How to Create a Goal Schedule

Welcome to the third post in my 4-part series on Marching Toward Goal Achievement. Last time we talked about why goals fail and how to create a savvy goal and turn it into an ass-kicking machine. This week I want to show you how to plug those goals into a schedule that won’t stress you out.

First, I want to make it clear that knowing how you work is a key factor here. Check out my blog post here on internal writing forces and this one here on best writing practices.

Your purpose is what drives you. Your purpose is what keeps you motivated. Your purpose is what supports and encourages you through the tough spots. You have to ask yourself: “Why am I a writer?” Read this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach to learn why it's important to know your writing purpose.

Since becoming a mom and also splitting my time among seven different spokes in my wheel of life, there was a long stretch when I was pretty sure I was losing my mind. I couldn’t keep up with anything. My brain was on constant shuffle or replay, there was just no sense of traction. No sense of productivity. No sense of success.

For me, this was especially limiting because those issues totally go against my grain. Even as a little kid, I kept my bedroom tidy and every little memento had its own special place—which I dusted, mind you. I kept a journal and I loved making handcrafted calendars and lists and color-coding and doodling my creations to personalize them. If I didn’t alphabetize the books on my shelves, then I arranged them by color or size, so that the entire shelf was aesthetically pleasing.

That is how I am naturally. But motherhood and a crazy, fragmented adult life prevented me from being able to maintain that level of organization and, well, sanity.

The result? An inability to think clearly. My study turned into a dumping ground. Piles of books on my floor instead of a bookcase. Sheer madness.

This wasn’t okay for me. Many trials and errors led to my discovery of natural writing forces, where I learned the conditions under which I am most productive and creative.

Once you get to know your real-world and writer selves and how they work best, then you can design a scheduling system for your plans or goals.

The one scheduling method that has saved my arse over and over, which I am happy to pass on to you, is the Rolling Schedule. I have used this schedule with several clients, and it has worked with everybody. Even though I firmly believe we all have to come up with our own personalized goal-scoring system for the long game, the Rolling Schedule is so flexible and forgiving that it can fit virtually anyone, anywhere, even at the last minute.

ROLLING SCHEDULE

Pick ONE day of the week that will act as your first day of the week. Many people choose Sunday or Monday, but it’s completely up to you. Most important is that it should be the same day every week for consistency. This will also help establish the habit of weekly and daily goal-setting.

The night before or the morning of the first day of your week, mark out all your tasks, reminders, jobs, appointments, chores—anything of consequence in a scheduler of your choice. I describe my system below—help yourself to what you like and leave the rest.

I have a Mind Dump notebook where everything of any kind of consequence is jotted down. I’ve reserved the first quarter of my notebook for my mind dump. There is no logic or reason to the order of tasks written, but that’s the point. This is only the starting gate.

The remainder of the notebook is divided into categories: Immediate, Week, Month, Ongoing, and Duration. I go through the mind dump and select all the tasks that need to be done ASAP or at least within a day, and list them under my immediate category.

Then I select the ones that need to be completed within the week, list them under weekly category, and so on. If there are tasks leftover (maybe because they’re ongoing or because I don’t have a clear goal for them yet) I highlight them with yellow so they stand out in the Mind Dump. Everything that is written under categories is crossed off in Mind Dump so I don’t repeat it and also because crossing items off my to-do list makes me giddy.

Looking at all the tasks and reminders and jobs in each category I arrange them by priority and then plug them into the appropriate time or date in my calendars(s).

This middle stage, my notebook, is a critical bridge from Mind Dump to Scheduled because sometimes I forget how certain tasks or jobs are prioritized and I just work on whatever comes to mind. The breakdown in the categories of my notebook helps keep me on track.

Once it’s in the calendar I cross it off my notebook. This is another warm-fuzzy step. It’s a satisfying feeling to physically cross off a job you finished. That’s one of the reasons I love working schedules by hand. I also leave enough space in each day’s block in case I need to drag and drop from day to day OR, and this happens in my life frequently, in case something unexpected happens.

DURATION

This includes tasks or reminders of anything that is on repeat, with no real end-date or completion. Checking email, social media engagement, log receipts, SEO, etc. I have to tend to such chores on a daily basis but they can easily take up more time than necessary. I plug these into any gaps of my day where I have thirty minutes or less available free time. Plugging them in ensures that extra downtime is not wasted.

Anything that is in my notebook that never makes it to the calendar, I roll over to the next opportunity. They are prioritized at this point and I’ll write them in a different color, usually red, to help me remember this is an older goal.

