I always admire the seemingly casual work of artists, novelists and painters. Their work looks so effortless and offhand that I was convinced they were born with a pen or brush in hand and the pure ability to draw a scene by sheer willpower and talent. Until I started learning to sketch and write.
That’s when I discovered the true secret of artists and creators. They outline or they plan. I was horrified the first time I saw a video of a brilliant artist on YouTube who was outlining her drawing first before putting pen to paper. What? That’s cheating! I thought to myself at the time.
I wanted to believe in the myth that artists are simply born and work effortlessly in an unattainable realm of existence because that exonerated me from ever trying with the hope of success.
Same goes for novel writing. And painting.
And starting a business for that matter!
Of course this is all silly because of course artists outline, and novelists plan –some to much greater extents than others- and painters consider their composition and entrepreneurs work with a lean canvas or develop a full blown business plan.
And of course nothing ever goes to plan and artists redraw different lines with their pens and painters re-position their subject in a different place and writers shift their stories midway and entrepreneurs pivot in the course of execution but they know where they are and where they want to be at any time so deviating from the plan becomes kinda part of the plan after all!
The best bloggers outline their posts before starting out, the most successful people plan their day before they start the day so that they have an idea what they absolutely must accomplish and they get the important things done.
People ask me how I manage to take care of 3 kids, coach clients, work on consulting projects, teach in Dubai, plan a retreat, start a new business (Audacity Activated LLC!) take painting and piano classes, write (just finished the manuscript for my second book!) and still stay married.
I’ve adopted the planning approach wholeheartedly since that particular light bulb came on for me. I plan my upcoming year out in excruciating detail every December. I outline the fun I want to have, the trips I want to take, the quality time I want to dedicate to my family and to myself, the meaningful work I want to produce and, yes, I even plan in unstructured time for no plans.
Then I’m not near done. I plan out every quarter in the same way and finally, every Sunday, I open up my planner and figure out exactly what I’m going to do and when in the coming week.
Sounds exhausting and restrictive? Oh my God No!
You guys, I am an uncompromising bonehead.
If I want it all, I’m gonna have it all so no, all this planning is not exhausting, it’s liberating.
Planning frees me up to do what I want to do without feeling confused and overwhelmed.
Planning and outlining is so powerful because it gives accountability, it helps us focus on the important rather than the urgent stuff and it keeps us moving forward in the direction that matters to us personally rather than spending a busy day helping people get to where they want to be and letting our own meaning-making go swirling down a porcelain bowl.