Planning will help you make the best of a stressful situation

In this blog, I usually discuss aspects of writing your books and why you need to write your books, but given the disruption caused by Covid-19, I thought it would be useful to discuss planning other sorts of writing.

Business owners often underestimate how much writing they have to do just to keep their businesses going: newsletters, blog posts, social media posts, and the list goes on. Because we underestimate how very much writing we need to do, we also underestimate how much time we need to set aside to do it. Consequently, we fall behind on our planned writing and keep dreaming of a perfect time when we can catch up and develop new, better writing habits.

All of the posts I’ve seen from people planning to get ahead on writing for their businesses while they’re self-isolating has made this clearer than ever.

Seeing extra time at home as extra time to work on and in your business is wonderful. And it’s one of the few positives we can find in the exceedingly odd situation in which we’ve found ourselves.

The problem with this is that the grand plans I’ve seen people post about are painfully reminiscent of those academics post at the start of each summer break. So, in this post, I’m going to offer some advice to keep you from getting to July and wondering where the time went and why you don’t seem to have written anything.

Be realistic

I know it’s tempting to think something like this: ‘I’m going to be at home for about 90 days–I’ll write a blog post each day and have enough for weekly posts well into next year.’

Since the average blog post is only going to be about 1000 words, the idea of writing a post in a day isn’t in itself unreasonable. The problem is that planning to do this every day for 90 days assumes that you’re going to be as fit and well (both physically and mentally) on day 80 of isolation as you are on day 1. It also assumes that everyone you live with and/or care about will also be as consistently fit and well.

That’s not how life works in your average summer break, and it’s certainly not how it works during a pandemic.

When you make your realistic plan, you need to plan to be kind to yourself and to plan for flexibility.

The biggest problem with the 90 posts in 90 days plan is that if you fail to write post 12 because you have a headache, you may never write posts 13, 14, … When we take an all or nothing approach, we tend to do nothing.

So, what should you do? Scale down your plans. If you plan to write for a few hours a week, you’re far less likely to be disappointed. In the weeks in which you’re feeling healthy and finding it easy to focus, write more–you’ll be chuffed that you did a little extra. In the weeks when you’re finding it hard going, cut yourself some slack.

What would a realistic plan look like?

If you normally write one blog post per week, but are going to have a bit more time now, it could look like this:

  • week 1: write and publish post 1, draft posts 2 and 3
  • week 2: edit and publish post 2, edit and schedule post 3, draft post 4
  • week 3: edit and schedule post 4, draft posts 5 and 6
  • and so on

As you can see, if you continued this pattern for a few weeks, you’d get a little ahead of the game, without putting too much pressure on yourself to produce a publishable post every day. Also, when you edit and schedule your posts, you can write and schedule your social media posts and newsletters about the new blog post. This way, you’ll have a well-stocked feed even if your health forces you to step back from your business for a couple of weeks.

Make your plans reality

It’s all well and good making plans, and some of you will really enjoy scheduling writing time in your diary or your favourite digital planner. But you need to find ways to make your plans actually happen.

One of the most effective ways of doing this is to plan your writing rewards in advance. To find out more about how rewards help, read this post: Reward Yourself for Writing.

It’s also helpful to track your writing in a way that makes sense for you. Some of you will find my writing tracker helpful; you’ll find a link for it at the end of this post: Track Your Writing Habit. Others will prefer simply ticking off each scheduled task in your diary. Do what works for you.

Enlist some help

Finally, if you need some help to meet your writing goals (and to make sure they’re reasonable and achievable), enlist some. What this looks like will depend on your individual circumstances.

If you have a friend in similar circumstances, you can be accountability buddies and help each other achieve your goals.

If you do better with more formal coaching, you can hire me to help you. I’m currently offering a 4-week coaching package to help business owners keep on top of and get ahead on their normal business-related writing. You can find more details and sign up here.

Reward Yourself for Writing

We, as humans, respond well to definite, positive rewards. I know of a writer who lines up their favourite sweets on the desk and they get one for every 100 words they write. Another buys a couple of decadent truffles from a local chocolatier every Friday if they met their goal to write for at least 15-minutes a day, Monday to Friday.

Meanwhile, others prefer larger goals such as a nice dinner out with their partner upon submitting an article or a weekend away for submitting a book proposal.

I don’t see why you should have to choose between small and large rewards. Consider how much happier you would be if you gave yourself little rewards on a regular basis for what you had accomplished and bigger rewards for meeting bigger targets.

Rewards to consider

Below is a list of inexpensive, sugar-free (or at least low sugar) rewards to consider:

  • Make a cup of tea (or coffee) in your favourite mug and sit somewhere comfortable without distractions and just enjoy drinking it.
  • If the weather’s nice, go for a walk – bonus points if you can walk somewhere pretty like a park or the beach. Spending time in natural surroundings will do more to recharge you for whatever the rest of your day brings.
  • Watch a favourite movie or TV show (no guilt allowed; you’ve earned the break).
  • Read a book for fun.
  • Call a friend or meet up for coffee.
  • Play with your kids, dog, cat, …
  • Take the time to cook and eat a proper meal – one during which you don’t try to multi-task by working and that you don’t rush through, so you can get back to work.
  • Take a nice hot bath.
  • Have a nap, go to bed early, or sleep in a little in the morning.

However you choose to reward yourself, make sure it’s a conscious choice and that you take a moment to connect the nice thing you’re doing for yourself with the writing goals you’ve met. The more often you associate rewards with making progress on your writing, the more you’ll want to write.

Take some time to consider how you’ll reward yourself. Below, you’ll find a two-page PDF — one page on which I suggest things to reward yourself for and a blank page for you to fill in as you wish. Have fun!

Click to get your Rewards Planner!