A rolling schedule works for short-term goals, so daily and weekly goals are best used here. Monthly goals might  work depending on whether or not they are linked to anything in a quarterly or yearly goal. I prefer to keep monthly goals in a quarterly schedule.

WISH LIST

Sometimes writing everything we need to do can feel overwhelming. Also, the mind dump might feel too disorganized or chaotic. If that happens, then just list every single task that you would like to complete within one week. List one task per line for organization purposes.

Keep in mind: the total number of items in your Wish List will be different from one week to the next. Some weeks have a light load; some a heavy load. This is normal. To help you keep your week from becoming too overwhelming though, I recommend that you assign yourself no more than 20 weekly items. For an average workweek (40 hours), that comes out to about 4 Wish Items per day.

Again, depending on how your real-world and writer selves work, 20 Wish Items may be too many or too few. Play around until you find your best system.

We can’t control life. And making a schedule or plans almost seems silly in the face of a lack of control. Some people do well flying by the seat of their pants. But that, I am willing to bet, is because they’re naturally spontaneous and unshakeable. Some people just go with the flow. I’m not like that, so I had to figure out how to fit my natural tendencies around a lifestyle that was all but predictable.

 

Next week is the last installment of my goal series where we’ll be talking about how to assess and GROW goals for maximum output!

How do you manage your weekly goals?


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Have a writerly day!

 

 

14 thoughts on “How to Create a Goal Schedule”

  1. I don’t know that I manage my goals as well as you do. Your idea, figuring out how long you want to spend on a certain task so that you stay on track, is often where I fall apart. I get sucked into the thing I’m doing, and never look up until it’s hours later– and my day is shot to heck. I’d not thought of this before, so thank you for that insight.

    • You’re welcome, Ally! Social media suckage is what clued me in about the need to block off time for certain things. There was a point where I was spending about 30 hours a week just on blogging! Gawd!! I could not let that go on, and it was around that period when I began to see how setting a timer on myself worked like a charm. Now I am ten times more productive than before.

  2. I assign tasks to each day, but if I don’t get to them that day, I’m okay with it. I just try to get to them that week before I turn to a new calendar page. So that’s kind of like your rolling method.

    • Sounds like it! It’s the “fun” tasks that tend to create a problem for me. There have been times that I’ve noticed I rolled over a few too many tasks from one week to the next AND the next. When I assessed what was going on–surprise, surprise, it was because I’d spent too much time on the “fun” tasks. oops.

  3. wow! you are mega organised! I currently have a rolling goal on my electronic diary – but if it doesn’t get done that day, it has to wait until the following week! that way I get at least the urgent/mega important stuff done and the things that aren’t urgent wait until I do have time – it takes a while though to work out what’s right for you personally, doesn’t it?!

    • Hey Freya!

      It really does take some time and effort and lots of self-examination to figure out what works for you personally. Many rounds of trial and error. This can be daunting for people if they aren’t mentally prepared to struggle with this kind of soul-searching. Esp. if they are impatient to get things done! That’s why a rolling goal schedule can work in a pinch, and certainly something to rely on while you are figuring out the best overall goal schedule. Thanks for commenting!

  4. I’m pretty much unorganized. I have this idea of what I want to do in the morning, which has to do with college course assignments, reading for college class, writing some of my WIP, and maybe reading one of the books I’m reading for pleasure and for helping me write better. Sometimes housework is among the mornings (when I work the best), but then there’s the other things like walking on the elliptical, doing other household chores, and the like, and I barely get them done, but sporadically. I need a schedule like what you’ve posted. I will have to start one. Thanks!

  5. I wake up at 5 a.m. and start listing my tasks in my mind. Probably not a bad idea to write them down at 5:15 when I actually rise; better yet, if I write them the night before. Great suggestions here, Kate. Hope Beatrice has found her way back home!

  6. I map out my day the night before. I find pleasure in crossing tasks off of my list, so I record everything in my day planner. Since I’m up at 3:30 a.m. and my brain can be a little foggy, I need someone telling me what I need to do. 🙂

  7. Great series Kate. I set a list daily of what must accomplished with my writing and due dates. I’m pretty good with completing my list. And those things that don’t get finished will carry over and I don’t sweat it. The trick is to leave ample time before due dates for mishaps and for when life happens. 😉

    • Thanks, Debbie! You strike me as someone who is really stringent with goal-setting and accomplishing tasks. The hard part absolutely is leaving enough time for “when life happens” — because when “life doesn’t happen” that extra time can easily be wasted if we aren’t paying attention.

    • I think the struggle happens for us all–and I also think we need the struggle in order to figure out how to come up with schedules that will work for us. It’s a great feeling to be able to write whenever we want!

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