Lord, teach me to number my days (preferably in 90-day chunks)
When I joined a writing academy this year, I expected to sit my hind end in a chair and write a book. Inspired. With the support of fellow writers. Eventually, to publish a book that would change the world.
(Why think small, I say?)
Instead, the curriculum has taught me 90-Day Planning. Obedient girl that I am, I have determined my vision and goals for the year, the first quarter of the year, the first month, then a second month, each week, week after week. With action steps.
It is changing my life.
Yes, my tush is in a chair and I am writing. Blog posts and plenty of words that will never be posted anywhere. My goal this quarter is 1,000 words a day, including the pages I write in my journal each morning. My schedule includes time blocks dedicated to planning or writing or engaging on social – early morning, lunch breaks, random vacation hours when I can manage it on weekdays, and moments on the weekend.
I am building the foundation – according to plan. Developing my social media platforms for my writing brand, All Things Work Together. Choosing colors and fonts. Exploring Instagram (oh, what a newbie I am!) and Facebook pages. Learning how to write a book from more experienced writers.
My days are numbered
I am aware that life is a time-limited position.
When Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days,” he had been rehearsing God’s eternal nature, His power to create, His anger and, in contrast, the fragility of man as dust and as grass that quickly withers (Psalm 90, NIV). The Psalmist reminds us that we must make the most of each day for our days are numbered.
Creating goals for the year, the quarter, the month, this week with action steps makes me realize that I can best number my days by numbering my hours. Living them with intention, which requires planning.
Perhaps like me, your life is full of responsibilities and opportunities vying for your time. Planning makes you weigh your options so you can prioritize what will move you closer to achieving your goals.
Planning your time is like budgeting your money. Though it restrains, it also frees you to get important tasks done. Tasks aren’t just tasks. They are action steps that lead to goal completion. When you plan practical steps to accomplish your goals and schedule time for those steps, you experience freedom.
I’m not talking about a to-do list. I was the queen of those. In college, I wrote in thick, colored marker a long list of to-dos and taped the pages in a single, ceiling-to-floor list on my dormitory bedroom wall beside the door and light switch.
As I completed each item, I marked through it with exuberance. Done!
Now I discover that a to-do list doesn’t work for me. I can put off until tomorrow and the tomorrow after that the most-important-but-least-desirable item on my to-do list and do the small, easy, keep-me-busy-but-accomplish-nothing-of-significance tasks instead. Such as responding to emails.
In addition to completing 90-day planning for my writing life. I’ve started to apply what I’ve learned to my work. Instead of a to-do list, I have a weekly calendar with tasks and meetings written in the boxes for each hour. So when an intern reminds me of a letter of recommendation she needs, I can say, “I’ve got that scheduled for 3 p.m. today. I’ll let you know when I’ve submitted it.”
And it will happen!
Usually. I’m not perfect yet.
Write it down
Author Tom Clancy’s character Jack Ryan said, “If you don’t write it down, it didn’t happen.” For me, if I don’t write it down, it won’t happen.
The 90-Day Plan isn’t a 90-day plan. It’s a year-long plan broken into quarters, then months, then weeks. You start by creating a vision for the year, then goals in line with that vision. Then in light of the year’s goals, you consider the first quarter (90 days) and what you must accomplish the first quarter to reach the year’s goals.
That becomes the quarter’s focus and goals. Then you consider what you must accomplish in the first month of the quarter to reach the quarter’s goals. From there, you consider each week, one week at a time, planning action steps to accomplish those goals.
For instance, if my goal is to write a book this year. I’ve never done that, and I have much to learn. So my first quarter’s goals is to lay the foundation by learning from others while I write (anything at all!) daily. The first month’s goals might be to watch videos about brainstorming a topic or completing an email course on planning my book. The week’s goals might list which specific video or course I complete on which day.
Personally, at the week level, I get hour by hour specific. I treat tasks as I do appointments or meetings, assigning a time to get it done. While it’s not perfect (because I’m still determining how long tasks take, for instance), I find I get so much more done because I have a plan. (In contrast, on the days I fail to plan well, I can swim upstream in emails or other urgent must-dos and complete nothing of significance.)
It’s a great feeling when I reach the end of the day and see what I’ve been able to get done. Scheduling time for tasks makes me intentional in how I spend my day. And when I see “lunch/write,” I realize the joy, the freedom I find in planning and scheduling.
What about you? Are you a planner by nature? A wannabe planner? Let me know what works for you!