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Thursday, June 11

Time to Evaluate Your Planning Process: Change Can Be Good

By Aliza Mann, @AlizaMannAuthor

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: Changing your writing process might take trial and error before you get it right. Aliza Mann wraps up her productivity series with tips on evaluating your process changes.


Ever since she was a small child, Aliza Mann loved to tell stories. It started in the backyard of her family’s home in Atlanta, Georgia. There weren’t a lot of children in the neighborhood, so she would spend hours making up fantasy worlds where everything was perfect and everyone was loved. After her parents decided to relocate to Detroit, Michigan, things changed. In her new home, she learned words like recession, layoff and was personally introduced to a world completely opposite of the life she’d known. As hard as life’s lessons can be, she busied herself by reading anything she could get her hands on. In high school, she would fall in love with literature and alas, romance. From the moment she opened the cover of a historical page turner, she found herself hooked. With eyes wide and a smile on her face, she devoured as many novels as she could find and she dreamed that she could write like that too. Maybe. Like most childhood dreams, she soon found that they could be pushed to the side and categorized with a label that read, ‘One day…’

One day finally came, when she found herself laid off from her day job. As things happen, this set back helped to segue her back onto the writing path. She found herself starting a novel which will probably never see the light of day, but gave her more joy than she’d ever though possible. Today, while it’s been some years since her last layoff and she is actively working in the public sector, she balances her love of writing a great story between two pseudo-adult children, a fabulous son-in-law, a granddaughter, and the man of her dreams. A true book nerd, she is almost always reading and for sure, writing the world in a way that shows its true beauty, served with a heaping side of happily ever after.

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Take it away Aliza…

Wow, I cannot believe we started down this path in March and here we are at the end of our planning series. It went by fast and we went through some pretty unprecedented times. Give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far.

But there is just one more thing to keep ourselves on track to productivity and accomplishing our goals. It a big one! For this section, we’ll tackle making modifications to your process. With several months into your process, there were maybe some things that worked for you and things that didn’t work so much. There were about five modifications I found to be necessary after first couple of months.

1. Did you choose the right planner style? 


One of the biggest barriers I had was maximizing the planner space and ensuring I had what I needed. Remember back when I said don’t spend a lot of money on a planner until you’ve had some time to decide? This is why.

Originally, I thought I needed a daily planner, but I am more successful when I can see my entire week at-a-glance. So, I use a weekly planner with a horizontal layout. That way, if something doesn’t get done on one day, I can easily draw arrows to the next day.

That may not be the right process for you. Some people hate seeing all work in one place. It may drive anxiety. And it’s fine – but do invest some time in figuring out what style planner works best for you. Keep trying until you find the write one. It makes all the difference in the world to maximizing planner usage and staying on track with your goals. 

(Here's more on The Organized Writer: Goal Planning for the New Year)

2. Was the most productive time of the day selected to maximize productivity? 


Now, this is concept hasn’t been mentioned before and I didn’t figure it out until I’d been at it a few months. I am no good in the morning. It’s not self-deprecating, it’s just a fact. I spend most morning leisurely strolling through news and social media. 

This is contrary to one of my writing idols, JR Ward, who works all morning, takes a break to run, and then works into the early evening. Her process is fine, and so is mine – because knowing your most productive times is going to help you stay on track to accomplish your goals. 

Add those ‘appointments’ to your planner. I start (when I’m not working the day job) at about 1:00 pm, break for snacks after a couple hours, then again for dinner, and write until 7:00 – 8:00 pm. That is roughly six hours per writing session and it is dedicated to my craft. 

There will be times when you just aren’t feeling it but try to stick to a fairly routine schedule. It helps in building the writing habit. 

During the work week, I have to start later, so I get about three hours of writing in. Flex your time based on your needs and try to limit deviation from your schedule. 


3. Is there enough downtime in your schedule? 


Another newbie problem I encountered was not having the right work-life balance. We actually do like our families. I’m giggling because who hasn’t looked at their spouse, mate, or kids and said, "Man I wish you would give me five minutes to get some work done?" 

I have, but when I’m locked away in my writing cave for too long, I start to resent my work. And I’m not as creative when I’m missing the people I love. 

Give yourself a pass and make it just as much of a priority as your work by writing that time into your planner. Schedule a picnic or trip to the zoo or even just a board game so you have time with your loved ones and fill your creativity spring. 

(Here's more on A Guide to Creativity and Time)

4. Are you detailed enough in your planning? 


Another biggie for me. I was writing abbreviated notes in my planner and by the time I got to the note, I had forgotten what it was about. Do leave yourself enough information to carry out the task. Sounds funny I know, but life comes at you fast (to quote Ferris Bueller – yes, I’m that age! LOL) and you use a planner to help you keep up. Don’t throw yourself a curve ball with breadcrumbs. Be clear and specific in writing your tasks.

5. Did you dedicate planner space for your normal habits and recurrent activities? 


Some things are going to become habit, and since you’ve been at this for a while, you may not need to write it down. But I still do in my trusty habit section--things like water your plants, take a walk at 3 pm every day, do your laundry. These are going to be necessary every week and most of the time, you’ll remember, but sometimes we get distracted.  I have had days when I forgot to have lunch! Be sure to get the recurring tasks down on paper that can fall by the wayside during stressful or busy times. 

You may or may not have need these exact changes, but it is extremely important to spend some time working on ways to make maximize your planning and developing easier ways to meet and accomplish all of your goals. It is so worth the time to figure out how to become the best version of yourself. 

There is a planning method for everyone, you just need to find what works for you. Good luck and I wish you the best on your future goals!

These are some amazing resources to help you along your planning journey:

Instagram: CheKesha Simms  Follow - #planner; #planneraddict; #plannercommunity; #planners
YouTube: Kevin Stratvert

About Disarmed

Jessie Workings was no better for the battle upon returning home from his fourth tour. Having had to deal with the consequences of the Afghan war, his emotional stability was called into question by his commanding officer, leading to some much needed rest and relaxation, albeit in the form of a mandated psychological evaluation. There was , however, a bright side of being forced to come home and deal with the battlefield that was his mind. Chloe.

The memory of Chloe VanHorn had warmed him during those bitter nights on tour and now he would see his high school sweetheart once again. Jessie’s only concern was his inability to provide her with what she wanted more than anything – a deeper, and more committed, relationship with him. For years, he’d skated by with offering only scraps of his love but this time, he wonders whether it will be enough.

As he deals with confronting his darkest guilt and sorting through his feelings on returning to the Marine Corp., all that he’s ever really known, can he explore a more meaningful relationship with Mavis? If he can’t, will Chloe stand for continued exclusion from his life after all these years? In answering these questions, Jessie struggles with the most difficult battle he’s ever faced. The one for his heart.

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