Yesterday I was cleaning out my closet, and I found a short green skirt from the Gap. I haven’t worn the skirt in about a decade because it hasn’t fit me right in that time. But even after cleaning out the closet, the skirt still hangs there.
The skirt is a symbol. I wore it on the first date with my exboyfriend, who I dated for four years before a really messy ending to our story. During our relationship, I gained a lot of weight. I’ve lost some of those pounds, but I’ve struggled to lose the rest of it. I was yo-yoing with my weight for quite some time, so I started Weight Watchers over the summer. It’s helped me lose a great deal more weight, although I’m still a bit off from my goal.
The skirt represents a goal. I want to not only fit into the skirt again, but I want to look good in it like I did all those years ago. So it keeps hanging in my closet after all these years.
We all have goals, whether they’re for work or for something personal. It can be as big as writing a book or it can be as small as finishing a two-page report. They can be related to work or a side project or even something in your personal life. But it’s a matter of figuring out how to get to your goals.
Since my post on Friday about needing to work on my writing projects, I’ve done quite a bit of thinking about planning. I’m not the greatest planner in the world in that I write things down. I may have a to do list, but there isn’t much else beyond that. It would probably shock people to know that much of my daily story planning at Patch was in my head since I was balancing so much. Sure, I wrote stuff down about stories I needed to finish or edit, but those plans used to change so quickly.
And then I started wondering how in God’s name I ever survived my graduate school thesis. It took months of research and then months of writing. It was a moving target (citizen journalism best practices before sites like iReport even existed). It was tough, it was tedious, and sometimes I think I still suffer from post traumatic syndrome from having to write it. My year in graduate school (while working full-time at WestportNow.com and planning/fund-raising for a youth group trip to San Antonio) was a stressful, busy year. I barely had time to breath. In other words, I had to plan in order to survive my schoolwork and everything else.
In December that year, I attended the Nieman Foundation’s conference on narrative journalism, which was an excellent experience for me on a lot of different levels. One part was sitting through a session with Chip Scanlan, who was working with the Poynter Institute at the time. Chip is a guru on writing, but he was talking about planning during this session.
He laid out the steps we need to take in order to properly plan a project, whether it’s an investigative article or cleaning out your garage. And we sat there following those steps with him, which was easy since it was put into language any journalist can understand:
- Why are we doing this?
- What would it look like if we were wildly successful?
- How would we accomplish it?
- When do we do these things?
- Where do we start?
You can find these steps and the worksheet by clicking here and at the bottom of this blog post along with another sheet with writing tips Chip provided (the planning worksheet is a pdf).
My favorite part was visualizing success. We all were drawing pictures of what things would look like if we reached our goal and were successful. I did this with my thesis, and it included a photo of me in my graduation gown with a diploma in my hand. I will not be showing my very crude drawing here, though.
It’s tough for someone like me to have any sort of plan. Chaos (especially deadlines) breeds success for me. It’s a hard thing to admit, but it’s even harder for people to understand it about me. But these steps have worked well for me when I do indeed need to plan something large. I am planning to apply these for a few of my side projects.
How do you plan out your major projects? Share your tips in the comments below.
Oh, and by the way, the skirt does fit me again.