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Tips For Achieving Daily Goals With An Unpredictable Schedule

plannerIn 2017, as in any other year, there are many things I want to accomplish. Last week, I posted my list of goals for the year. Those are big-target goals: abstract ideas, not concrete plans. How do I accomplish them, particularly as my schedule will be wildly different throughout the year? Right now, I’m home with my newborn daughter, and my husband and son are out of the house most of the time. In the summer, we’ll all be home together. In the fall, I’ll be returning to full-time work. I need to make plans to suit all of those lifestyles.

Here’s how I made those big-target goals into concrete plans that I can accomplish as daily tasks.

  1. Break goals into seasons.

This winter, I will be at home with Eleanor, and she’s still sleeping a decent amount during the day, so I’m going heavy on the writing plans.

Health/Fitness:

  1. Exercise 200+ minutes per week, including getting back to my favorite Step class at the gym, and joining Mommy and Me yoga
  2. Cut back on sugar by giving up dessert 6 days a week

Writing-Content:

  1. Work on second draft of BLIZZARD
  2. Write 1 personal essay or short story every month
  3. Submit to at least 6 publications or contests every month

Writing-Community:

  1. Finish the DIY MFA “Pixels to Platform” course
  2. Post on blog at least 5 times per month
  3. Edit my website to show more of my writing credits and reading recommendations
  4. Start a newsletter (for reals this time)
  5. Promote other writers’ work on Twitter and comment on blogs every day

Reading:

  1. Read for the MMD (“Modern Mrs. Darcy”) book club and participate in the discussions
  2. Do the MMD 2017 reading challenge, “growth” track

Family:

  1. Plan Eleanor’s baptism
  2. Go to church regularly; start Edwin’s religious education

Home:

  1. Continue organization projects around the house
  2. Make soup every week

2. Figure out what to accomplish by week, then by day.

I wrote down all of these seasonal goals in my planner. (Side note: I use an Erin Condren, vertical layout planner; I LOVE them, although I did have a big problem with their website and customer service when I ordered mine this year, and wound up getting a non-personalized one from Amazon instead.)

Every Friday or Saturday, I start filling out the planner for the following week (which starts on Monday). I map out my goals and divide them up by day, making sure not to over-schedule myself. I don’t always do very well with that. Sometimes I over-schedule and I have to leave boxes unchecked for the next day. Other times I get  done quicker than I’d thought, and I have to look for new things to do.

Tip: Front-load your week. I put more plans on Monday-Wednesday, less on Thursday and Friday, and the very least on the weekend. This is partly because my energy level goes down as the week progresses, but also because if I have to leave some things undone earlier in the week, I can make them up later.

3. Look for windows of opportunity. 

I am fortunate to have time to work while Eleanor is napping. But that schedule is completely unpredictable, 24 hours a day. For example, I’m writing the first draft of this post at 7:00 AM on a Saturday morning, because when I nursed Eleanor at 6:30, she fell back asleep. That doesn’t always happen. And my son Edwin is playing happily alone in his room, which also doesn’t always happen. I had to seize that opportunity so I could fit in some blog time. But I have no idea how far I’m going to get. She could wake up at any second; he could come bounding through the door. And then I’d have to wait for my next window of opportunity. And the next one after that. I always have to be prepared to work; I always have to be prepared for an interruption.

While I don’t usually make plans to do anything past 8:00 at night, that time can affect the next day’s schedule. If Eleanor wakes me up a lot, I’ll be tired the next day, and may need to take a nap. And that leads me to my last point.

4. Take care. 

I know my goals and schedules sound crazy to some people. I live this way because it makes me happy. But I also know that it’s easy to tip the balance into workaholism. I have to be careful to avoid over-tiredness, stress and anxiety: I’m a nursing mother, and my self-care affects my daughter. It affects the rest of my family too, in my mood and energy to engage with them. And it affects my mental ability to write. So it’s in everyone’s best interest, especially mine, if I prioritize self-care.

So any day’s plan will have to change if I need more sleep. Most days also include exercise. And no day includes plans in the late evening, so that I have time to relax.

Does anyone else have an unpredictable schedule? How do you cope with it?

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