Saturday, July 07, 2012

Organizing: Taming Unpredictability, by Randy Ingermanson

If you've ever tried to make a daily plan and stick to it, you've learned an annoying fact about plans:

Life happens.

Life happens in all sorts of unpredictable ways:

* You need one extra fact for the scene you're writing, so you go browsing the web and discover that it's way more complicated than you thought. You spend the afternoon rethinking your plot.

* You get an emergency email from your editor that you MUST deal with right away, and you burn three hours of your day putting out a fire that you didn't even know existed when you made your daily plan.

* Your computer's hard drive starts making horrible noises, and it turns out to need a trip to the geek shop. Even with a rush order to fix it, you lose two days.


These kinds of things happen all the time to writers. You probably had at least a couple of days with unexpected roadblocks last week. You'll probably have at least a couple of them this week. And every week for the rest of your life. That's just how things are.

How are you supposed to stick to a daily plan when things like these happen?

My opinion is that you can't.

Stuff is always going to happen. Unpredictable stuff.


Here's what I've been doing lately to keep my head in the game when the game keeps going awry:

I still make a daily plan of things I'd like to get done, but I write this daily plan second.

What I do first is to write a WEEKLY plan. On Monday, my first task is to write down a list of the things I think I can get done during the week.

If I get them all done by the end of the day on Friday, then the week is a success.


It's OK if bad stuff happens two days out of the week. Matter of fact, even three bad days isn't a tragedy. Three bad days is normal.

I've found that I can almost always count on having at least one or two Xtremely productive days each week. I just can't ever know in advance which days they'll
be.

When you have a day where everything goes right, you whip through your list at light speed.

I'm having a super-productive day today, as a matter of fact. Tomorrow might be horrible, but today is going great.


In one excellent day, you can get half your week's work done.

If you get only one terrific day per week, you'll probably get most of the things done on your weekly list.

If you get lucky and have TWO great days in a week, you can almost guarantee that you'll knock everything off your weekly list.


Try this experiment:

* For the rest of this week, make a daily list. Count the number of days you actually finish everything on that list.

* Next week on Monday morning make a list of the core things you'd like to get done for the week – the minimal set of achievements that would make the week a
success. Continue making a daily list each day and continue counting the number of days that you get that list all done.


You might not have a single "successful" day (in which you get your entire daily list done).

However, you will probably have at least one and possibly as many as two highly productive days in which you make huge progress on your weekly list.

At the end of next week, look to see if the week as a whole was "successful" (because you got everything done on your weekly list).

You might be surprised. You might find that every day is "unsuccessful" and yet the week as a whole is a "success."

What's going on here? How can five bad days add up to one good week?


The answer is that we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day but we often underestimate what we can do in a week.

Stuff happens most days. It's a rare day when something doesn't go wrong. But those rare days can make up for all the rest. Most weeks can be good ones.

Try it and see.

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This article is reprinted by permission of the author. Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 31,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

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