Planning a Plan

It’s come to this. I can’t put together a decent planning strategy for December unless I sit down for half an hour and make a plan for what a good plan should look like.

First, I am going to heed the many commenters who, in the last two days have talked about the difficulty — the sheer, hyperventilating, dizzy-making difficulty — of putting together and adhering to a plan to get yourself to the other side of anything. So this is my first planning principle: Whatever plan I end up making for December, it is not going to make me –or you — want to breathe slowly into a paper bag when you see it.

Second, I am going to go with something yogamum made me see — a plan has to be fun for it to be effective.

Third, I have to be clear about what I want to accomplish in December. And because this is paragraph three, and because three is such a good number (three princesses, three princes, three Billy Goats Gruff, three little pigs, three tenors, three flying dutchmen, three wise men, three sticks of butter, three cups of sugar) I’m going to stick to just three things I want to accomplish this month.

(1) I’d like to celebrate this holiday month in a sane, fun, book, music and outdoor oriented, non-self absorbed way. (Clearly, I’m going to have to refine point number one which I can see sinking under the weight of all those expectations.)

(2) I’d like to do something about getting my book and my stories out into the world.

(3) I would like to write a few pages every day or so.

These things have been on my mind, and I think getting them them accomplished through a plan of some kind is crucial. That is because all the other things I do, the things I calendar, like seeing my friends, and taking my children sixty zillion places, have been slipping through the chasm that is my current very distracted state, in which my goals have made my everyday busy life almost undoable. I have become a little like my computer — I can’t have more than one program open at a time and I am losing a lot of data. I have also been unreliable in my friendships and I will confess right now that one big impetus to getting these goals organized is so I can never, ever, ever again do what I did this Wednesday, which is stand up a lovely friend who was waiting for me to go and taste food (free food!) for a party we are organizing. How did this happen? A child got sick, I had to stay home from work, and I could only open that single program — the sick child/mom as doctor program — that day. So I dedicate my planning efforts to K, who may not forgive me, but who will be the catalyst behind my being a tad more reliable.

And I’m also going to make an un-list, which is a list of the things I won’t do, because they are not going to make me or anyone around me happy. Currently those include: cleaning obsessively, baking elaborate things, and spending a lot of time shopping.

In the shower, where I do all my planning (hence the fact that I have no actual paper plans, given the absence of waterproof notebooks and pens in my shower), it occurred to me that maybe a plan that only has something to do in each of these categories every three days (naturally) would be better than having every day full of stuff. I think my December plan — which I’ll post in a day or two — is going to have two blank days and one day with stuff on it. Because if there is anything I don’t want to have happen (besides getting the ‘flu, which is going around in a nasty form these days in Berkeley), it’s that I’ll feel like a loser on January 1 because I didn’t do my whole damned plan. Not good.

So, there you go. Now I’m going to tag a lot of people to talk about how they get themselves from an idea of something they would like to accomplish to the fact of that accomplishment, while also keeping their heads above water in their everyday life. And tomorrow, I’m going to tag a whole slew more. And the next day, it being the third day, I’m going to tag some more. And then I will rest; I mean, I will begin to do — in a relaxed way — a few things on my plan. If you post a picture of a plan, I’ll send you some fruitcake. And if you don’t like fruitcake, I’ll send you a lovely pencil. If I tagged you wrong and am sending people to the Old Navy website instead of yours, let me know. And heavens, if I didn’t tag you by the third day, well, I MEANT TO. Email me and tell me so. (And if you try to hide because you don’t want to show us your plan, because it is that beautiful, well I’ll smoke you out and make you.)

So here you go, planners of the blogworld. I want to see your plans.

Polaris and Mandarine, science-minded people who will have, I am sure, a great take on this subject

lilian, sweet, kind, funny, very, very smart, and a hero — because she is a library goddess and what librarians don’t know about good planning and organization is probably not worth knowing

yogamum, busy running a house full of people, and engaged in a lovely and inspiring yoga practice, and who’s got a lot on her mind these days with a sick father — there’s a woman who needs an un-plan, not a plan — and needs other people to do a little cooking for her. No planning for you, Ms. yogamum! Put your feet up.

