Friday, 14 June 2013

Planning yourself to failure

Regardless of the type of art that makes you feel alive, if it's something you do on top of work and family obligations, you have to come up with a plan.  If you're serious about  your craft, you need to find a way to fit it in your busy schedule.  Long story short, you need planning.

This is common sense, nothing more, and an advice readily available on every blog that addresses the topic of "following your dreams."  So why do I even bother to talk about it? Because it's dangerous.  Don't be too quick to scoff.  Over planning can be like paving your way to failure.

You've all experience a sudden spur of motivation for your project.  This time, it's going to be different.   This time, you will plan carefully and follow that plan (unlike last time...)  You're convinced that the secret to success is a mix discipline and dedication.  And so you carefully build that perfect schedule (Google calendar makes it so easy!  And just look at all the colours, so pretty!)  It's so magnificent it makes you feel like you could be hired to manage Stephen Harper's agenda (not that you'd want to...)  Everything is calculated, balanced, thought out. 

Your beautiful clockwork schedule
You hit the ground running and start following you schedule religiously.  It works great and you're sure the elation you feel warrants your success. Secretly, you feel invincible and  mock the silly mortals that aren't in to the big plan. *snicker, snicker, snicker*

A week passes, maybe two, and everything goes according to plan.  The kids are clean and fed, the chores are taken care of, you're doing great at work and your project is on a roll.  You're on a high.  You're so glad you planned; you can't understand how you lived without your clockwork schedule until now.  Two more weeks pass. Life starts creeping up on you, but you brush it off, quick to fix any issue.  You don't have time for this, you're too busy feeling great.  Little grains of sands get caught in the cogwheels but the machine still turns, so why worry?  Maybe you feel a bit tired but you can't give up this perfect schedule. You told everyone about it, what would they think if you suddenly stopped following it? You keep going.

Suddenly,  Life throw a boulder at your perfect machinery.  You come to a screeching halt.  Everything goes silent.  You look around and start wondering how long your hungry kids have been staring at you from the piles of dirty clothes.

You might want to have someone look at this...

Dumbstruck. you're not sure what happened or how it happened.  You try to fix things, to get the machine running again.  It has to.  And it does, few days until it doesn't break, it explodes.  The gears are now disaligned beyond repair. Life has made a mess of things and  now that your perfect clockwork schedule is busted, you feel depressed and can't shake off the thought that you failed.  You find yourself not even the things you used to do.  You have no motivation, you're spent.  If the crash is intense enough to convince you that maybe following your dream was a silly thing to do, you might end up shelving the project never to touch it again.  In most cases however, you'll build a new miraculous schedule machine and start again in a few months.

Most of us need spontaneity in our lives and having a tight schedule does not allow for it.  Although it might work at first, it more often than not ends up in discouragement and the complete abandonment of the project. I'm not saying you shouldn't plan – on the contrary, I think it's very important to have a set amount of time dedicated to your craft, or else it becomes a hobby– but you should allow for the unpredictable. As silly as it sounds, it's easy to burden ourselves with more and more tasks when things are going well.  When on the rise, we feel like we could take on the world.  Thus, it's never a good idea to introduce an entirely new schedule to your life all at once.  Try to add the new things slowly, in small doses and see how it goes. That way, if things don't work out the way you planned, you won't feel like the whole thing was a complete failure.  You'll recover and try something different.

Look for signs to know if you might be doing too much.  It might not be obvious at first but after crashing a few times, a pattern will start to emerge.  For example, I can tell my schedule is getting too heavy when my apartment becomes messy.  When all the cups I possess are in the bedroom next to the computer and I have to ascend Mt. Dirtyclothes to take a shower, I know it's time for me to take a few thing off my weekly to do list.  Also, when things seem to go well and you're tempted to add one more things, take the time to ask yourself if you can really do this new thing.  Is it essential?  If yes, is there something you could swap it with?  Can you saccrifice another activity for this?

It sounds very obvious but I had to learn this the hard way.  I had to crash several times before I understood that I had to make choices.  Being naturally curious, that was very hard to come to terms with.  It's a slow process and I still struggle with this but I find I've been much more productive when my schedule is looser.

What about you? Are you an extreme planner? How can you tell when you're loosing control of your schedule?  Do you have any advice to share?


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