A friend just sent me a mindmap of a book idea and said that she was doing so to prove that she would write the book. It shouldn’t be proof, but it is: she’s done a particularly well-worked out and detailed map that slips easily into a chapter outline. Pop those into Word or whatever she’s writing in and her book is underway.
It shouldn’t be: this is just a list of chapters, but it is and you know it is. That time spent planning has produced a working, useful document that has got her somewhere and will continue to get her places.
There is another type of planning that neither she nor you ever, ever do, which is where you plan in order to postpone doing the actual work. We don’t talk about that kind of planning, you and I, we do not.
Until she sent me this map, what I was intending to talk to you about today was planning in general. And I was going to use October in particular. I’ve been feeling a bit anxious and overwhelmed about the things I’ve got to do this month.
So many of them are events that need work and then around them are so many other tasks that aren’t event but need more. And hanging over the lot is a job where I’m waiting to get briefed.
Last night I went through it all and put each event on my calendar. That’s it. Nothing else. Today I have to work through the work, so to speak, but seeing it all there on the month view, somehow it has become manageable to me. I think it’s become visible, that’s the thing. I can see what the month is.
I’d have told you that I’m not a visual thinker, that I’m more a text kind of one, but there’s no reason you can’t be both and right now the month view plan is making me feel calmer.
Whatever you’re overwhelmed about, spread it out on the table in front of you and just the act of doing that helps whelm.
We’re all unavoidably late for many things – but if you find that you are always late for everything, maybe you need to be looking into it. If other people tend to delay events for you or they just start turning up late too, then maybe you need to seriously look into it.
Time magazine says that your problem could be “rooted in something psychological, like a fear of downtime”. It has nine descriptions of how punctual people manage to be punctual and thereby live happy, fulfilling lives as paragons of virtue, spit.
But the descriptions aren’t of good ideas, such as my favourite one that says punctual folk are “immune to ‘just one more’ thing syndrome”:
You’ll rarely hear a time-conscious person say they need to squeeze in “one more thing” before they leave. That impulse can lead you off track, and suddenly it’s not just one more email—it’s an entire 15 minutes worth of emails.
“Train yourself to recognize that impulse when it happens,” Morgenstern says. “Resist the impulse to do one more thing and just leave.”
9 Habits of People Who Are Always on Time – Samantha Zabell, Time (12 January 2015)
Read the full feature for the rest.
I think that’s advice we can all take in our writing. When you start writing, you get asked when your novel is coming. When you’ve a novel, you’re asked when the film is coming. On and on it goes. But just keep writing. When it comes, it comes.
None of which features in the new BusinessWeek interview with Apple’s Tim Cook but all of it features in there. Apple’s been knocked a lot for a lack of innovation and all the way time it’s been working on a watch. You might not like it, you might very well not be interested in it, but you know that every other smartwatch that comes out is going to borrow from Apple’s design.
The piece interested me anyway but in a small way it reminded me of writing. The way that a Doctor Who release comes out a year after I write it so I have the weird thing of people asking me about my new one and I have to think which one they mean and what I can say. I told you it was a small way. But it’s there.
Read BusinessWeek’s full piece.