Emily, who sees a lot of projects in her work as an editor and is a writer of chillingly effective stories and who sometimes suggests she is not organized but actually given what she gets accomplished must have a method to get there

Courtney, who swears to god she is going to get a plan together for her writing, but who actually would never, ever stop writing because she is that good, and that devoted

Charlotte, who gets tons of things done and has been known to do it all while still wearing her pajamas and is now writing a bunch of short stories that I know are going to be wonderful

Ann who manages to cook beautiful things while still photograhing all of New York City

Diana who gets up at 5 a.m. (god, I think it might be even earlier than that), to help deliver newspapers

Kristen and Lucette, who seem to have a secret about how a group of women together can get a lot of writing done

Eoin, who so generously shares what he knows and thinks about the publishing world, and has said some of the kindest, most gracious things a commenter has ever said on this blog, particulary at a time when I really needed that to happen.

litlove who thinks she doesn’t get a lot done but actually is prolific, inspiring and amazing

Helen, who raises an adorable son and is editing not one but TWO books

Kate, who teaches law and blogs so consistently and then last year gave the world a wonderful book of short stories

Archie who is brilliant, just brilliant, when it comes to words, and whose images of his Australia have made me see that part of the world in a way I love

Ingrid whose passion for pirates, and Bill Neighy and his cafe and movie-making and being in London is inspiring and lovely

Nils, who is clever and always interesting and self-effacing and fabulous

Edwin, whose observations about the surreal and ridiculous, about food and gardens, delight me every time I go to his site

Cam, who thinks and writes about life in such a clear way, and who comes over here and leaves interesting and thought-provoking comments

Emily, whose box of books landed in my office nearly a year ago and whom I think of every day when I see those editions on my shelf

Mary, my writing friend, whose wild book about the exploits of a cleptomaniac San Francisco lawyer and her Indian former-client, inspires me and makes me laugh….

My god. I’ve just realized how lucky I am to know all of you, how much you inspire me and make my life richer. I had to stop and save the many other tagees because, well, my fingers are starting to ache. I can see that I want to know how every single person who comes to this blog plans the many wonderful things they are up to in the world.


31 thoughts on “Planning a Plan

  1. I was reading this in my Bloglines reader and before I had to scroll down, I thought to myself, “Thank God she didn’t tag ME!” And then I scrolled. 😛

    And, hey – I DO get up before 5 to help deliver newspapers. I couldn’t do that without some sort of plan, could I? I’m going to think about this.

    I’d have thought I was the last person who’d have ANYTHING to say about planning, but maybe…

  2. This is my plan – PANIC!

    Heh heh, actually I am an obsessive planner. I will think some more about this. I’ve already posted tons of photos of my writing plans, which is probably scary for everyone, but it’s not writing I’m worried about at the moment, it’s December and Christmas. I’ve been doing lots of more panicking than planning recently.

  3. *slightly overwhelmed by the compliments*

    Thanks for the tag! I will have to think about this. I do plan, but whether I accomplish what I set out to do is another thing!

  4. Oh, oh. I am on the list 🙂

    I will have a think about this too, and get back to this.

    In the mean time, enjoy your weekend. And all the best from London, also from the pirate.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful compliment. I’m really bad at doing things that I’m tagged for, but I will plan to do this. Here is a secret about my planning, a dirty little secret: professionally, I’m a certified PMP, (Project Management Professional). I plan schedules, budgets, huge projects with significant financial and business impact in my work life, and occassionally I do volunteer work that involves the same skills and intense planning, but in my personal life, an independent observer would think that I was a disorganized mess who didn’t have an inkling of what a plan was. Funny that you should tag me for this, as I was just thinking about why there is such a difference between these two spheres of my life. I’ll ruminate on this and post something in a few days. No, not something — that’s vague. I’ll post a specific, detailed plan. That’s the way I know plans get executed!

  6. Oh, BL, you are so sweet to exempt me from the plan! I think I am going to need a sort of wellness/serenity plan but for now, my plan is to get through the next five minutes and breathe.

    I am going to have a Plan soon. I have to.

  7. You are too kind to me BL! But here is how I plan. I have a huge 12 month wall calendar which I post on the wall in my office, directly level with my eyeballs. I write upon this thing with vis a vis eraseable markers. I fill in all the actual deadlines and appointments I have. Then, I fill in self-imposed deadlines that other people have, which I need to stay on top of. I write in all the school holidays, field trips, volunteer hours, and x out days I want to take off, and mark in fun things I would like to do. Every day, I make a list of things I need to do– I start with broad headings– work, kids, home, health, husband– whatever I need to see to that day. I list things I have to do, like PICK UP KIDS FROM SCHOOL AT 5:30. Under health, I write on my list things I must do to attend to my health, like I have to exercise, or go for a walk at lunch. For home, I write down whatever is on my mind, like new front door mat. I consult my wall calendar to help set work priorities– I list my broad categories of cases and prioritize my time among the various projects I have going on– like finish msj! finish opposition brief! write letter to client! Then, I lose this list on my desk, get distracted by e-mail or phone, or twiddle my thumbs because I can’t concentrate when I am so overwhelmed. I find the list the next day and if it is just the same, I write in the new date at the top. If I have checked things off, I do it smugly and take 5 minutes or so to scribble up a new list. This system is terribly imperfect, as evidenced by recent missed dentist’s appointment– the appointment was on my wall calendar, surrounded by red stars, inches from my eyeballs, when the dentist called to find out whether I was on my way. sigh. You know what they say about the best laid plans. At least they are getting laid . . .

