Planning can make you a better writer (or whatever)
Once you pass age 60, society seems ready to destine you for the scrapheap of history. Yet, I find that this decade is marking some of my finest work. It’s taken me years to make it this far, and I’m not anxious to quit.
One reason I’m optimistic about continuing is the breakthrough I experienced a couple years ago. I entered the new year with several months of subpar income and another bleak month on the horizon. Sometimes, perspiration can breed inspiration, which is what happened when I realized I needed to do a better job of scheduling my time.
Now, to give credit where credit is due, it wasn’t my brilliance or vast intelligence that drove me to this awareness. I attribute God for sparking prayer, deeper thought, and plodding reflections. All combined to help me recognize that I had been letting a scheduling spreadsheet sit on my hard drive for more than a year, without taking any steps to implement it.
Once I started getting my act together, work became easier and more orderly. In the past, I used to jump from assignment to assignment at a frenzied pace, rushing to get through one so I could get to another. At the same time I was writing articles, I often had a ghostwriting or book editing job, making things more frenetic.
Back then, I would have told you that I planned my days. Every morning I made a “to do” list and treated it like my boss, following each thing in order. But that was only half the battle.
More than 15 years ago, I attended a writers conference featuring prolific author Dennis Hensley as the keynote speaker. I bought a couple of his books that weekend. One included a chapter on time management where Hensley said not only should you write out a plan for the day, but include how long each project would take.
I tried that for a couple days, and felt like someone was peering over my shoulder and tapping his wrist on the desk, demanding to know if I was on schedule. After a couple days, I scrapped the idea and went back to my familiar to-do list.
Turns out Hensley was right.
Setting things in order
I wish I had a better knowledge of Excel years ago, because—once I put it to use—it proved much better for work planning than my crude “to do” lists. When I called up the planning spreadsheet I had downloaded during an online seminar, I discovered it was the perfect tool to help me plan my day. Then, as Hensley had advised, I estimated how long each project would take.
Setting this kind of time frame accomplished two things: 1) it helped me determine how much time an assignment deserved, which helped kick me into gear faster, 2) it allowed me to push major projects to completion a step at a time. When I used to finish a story in one huge gulp of time, it left me emotionally drained and worried about the other things I couldn’t get done that day.
Ironically, once I set up a more orderly system for handling my work flow, my work increased dramatically. It was as if when I did what I could do, then God did what only He could do.
Perhaps there’s a lesson in there for you, whether you are a pastor, musician, artist, speaker, teacher or assembly line worker. God is a planner. When we follow His design for making it through the day, our days will always go better.
An experienced freelance writer, co-author and book editor, Ken Walker edits blogs for several contributors to Church Central and has coached various bloggers for the site. A member of the Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), he has co-authored, edited or contributed to more than 50 books. You can see samples of his work or ask about his services as a writing coach by going to http://www.KenWalkerWriter.com or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org