and a structure that ultimately can make your life exponentially easier and more rewarding.
And let’s get real: it’s half-way through the year of 2019, if you’re listening to this when you should be – the very day it comes out…!
It’s worth thinking about where you are, where you wanted to be back at the start of the year, and where you want to be by the end of the year. Maybe you had big plans to get your new website launched by the summer and oh look… it’s kind of half done but it’s already June. A revised plan can help you get back on track.
Or maybe your new years resolution was to start podcasting and you bought the mic on January 1st… but it’s still in its box. Womp womp.
Regardless of where you are, whether you overshot the mark or didn’t have a mark in the first place, there’s NO judgement here. Heck, I’ve long since stopped setting goals thinking I’ll literally achieve them by the exact deadline, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still plan for success. You can’t succeed if you don’t at least try, right? And part of being a creative introvert who attempts to make a living doing what they love, is trying, failing, making adjustments and trying again.
Anyway, I know that planning is what I’m spending some time on this week, and I figured it would be worthwhile sharing what my plan is to plan for the next 6 months… if that makes sense. Basically, this is your plan for planning.
And I know not every creative introvert listening will be quite the fan of planning as I am. But the point of this episode is to try to break down the process of planning in a way that is as pain-free as possible, that you can do within an hour and that you can actually implement over the next 6 months without losing track or getting overwhelmed. So if you’re a procrastinator or a rebel (see Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies for more on that) then I highly recommend giving this process a try. Can’t hurt to try, right?
I’ve also made a handy printable PDF guide that will take you through this planning process, so if you’re in the car or out running or doing the ironing, you don’t have to worry about taking notes: it’s all there ready for you below:
pain free guide to planning
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OK, without further ado, let’s get to the plan…

The Past

Before we look ahead, we gotta look behind. I don’t like dwelling on the past in general, but in putting a plan together it really is helpful to take note of what you have been achieving up till this point.
It’s going to be really helpful in working out what you can realistically achieved going forward, and where you’ll need to focus. Here are some preliminary questions I recommend asking yourself when you sit down to plan:

  • What did you want to have achieved by now?
  • How does life compare to life in January? What’s better? What’s worse?
  • How did you feel then? Back then, what were you hoping to feel by now?
  • What do you think has been getting in the way of achieving what you wanted?

If you struggled with answering any of these, and you don’t keep a journal… I highly recommend it. I know I say it a lot, and maybe you’ve tried journalling and didn’t dig it, a daily or weekly checkin in my journal is a super useful way to keep track of where I’m at in life. I’ve kept my entire journal in Evernote for the past 3 years and it’s immensely helpful (and hilarious) to look back at to see where I wanted to be in the future and how much has changed.
Oh and I should note that the point here is NOT to dwell on where you’ve missed the mark. A big part of this practice is to look at the gap between where you are and where you wanted to be with objective eyes, self compassion and a dash of optimism for the future. Which, again is a practice.

The Present

Next we’ll look to the here and now. It’s time to get SUPER honest.
It can also help to run through a typical day in your life, to get a sense of what’s currently affecting you. Maybe your situation has changed dramatically since January – I know that my situation has constantly been fluctuating since travelling and I can’t really deny that travel has affected my productivity and I’ve had to readjust my plans accordingly.

  • Here are some questions to get scribbling on:
  • What isn’t working? What do you dread? Grumble about? What exhausts you?
  • What is working? What energises you? What lights you up? What brings you joy?
  • What feelings do you experience on a typical day? Run through a typical day.

At the end of this process, you should have a pretty good reading for your current temperature… in terms of how you feel, what your values are and what your needs are.
Sidenote: In my book, The Creative Introvert, I do go through a more in-depth process of realising your values and needs and how you can best check in with those at any time of year.

The Future

My fave part!
Looking ahead to the future. This is something that can, understandably fill people with fear. After all, today was the future 6 months ago, and it’s quite possible this is NOT the future you had hoped for back then.
I understand that that can feel crappy. Just know that you’re not alone. In these times, there’s a lot of chat about feeling apprehensive about the future and it isn’t easy to slap on a happy face and pretend like we can be sure it’ll all turn out ok…
But. What choice do we have, other than to act as if we have the power to make it ok? Yes I’m talking at a global scale, but even on a very personal, mundane level: the one way to get through another day is to act as if there’s a chance tomorrow will be brighter.
OK enough deep shit and pep talking. Let’s get practical. Here are the questions that will guide your future:

  • What do you want most? How will that make you feel? What do you want to feel?
  • What’s the most important thing? What are your values? Do your future plans align with them?
  • Will what you work towards this year improve or benefit you next year? The year after?
  • What will life look like if you do what you intend to in 6 months? In a year? In five years?
  • What’s the best case scenario? Make it better.
  • What’s the cost of NOT doing these things?
  • Where would you be in 6 months if you change nothing after listening to this podcast? Where would you be in a year? 5 years?
  • What’s the worst case scenario? Make it worse.

Yes, the point of that last one is to scare you, sorry about that. It’s hard medicine I’ve been forcing down my own throat, and I can honestly say it’s powerful shit. As much as I love the happy clappy side of things, it’s THIS question that seems to kick my butt into action more than any other.
pain free guide to planning
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The Plan

Now it’s time to put this all together and create your plan.
What can you put into place to ensure you don’t get held back in the same way again?
What can you continue to do because it’s working so well?
What can you add or begin to make sure you end up where you want to be? What can you remove?

  • Limit to 5 things with one taking priority
  • If you feel stressed, remove more than you add
  • If you feel bored/apathetic, add more than you remove

Ideally, you’ll have some kind of calendar or diary to get this stuff written down with DEADLINES. I mean it. I don’t care how arbitrary or even unrealistic those deadlines feel right now; I know from past experience if something doesn’t have a deadline it has a tricksy way of NOT getting done.
I personally recommend an online tool and app called Asana, a very neat project managing tool with a calendar interface I love and that integrates with Google cal.
Of course you can also play with paper planners and all that jazz.

Here are some resources that might be helpful in your planning:

JournallingBullet Journalling, Morning Pages (Julia Cameron’s site is down at the time of posting, but do search for ‘morning pages, julia cameron’ and her original piece should come up at some point in the future!)
Project Management appsAsana, Trello
Mindfulness*Meditation.Live, Insight Timer
*Because, you know – planning can be a bit stressful!


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