“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.
Those lines were apparently stated by Abraham Lincoln.
While Mr. Lincoln probably had a lot of trees to cut, I have a lot of articles to write. And like Lincoln, I’ll almost never write an article without some sort of planning. And there’s a reason why.
I write 300-500 articles a year
If you write one article, you know how much time it takes. And if you write 300 articles, well, that’s a lot of time. And I know, from experience, that ‘sitting down’ to write is a complete waste of time. Instead I take a sheet of paper. I outline the list of articles
I intend to write. I outline the core of the article structure. I determine how the structure will flow.
Then I sit down to write the article.
To most people my methodology may seem like a waste of time
After all, who’s got the time to sit and plan? If a job’s got to be done, wouldn’t it be better to just do the job and then fix things along the way?
Planning is priceless but plans are useless...
And that’s why I keep planning. The plans aren’t just ideas. They’re all the things I want to do during the week. And the reason for the plan is because I need to understand the ‘chaos factor.’ I already know that no matter what the plan, it’s going to go haywire. So I have to look at all the time I have, then allocate at least a third of that time to chaos, and then go to the next stage.
Work out the resources
If I’m going to be writing articles, I need to have a list of articles. Then I need to have the outlines. Then I need to put some ‘flesh’ on the outlines. If I’m going to be learning a new software, I need to download the movie files and have them on my computer.
Then I need to find a quiet place (like the library) where I can’t be disturbed. If I need to go to the movies, then I need to buy the tickets and make sure that I’ve worked out where to put my 44 million sheep – okay, so I’m kidding – but you get the point.
The point of planning isn’t just about the to-do list
It’s about the resources.
It’s about the chaos that will pop up.
It’s about the location.
It’s about all the logistics that will help me execute the plan.
And it’s not just the plan, but how often you evaluate the plan.
I plan on the weekend. Then I evaluate and nudge the plan along mid-week.
I spend at least 2-3 hours on planning alone in every week. Why? Because it’s more productive that’s why.
And every time I ignore this advice, I waste minutes, then hours. And feel lousy at the end of it all.
Here’s two snapshots of how I plan articles.
This was done at a Cafe.
This was done on a section of the newspaper.
So what’s your next step?
1) Outline what you have to do this week.
2) Outline the resources.
3) Outline the location.
4) Allocate at least a third of the time for chaos.
5) Re-evaluate the plan mid-week and make changes.
6) Avoid doing anything without at least a sketch of a plan – unless you want to waste time, that is!
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