Have you ever wound up in the middle of a giant mess that you've created on your way from thinking, I can do that? It happens to me all the time.
As a result, I've learned a few tricks for actually getting from Start to Finish on just about anything. (The kids are still a Work In Progress. Same goes Marriage.)
I haven't done a Thursday Thirteen in a couple of weeks so I thought, What the hay. I can do one on Goal Setting and Achievement. Or something like that.
- Define your goal: This might be Write a book, Renovate a bathroom, Put on an event, or Write a blog post.
- Flesh it out: or Establish Scope as the engineers might call it. Here I like to go back to my high school English class to review the 5 W's (Who, What, Where, When, Why). You would describe the goal in detail like Write a 100k word Romance (what) for Harlequin (who) set in Venice (where) in Renaissance time (when) because you want to be rich and famous (why).
- How and How Much: Budgets are always important and you need to build the cost of tools and raw materials into it so figure out how you're going to attack this project. (Eg. Book: If you submit via email, no paper or postage costs; Bathroom fixtures can sometimes be salvaged from other projects to save costs; Event planners might get you a better deal on the venue, but they come with a cost. Blog posts are free, but my time is precious.) You get the idea.
- Establish a Deadline: and ask your self if it is realistic. Today is Sunday. I can easily write and schedule this post by Thursday. Finishing a book, Organizing a wedding, and Refurbishing a bathroom? Not so much. However, knowing your deadline gives you a sense of how much time you can spend on the rest of the steps. I actually want to have this done before Mad Men comes on in one hour and forty-six minutes so no dilly-dallying!
- Research: Here is where the deadline keeps you on task. I actually came across this How To Write A Blog Post the other day, which amused me and gave me the idea for this post. I should have mentioned that 'Entertain Reader' is within my scope for Blogging. When it comes to renovations, we learned the hard way that you want to know where you are buying your shower and to have it on site before you rip out the tub because sometimes you flirt with divorce while redesigning said bathroom and when you do decide on an enclosure, it can be back ordered into the next century. By the same token, if Harlequin prefers books of 50k words for the type of romance you intend to write, you might want to rethink you're scope. As for honeymoons? A cruise sounds nice, but.... do your research.
- Break it down into achievable steps: Now that you've got a handle on your scope and timeline, break down the job into steps and schedule mini-deadlines. I find it helpful to make these as small and simple as possible, so I'm setting myself up for success rather than failure. So, for a novel, your steps might be: Write an outline and/or synopsis, write three scenes (one/week) for each of twelve chapters, send completed manuscript for critique, revise, submit. Bathroom: buy fixtures, tear out old ones, install new, inspection (if required), finish. Wedding: well, heck, that's a whole book unto itself. Blog post: well, as you can see, there are thirteen steps.
- Obstacles: Anticipate as many as you can and how you will stay on task and on deadline. I built the task of cooking lasagne and serving it into my schedule here, but not the twitching eye and scratched feeling every time I blink. Very annoying. Sometimes grit is the way through these things. And squinting like a pirate. ARrrgh.
- Prepare the workspace: Okay, I'm way ahead on this one as I'm well into my Wordpress fullscreen Just Write whitespace. Sometimes I'm so scared when I have to start a new book, however, that I tell myself that all I have to do is copy over the template of files I like to have at the ready into the new folder. That's all. It's a very achievable goal and always puts me in the right headspace. My tools are in place. I'm good to go. For something as big as a wedding or bathroom, you really need to cordon off a physical space so you don't have to put everything away each night and keep repeating this step every morning. That would kill your productivity.
- Establish a pace: This is where you review all your mini-deadlines and start meeting them. If you fall behind immediately, I suggest you zip right up to step four again and figure out if you're being realistic. I've said this once and it really is the secret to doing anything: Set yourself up for success, not failure. Too much failure and you're walking away from a half-built bathroom and the honeymoon is over. However, be gentle with yourself and let those mini-deadlines be somewhat fluid. Meet one today, fall behind a bit tomorrow, catch-up and exceed the next day... That's good self management.
- Push through the boredom: This is the labour phase where sheer guts carries you. You're on pace, you're making progress, but the finish is still a ways off. Man, would you ever like a glass of wine and come back to this another time. A brand-new story idea hits, the weather brightens up and you really need to get the garden turned over, and seriously, if you have to make one more decision about paper doilies or where people should park, you'll lose your mind. Just do it.
- Completion: The end is nigh. The deadline looms, the new toilet is flushing, people are getting ready to head toward the venue, the book is out for critique, and I could hit Publish and run if I was the kind of person who could post a Thursday Thirteen with only eleven steps.
- Finishing Touches and Clean Up: This is how you take Doing Anything up a notch into Doing Anything Well. You show up at the event before everyone else and make sure the seating plan was followed and the vegetarians won't have to eat meat. You put down new flooring around the toilet and give the room a fresh coat of paint, then yeah, take the time to tap in those baseboards. The book, well, manuscripts can always use one more read-through for typos and formatting glitches and blog posts love getting pimped with links and Feature Images and tags. Let me take a moment to do that now.
- Reward: I'm a great believer in motivating yourself with whatever gets you through that labour phase. For me, it's a glass of wine and Mad Men. I'll be heading there shortly.
I hope this post helps you achieve whatever you're aiming for. If you enjoy the Thursday Thirteen types of blog posts, you can also find some at Coffee Time Romance as well as the Thursday-13 site already linked above.