In my A Girl With A Plan post I shared my goals for 2017, and today I am going to write about what helps me stay on track. Hopefully this will be useful to you as well!
A girl with a plan? Have I ever been one?
Looking back at my life, I think I have always been one of those lucky people who could wing anything and win. In school, I could prepare for a very complicated exam the night before and get the highest grade. During my Master’s degree course at the London College of Communication, I wrote my dissertation and conducted all the necessary interviews, observations and experiments in less than two months, while other student were planning their research for a year. In the end, I was one of very few at the University who got top marks with distinction (A+), and praise for my work.
But is it really only luck? Now, having more experience and knowledge of myself, I realise that I am just much more productive when I have a tight deadline.
I always complete my tasks on time, and I try to produce the best work I can in the shortest amount of time, no matter what it takes.
During the last month of my dissertation writing, I did not sleep for days - surviving on coffee mixed with RedBull and pizza deliveries. I had no social life. I read at least ten books on my topic per day and watched videos and Ted Talks about my subject. I was totally immersed in the process.
The same happened to me with my editorial job with Wedding Magazine: The last week before an issue went to the printers, I would sleep with my laptop, a highlighter in my hand and an ocean of printed design mockups and articles that needed to be edited.
These experiences have taught me that in order to make my life easier, I should give myself a deadline every single day. I started writing task lists. Nothing major or crazy, but I would write down at least five things that needed to be done before the clock struck midnight. This is the key and the most important secret that I have that helps me achieve my goals:
Tip #1: Give yourself DEADLINES.
Have small tasks for every single day and bigger ones for the month, or even the year. Make sure that your daily ‘To-do List’ contributes to your bigger yearly goals. If you want to write a 50,000 word novel in a year, then make sure you write 1000 words every Monday, for example.
I prefer using a paper agenda or notebook for my task lists. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction at the end of the day to strike through each task I completed that day. I write all sorts of things from ‘Do Laundry’ to ‘Edit 30 photographs.’
Having an agenda keeps me focused on my dreams and major goals, while still helping me get through everyday life. I also strongly recommend writing down pleasant things you have to do as well. For example: ‘Meet up with a friend at 6 pm’ or ‘Find the perfect dress for my opera night date.’ You get the idea, right?
I also have a little, digital helper, the Do-It-Tomorrow app. I fail to use it regularly because I am more of an analog type of person, but I know many people who prefer using apps over paper notebooks. The app is very straightforward and easy to use, and has a very simple, pretty design.
I have linked to the notebook that I absolutely love (I got this gorgeous pink Agenda from my husband this Christmas!) and apps that will help you plan your day and reach your goals.
TIP #2: FIND YOUR OWN WORKSPACE AND TIME.
If you are a freelancer, a blogger or a writer like me, finding your workspace can be incredibly hard. Working from home might sound great, but it can be disastrous if you cannot separate your lounging time from work time. Make sure you set strict hours of work for yourself and stick to them regardless of whether or not there is a new episode of The Bachelor waiting to be streamed or a welcoming bed ready for you to plunge into any time of the day.
If it is hard not to be distracted when working at home. Make yourself a little ‘office corner’ and sit there only when you are actually working. No Facebook scrolling, no binge watching Netflix.
If that does not work, find a café near you. I find the Starbucks in NYC to be too loud and too small compared to a my favourite ones in London (how awesome is the one on Regent’s street?), but luckily there are many many places in Manhattan with free Wi-Fi and delicious treats. I love Macarons Cafe on Lexington Ave and Mari Vanna on weekday afternoons for writing.
TIP #3: HIGHLIGHTERS & BOOKMARKS.
Sounds like a weird tip, but highlighters and bookmarks make my life so much easier. Highlighting an interesting passage in a book, bookmarking an inspiring photograph in a magazine or just underlining an important meeting in your agenda with a coloured pen helps me to get the most out of my learning and growing as an individual.
TIP #4: PINTEREST!
Pinterest is not only about saving pretty photos and illustrations. I have about fifty secret boards on Pinterest that only I can see.
For example, before I visit a new travel destination, I research it on Pinterest. I pin the most interesting places in the city, travel articles I find online, travel guides that I might want to buy on Amazon, cute illustrated maps of the city, and even outfits I would like to buy for that destination.
I have Pinterest boards that link to useful articles on Writing, Blogging Ideas, Photoshop Tutorials and so on. Because these boards are secret, I have total freedom of what to pin, prioritising usefulness over the aesthetic beauty of the board.
To help you, I made one of my secret boards from our ‘Scandinavian Adventure’ public, so you can see what I am talking about.
These are my main tools that help me achieve my goals, and hopefully these tips will be useful to you too. And remember, it is easy to make New Year’s resolutions, but without a proper daily plan, you will run out of enthusiasm and results before Valentine’s Day. Treat every single day as a step towards a better, more accomplished you, and do not put tasks away for later.
I know it is hard, but follow my ‘#1 Tip’ for at least a month, and you will notice huge differences in how you handle your life. :)