I thought I'd post an abbreviated version of the article here, and if you're not already a subscriber to Writing Magazine you might want to consider making it one of your first 2015 New year Resolutions!
As the new calendar year draws closer, many people make plans for 2015. Businesses make plans too, although they tend not to call them New Year resolutions. However, before making plans for 2015, the business-like writers start by looking back at what they have achieved in 2014.
Review The Past
How often do you watch a television news review of the last twelve months and find you’ve forgotten half of what has happened? It’s easy for us to forget what we’ve achieved in our own lives, so spending a few minutes looking back over last year’s efforts can be enlightening. While its easy to focus on the goals we failed to achieve, it’s vital we remind ourselves of our successes.
Children’s author Anita Loughrey (www.anitaloughrey.com) has the perfect excuse to look back over the last twelve months, because she has to to her tax return. ‘I like to look at what I’ve achieved by going through completed commissions and acceptances in magazines. The process usually begins with having to sort out my taxes to submit them online. I pile up all the invoices that have been paid to me and usually feel quite chuffed with myself!’
Taking that step back and looking at our writing achievements over the last year can help put our writing business into perspective. It reminds us of our achievements, but it also identifies those plans that didn’t go well. It’s worth analysing why those goals weren’t achieved.
‘If I’ve not achieved something that I had planned to achieve,” says Anita, “I look at the reasons why. I usually find I put off achieving my goal because I had important commissions with deadlines.’
Put missed goals into perspective. We can’t plan for is those curveballs that life throws at us when we not looking, but what we can do is to re-assess those writing goals. It’s easy to assume that a missed writing goal should be carried forward into next year’s business plan. But we should only set ourselves the goals we want to achieve (because we’re more likely to work harder to achieve those goals). If a writing project no longer interests us, and we have no need to pursue it (such as a contractual agreement) then striving to achieve it is a waste of time.
Once you’ve assessed your achievements over the last twelve months, ditched the writing goals that no longer interest you, and identified what your plans are for the coming twelve months, it is time to start putting it all together. Remain realistic. ‘My goals depend upon what else I have going on in my life and what other commitments I have,’ says Julie Phillips. ‘I make a list of everything I would like to achieve with my writing for the coming year and then I sort them into whether they are big, middling, or small projects and take it from there. I also prioritise them into what I will enjoy doing the most and what will potentially bring more money in.’
It’s vital we have a clear understanding of what our main goals over the coming twelve months are. From here, we can then break them down into monthly, weekly and even daily targets. Anita also finds that having this overall vision of what she wants to achieve during the year ahead helps her writing on a daily basis. ‘I set myself general goals for the year and then I make myself specific weekly lists. Then, every day, I prioritise this list.’
Deadlines are immensely useful when planning our writing year. For writing projects that have no externally-set deadlines, create your own. ‘One way I have found works quite well in getting me to focus on the tasks that have not been commissioned,’ says Anita, ‘is to book myself on a course or a retreat that will make it the number one priority.’ Taking ourselves away from our normal writing place helps focus us in two ways; it enables us to work on that project without distractions, but it also means we have to be on target with our other writing projects so that we can go away in the first place.
Booking a course, or a retreat like this, also creates a deadline in itself. If any preparatory work is required we can plan when to do it in the months or weeks before hand. Use the course or retreat as a reward for having met previous targets. Staying motivated throughout the year helps us achieve our targets as the year progresses.
Visualise Your Year
Use business wall planners to give your writing goals some visual impact every time you sit down to write. They can also be a great way to see how you’re progressing as the year passes. ‘I have a long, medium and short term plan that I display on the wall in my office,’ says Julie, ‘so I can see exactly what I’m aiming for.’
Having this annual overview is also useful for the planning process. Look for quieter weeks, or months, which may be better for tackling the larger, in-depth projects, whereas busier times of the year are more suited to working on smaller projects. Spotting quieter times of the year can help identify potential buffer zones. In fact, scheduling a couple of quieter moments, spread throughout the year, gives us time to draw upon, should we need it. These quiet slots can help keep life in perspective when things go wrong.
Be methodical, break things down into small, achievable chunks, and this time next year you could find yourself looking back over what you’ve achieved in 2015, and making even bigger plans for 2016. That’s the beauty of business planning our writing.
I hope 2015 is creatively prosperous for all of you! Good luck! And Happy New Year!