I’ve always been a planner. I’ve even planned vacations more than a year out so that the trip would coincide with a certain date, like when I decided we’d be on cruise ship sailing through the Panama Canal on my birthday. A friend asked me about my plans for this year and expressed curiosity about my planning process, which inspired me to write this article.
First, it may help to know that I love the book Write It Down, Make It Happen: Knowing What You Want and Getting It. The author relates numerous stories about various, interesting ways people wrote about an idea as the first step toward making their dream a reality. The act of writing changes the idea from a mere thought in your brain to an attainable goal in the real world. Many of my grand plans start out as glimmering thoughts in my journal.
I have stopped setting big yearly goals like number of books to narrate or amount of money to be earned in a year. Some of those things are beyond my control, especially in devastating years like 2017-2018. Whenever I didn’t meet my big goals, I’ve felt disappointed and critical of myself rather than celebrating all the things that I did accomplish.
In the last 3 years, I’ve adopted the idea of having a focus word guide me through the year. A 2018 article stated to choose something you want more of. “What is your life missing now? Choose that.”
Optimism was my key word for 2018. Content was doubly important as my word for 2019 as I wanted more of both the adjective for an emotional state and the noun for creative output. My word for 2020 remains my secret as I think telling it may diminish its power.
My key word helps me establish intermediate targets like contacting X publishers each month that I hope will lead to the big achievements. I also select some milestones that are completely within my control. For example, this year I will create at least 2 more video courses for NarratorsRoadmap.com. I already know the topics and am gathering the material I want to include in the courses.
Evernote and my calendars are the foundations for everything I do, both personally and professionally. When I wrote above that I’m gathering material to include in my courses, it means that I’m copying web pages, making notes, and adding media to an Evernote notebook named for the course subject.
As soon as I know I’m going to an activity or am taking a trip, I add the function on my calendar with 1 or more reminders before the day. I’ll be able to look forward to events and schedule my other activities around them. Though we’re not even a week into the new year, I’ve already scheduled trips to NY in March and May for multiple audiobook events, participation at VOAtlanta Audiobook Academy in March, and attendance at the play “Hamilton” when it tours here in Atlanta in April. When planning travel, I copy all of my confirmation emails to Evernote and fill out my Evernote trip itinerary template with all the pertinent details and links to those emails.
I use Evernote as my client relationship manager and set reminders on notes for follow-up actions. The Cronofy Evernote Calendar Connector automatically transfers the reminders to my calendar and keeps Evernote and my calendar in synch. I have a color-coded calendar to distinguish various activities.
For instance, I add dates with tie-ins to specific audiobooks to my Promotions calendar. I may set the first reminder a week ahead for a new book where I want to create a graphic. I’d set the second reminder for the day before the date to be sure I schedule the promotion. Sometimes after seeing a reminder about an audiobook in my backlist, I’ll create a new graphic to promote it, such as in this recent tweet.
I start each month by filling in this Evernote template that I created to itemize the major things I want to get done that month. I confess that I’m notorious for trying to stuff 10 pounds of activities into a 2-pound bag! I may not do half the things I set out to do, but action begets action begets action, which all becomes and sustains forward movement. I add dates from the calendar for my standing commitments like my biweekly show for the Georgia Radio Reading Service and the Tuesday tips I write and distribute each week on Twitter.
On a daily basis, I look at the monthly note and my list of Evernote reminders and then fill in this Evernote template of 1 to 5 things I expect to do that day. I list personal appointments like the dentist and hair salon among those 5 tasks.
In the blank space at the top of the note, I record the audio of my daily sightreading practice and enter info about exercise I undertook that day like swimming and walking the dog. Throughout the day, I check the boxes when completing tasks and add any links or documents created in the process.
I have almost 2700 Daily Notes in Evernote stretching back to October 2012. Before I started keeping them in Evernote, I used paper calendars. My paper archives go back to 2003!
I love having all of my planning info in Evernote because it’s searchable, and I can add audio, pictures, videos, emoticons, and links to each page. If I don’t finish something in a day, which is OFTEN the case due to the rabbit holes I jump in, I can copy and paste it to the next day (or even the next week).
I hope that sharing part of my process gives you some useful ideas for your own planning sessions! I’d love to see your questions and comments below.