Summer is officially over.  It’s time to buckle down.  But it may be hard to get back into a routine if your productivity dropped off significantly during the last few months.  All the things you meant to do but didn’t get to may be spinning around in your head. That’s why you need a PLAN to help you focus on exactly what you want to get accomplished.
If you think about it, that’s just what schools do when they use a syllabus or a study plan. They outline the subject so that the objectives of the class are broken up into bite-size task. That way the students know what has to be done and can plan their time.
Now in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to confess I cringe at the thought of writing a syllabus. I used to put off writing them until the last possible moment and would end up scrambling before my first class to get it together. However, the activity of drafting a syllabus always helped me to think through the structure of the course. I’d build on what worked in the past and improve what didn’t.  I’d also think about timing and workflow.
I had a similar experience with writing study plans.  When I was a M.F.A. student, we had to write a new study plan at the beginning of each semester. Back then I thought they were a pain in the ass, but in retrospect they helped me to break up the work into manageable pieces.  I knew just how much I needed to complete in a given week.  And at the end of the semester, I could see tangible evidence of my progress.
So here’s how to develop your PLAN:

  1. Look back at your previous list of goals and write a few sentences listing your   accomplishments since January.  When we can acknowledge our successes, we’re more motivated to work on new goals.
  2. List five things you’d like to accomplish before the end of the year.  Write a positive action-oriented sentence for each item.  Example: I will write three new short stories.
  3. Ask yourself, what tasks have to be completed each month to move you closer to your goal.  Write a monthly task list. Make sure each item is measurable.  Example: Read one novel. Send out 10 resumes.
  4. Pick one day at the end of the month to check your progress. If you’ve completed your task for the month, give yourself a day or two to relax. It will motivate you to keep working your PLAN.
  5. Create a reward list for the successful completion of your PLAN.

Remember —

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.

Harvey MacKay


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