month cal with more tasks and information added

planning: from deadline to startdate

There’s a misconception that I finish everything I plan every day. I don’t. There are things that come up that are a higher priority or I completely miscalculate the amount of time (or mental energy) required for a task.

What my systems help me do is to manage and work through when things don’t quite go as expected. (Procrastination is another creature.)

I like to start with big blocks of planning and then work down to the granular next steps. In my monthly calendar I record the big parts of my projects. Next steps are in my weekly planner and electronic task list.

Month cal view, mostly blankI’ve not found a monthly calendar I like so it’s one of the few layouts I draw. This version is in a Clairefontaine A4 grid notebook. I use a Sharpie marker for the outline. It’s messy. I love it-–I write and rewrite and draw arrows as things change. Appointments and other important dates are added before I begin deciding about a project. I use the eighth column for random notes and bigger “focus” items.

Planning example – a blog post

Let me show the steps I take to create one of my Anzula “Meet the Yarn” blog posts, in this case for Lucero. Each post has multiple steps and some can’t start before I finish others. By and large, the posting schedule is one I set. When I first started this project, I thought I could finish a post every two weeks, but that proved unsustainable. As I completed posts, I created better data about how quickly I could do each one.

The deadline

Ok, so my Lucero deadline is Thursday May 3rd.

Working backward for start date

That goes into the calendar and I then work backward on my checklist. Every post has similar parts: swatches, photos of the swatches, potential patterns (and/or example projects), and about 450 words discussing the details of the yarn and my experiences with creating the swatches. I can’t take photos of finished swatches before I make them so my deadlines start to be filled out like this:

02 May – edit photos
01 May – take photos
27 April – block swatches

I have a commitment on the 26th that may impact my finishing the swatches. Therefore, my goal is to finish all swatches by the day before. This monthly calendar is for the harder deadlines, intermediate task points are entered into my planner.

Buddy is my helperMy experience is that I can finish about one swatch a night while curled up on the couch watching TV, even if I have a helpful cat. Therefore, I know that to complete eight swatches I need at least a week to make all of them. I try to plan for missing a night or two, so for this project, that gives me a starting date of April 17 (yes, I started).

Parallel tasks

Now that I know that line of tasks, what about the other parts of the post? Such as researching the yarn, exploring other patterns and projects, and drafting the post? These can happen while I’m working on the swatches even if I don’t know all the details. The research and pattern exploration are fun, so I schedule that as an incentive for Monday the 23rd. I like to get an early draft out of the way even if it’s full of placeholder text where I don’t know details so it’s now scheduled for that Wednesday.

If I get ahead – sometimes I finish a swatch and a half in an evening, that’s great! I move on to the next task. If I fall behind by a day or two, there’s some wiggle room. I know what my deadlines are.

The big picture

month cal with more tasks and information addedHow does this look with a larger picture of multiple projects?

It makes it manageable.

Overall this may look overwhelming, but I know all the steps I need to do to reach my goals.

I need to take them one step at a time.