When Your Plans Fail, Make New and Better Ones

February 6, 2019

My beautiful list of goals for January glares at me with indignant eyes and unfulfilled dreams. I think that list isn’t just disappointed that we didn’t meet those goals. It’s just ticked off that I didn’t even take the list out of the notebook and paste it into my planner.

Or, it might be that I hardly opened that planner, even.

Alive & Writing Blog | When Your Plans Fail, Make New and Better OnesLook, I had a rough month, okay. I don’t know that I could have done any better. But I think my list’s objections (you know because it’s not my own self-critic talking or anything) was really that I had plans I was really excited about. They won’t happen. Not on time, anyway.

That feels like failure.

But you know what? That’s a lie. A from-the-pit lie that ties you in knots and freezes you. Well, it does me, anyway. But I have great, big dreams. Beautiful ones. And I want them. So, I had to make a few adjustments.

Here’s the thing. That word “fail” tends to make people freak out. I know it did me. But by the strictest definition, I had a goal. I didn’t meet it. That equals “fail.”

Still, just because I failed to meet a goal or three, doesn’t mean that I am, as a person, a failure. I just failed in this one attempt at something.

How do you turn that failure into… flourish?

Blech. Success sounds less cheesy. Let’s go with that, okay?

On Saturday I thought of all I should be doing and my heart kind of sank. I was supposed to be working on my first book in a new series in February. Instead, I’m only half done with the book I was supposed to finish in January.

I needed a plan.

So, I evaluated what went wrong. A significant portion of it was this little thing called “life.” The pesky thing keeps interfering! Sickness, family things, collaboration issues. You know. Like I said. Life.

Add to that significant portion was a bit of discouragement. With that discouragement came lethargy. Why do we do that to ourselves? We’re already not where we want to be, so we just pull blankets over our heads and pretend we’re not getting anything done.  Or some of us do.  And by some of us, I mean me.

So Saturday night I opened my planner and gave it a good evaluation. It was pretty easy, because most of the pages were empty. I hadn’t even written in it past the first week.

Hint: If you want to help yourself remember to do stuff, write it down in your planner.

Going on memory is a great way to forget stuff. We all know that. But you know what else writing it down can do? It can give you incentive to do it. Having something to check off? Gold for productivity junkies!

I could have just shut that planner and gone on my merry way but there was a problem.

I was only twelve chapters into a thirty chapter book… that’s supposed to release on February 19. Oops. It was time for a new plan.

AW 2/6- When Your Plans Fail, Make New and Better Ones

When Your Plans Fail, Make New and Better Ones

It helped that my February calendar already had a skeleton. I knew what books I’d review, what blog posts I needed to write (like this one), and when my newsletters needed to go out. Starting there, I got all that put into my weeks and then evaluated needs.

The book.

It’s not an option. I already have a blog tour lined up. I have to write it.

So I started there.

Since I already felt like a big, fat failure, I opted for a reward system—simple but effective. One thing that always brightens my day is a new notebook. So, I ordered one. Then, I took one I already had (because that other one wouldn’t arrive for a week or two) and pulled out a pencil. Drew a train. Drew rails. Figured out how far apart the “ties” needed to be.

I got to put twenty or twenty-five in right away. Each “tie” that I draw (the “wooden” crossbeams under the rails) represents 1,000 words. And a dollar.

writing tracker

Yep, I’m paying myself $1 for every thousand words.

Trust me, if I thought I needed it, I’d give myself a penalty for not making it—like I have to donate that money to the Society for the Prevention of Kindness—you know, the SPK. Or some such thing that is the antithesis of who I am. Maybe some ZPG organization. I bet they’d get a kick out of a donation from a mom of nine…

And those other goals?

I am pondering… They’ll get a rewrite when I’m done with this one. It’s enough work to get this done. I don’t need to have what I’m going to do in front of me when I have other priorities right now.

But here’s the thing. I know a few things… things that I think would help anyone start fresh again.

  1. I’ll need to do a strict schedule for the next two books that are due.

This means more progress trackers, more $ rewards. I won’t always need them, but I’m still recuperating from a mess. It will be hard work. Rewards will make sticking to the plan worth the hassle.

  1. I’ll need to see what I can trim.

Anything and everything that isn’t 100% essential will go.

Look, I didn’t do that for February. I have a whole week of book reviews that mean I have to actually read books to review them. Only one was something I agreed to. The rest was part of a Valentine’s series I wanted to do. I could have cut it. But I didn’t.

However, to move forward and “catch up” by the end of the first or second quarter, some things might need to be put off for six to twelve months. Blog posts. Promotions. Projects.

  1. I’ll need to decide what to trim.

Alive & Writing Blog | Image by Matt Ragland with permissionMaybe it’ll be some of those blog posts. Maybe I’ll decline that offer or opportunity. Perhaps that super-cool, shiny new idea will have to wait another six months (but noooooooooooo. I like it! Shiny!!!).

I’ll commit right here and now to making the hard choices. Because those hard choices open the doors to better ones down the road if we’re brave enough to make them.

That’s what happens sometimes.

It’s what happened with Alive & Writing. We just couldn’t get everything done and done well. Doing things haphazard wasn’t an option. Solution? Reevaluate, postpone what must be, and make new plans.

January gets an F in my books. However, I decided that my F for January doesn’t stand for “failure” but for… February! It’s just postponed. That’s all. Onto the next!

How have your goals been working out? Did you have a wildly successful January, or did you mark it with an F? What part of that “F” was just a movement into February?

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2 comments on “When Your Plans Fail, Make New and Better Ones

  1. Susan MI Beatty Feb 6, 2019

    Thank you, Chautona. It’s good for us mortals to see even our heros” capes get a little dirty, but that they can be laundered to look like new. My January goals had to be postponed when I realized finishing my novel’s first draft would take longer because it needed a lot more work, a lot of revisions. I could have moved along anyway, knowing the alpha readers would find a lot of the flabby writing, but I couldn’t do that to them. It’s my job to hand them the best manuscript I can so they can concentrate on some of the less obvious (to me) problems. So—on to better plans!