During the month of October, I did a lot of prep work to get ready for NaNoWriMo. I powered through my typical WHR work for the next month so that I’d be completely free to write. This included making 30 Etsy product drafts (First on Canva, then on Gelato, then on Etsy for a total of ~90 files), writing 4 blog posts in advance, and writing enough poetry with doodles to post new things a couple times a week.
While it’s not totally uncommon for me to decide I want to work on a big project and invest several hours all at once, it’s usually not scheduled or preparatory work. It’s more often a whim that I dive into, and if it gets done cool. If not, I’ll work on it more when I have the motivation again. An example of this being that I have written code for 9 different writing tools that have been sitting around for months solely because I can’t figure out how to make the “clear input” button work. One day. Not today. It’s dumb and frustrating and I don’t want to. Trying to actually be somewhat methodical and organized about this November project was different than that “lets learn a whole new skill that most people go to college for, because I can” kick. And the biggest help was having a detailed schedule to get through it.
And here are the specific details that really made it work.
Aside from being detailed, it’s also important to allot the appropriate amount of time for each task. If you’re trying something new, it doesn’t hurt to allow extra time for it. Give yourself double the time you think it will take - unexpected things come up, and that also allows you to rest as needed. And don’t get mad if it doesn’t get completed in the amount of time you had set out for yourself. Remember that 30 products I made? The first draft of this Tuesday Thought said 100. I can’t even begin to fathom how that sounded remotely reasonable anymore. But it happens, expect it. Just do your best to give yourself room to make mistakes and adjust.
Check it regularly. In order to adjust, you need to know where you are at in the first place. The way I chose to do this was to create a physical piece of paper to keep on me. I made a two week calendar chart with all my normal activities listed, and then whatever days were left open wrote down a goal for each evening (with at least one completely open day each week). This paper got folded and stuck in the bag I carry every day. So every time I needed to rummage through it for my wallet, I noticed that paper. It didn’t just get thrown into the void that is the Notes app. I could pull it out, get a pen, and cross off anything that I accomplished (including the normal activities I was doing anyway). If something was started and not finished, I just put a circle by it to say “open ended”. It was pretty obvious after a couple days of crossing, circling, and skipping what was getting done and what wasn’t. I could see what types of work just needed to be reduced or all together scrapped, and what I needed to prioritize and focus on another day. I was supposed to create 30+ scheduled Instagram posts. That was scrapped. I was also supposed to join in on the prompts I provided on last week Halloween and give you guys a fun story to use as a jumping off point. Also scrapped. Products were reduced, but I prioritized the smaller number so I’d at least have my minimum finished. Tuesday Thoughts and normal poems were unchanged.
The main point to all of this is to learn to work with yourself. Give yourself a clear idea of what you want to do, the time to do it, and willingness to work with it. That’s not always easy to do in every day life - you have to get taxes done by mid-April regardless if you’re tired. You have doctors appointments. Maybe you have kids. A job. On your creative journey though, you are both the boss and the employee. If my boss looked at me and said “I need you to get 100 products ready to push in two weeks” my only thought would be you’ve actually gone insane. Fortunately, as my own boss here, I can say that to myself, not get mad, and take the time to correct it.
I’m not always good at scheduling (I forget it exists, get distracted, get bored, get overwhelmed, etc.). But being purposeful about managing my time to get ready for this project helped a lot. It’s not going perfect, but it’s far better than it would have otherwise. If you have something big coming up, try taking the time to sit down and write out your goals. Or just scrap this whole thought and wing it - that is always an option too. No judgement here.
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Liberty Jensen • Writer
Liberty is a donations manager, finance student, and full-time drinker of coffee. She enjoys poetry, her cats, and spending time with her husband.