  8. Pingback: What I ate, on March 26th, 2006, and other things I’m throwing away « The Public, the Private and Everything In Between

  9. Oh greetings all you fabulous planners! I have been working hard on part one of my plan, which is to send out two of my stories this week and I’m getting close. Soon, soon, I promise to post that plan and then tag a ton more people. (I love this whole tagging thing! I love tagging EVERYBODY! As many of everybody as I can, given my limited typing, and highlighting and linking powers, anyway.) And what great comments!

    TIV — I’m going over there. Cy Pro WriMo! Goodness. Is it a cyber thing? I can’t wait to find out.

    Mary, OOOOO. It sounds like an awesome board, an awesome plan, and you just need to forgive yourself stuff like the dentist. I love those categories. The whole thing sounds a little like an air traffic control center, you at the helm. Watch out for those flights from Spain! And there’s one from China! Oh my god — it’s a Lear Jet from LA! That guy’s crazy. Doesn’t he know that even if he IS a rap star he’s not allowed to use the jumbo jet runways??
    I can see you handling it all, beautifully, without having to go into therapy. You rock.

    Dearest yogamum, Getting through the next five minutes, while also remembering to breathe, and then repeating that again sounds like a great plan. Don’t forget the dark chocolate.

    Cam! I had no idea, although I might have guessed. It sounds like you have a very cool job, and I can’t wait to hear how what you do professionally interacts with how you plan personally.

    Oh litlove, even if it’s not pretty, it’s got to be pretty effective, because it’s been working!

    Thank you Ingrid. I love thinking of you in England and am looking forward to a peek at a plan.

    Dear Lilian, I think you have put your finger on something — there are plans that don’t work, and plans that do. It’s the latter I want to figure out, having done plenty of disasterous versions of the former.

    Helen, I remember those re-writing plans and, in fact, thought about them a lot as I was revising my novel, and trying to get it into decent shape. It was quite inspiring.

  10. Pingback: The Plan « A Chicken In Every Granny Cart

  11. This is such a great idea. It reminds me of the Uberlist concept (not my invention) that I employ every year in which, rather than making “resolutions”, I simply put down, in all areas of my life, things I’d like to accomplish during the coming year. I can then look at it throughout the year and take bits and pieces of it to do further planning on, etc. or can just use it as a place to come back to if I have a free day and wonder what I can accomplish that day. I maintain mine as a fluid list and also add things I have accomplished to it throughout the year as a way of encouraging myself. I certainly think that plans and goals and rules can be very freeing if used in the right way and that sounds exactly like what you and others are planning to do. Yay!

  12. Pingback: On Planning « Tales from the Reading Room

  13. Well Carl, I think that counts as a pre-tag answer, which is a shockingly organized thing for you to have done because you are on today’s to-tag list! (You’re going on anyway, because that is how things work around here.) And this is very close to the sort of thing I have in mind for my own plan, which I am about to try to photograph and post. (Wish me luck.)

  14. After a busy few days, I have finally been able to visit my blogging friends and what do I find? Everyone is listing! The only times I list is after the port has passed to the left once too often, or the ship has struck an iceberg! I am allergic to lists! This may be why I have so many ideas and so few accomplishments.

    Firstly I have a list of stuff to create for the wonderful Litlove. Then I shall write upon my theory of lists. Then I sha- – – hey, hang on – this is looking suspiciously like a list!

  15. Pingback: December Planning « Charlotte’s Web

  16. Pingback: Assorted plans, lists and reminders « Further Musings of a Librarian

  17. Oh dear archie, don’t list, really, please, don’t list. Just keep making signs and saying things about proper and improper nuns and all will be right.

    Edwin, That’s the most beautiful of Christmases, the one you describe. We too will be waiting for the first star to appear, and we will be thinking about you across the world when we do it. xo, Lily

    And Charlotte & Lilian — I am so enjoying your thoughts on how you organize, and how you don’t. xoxo, L

  18. Pingback: On planning « Of Books and Bicycles

  19. Good heavens, I’ve been tagged! This is a first. This is one meme I don’t have to invite myself to do!

    Many apologies for seeing this post so late. I’ll put a comment in here when I am done.

  20. Well dammit!

    How the hell did I miss this? And with such lovely comments about me too! Well, here goes, by the end of the week I’ll post a damn fine plan, not for December but for the year of blogging!


  21. Pingback: Planning for 2008 « Eoin Purcell’s Blog

  22. Pingback: On I(x) and U(x) « Mirkwood

  23. Pingback: What’s the Plan? « yoga gumbo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s