february 2017 goals

It’s the first Monday of February, so now is when the fun begins, right? I’ve been going through my Powersheets really slowly and deliberately to refine what I want to prioritize. So each month, I want to create a doable list with those bigger aims in mind.

I just returned from Christy Wright’s Business Boutique seminar in California AND had the chance to join an IF: Local gathering this weekend, so there’s a lot to unpack and many wheels to get in motion this month. Here’s what’s on tap for February:

Writing:

  • Write book proposal for next project(s)
  • Outline and begin writing next novel
  • Work through one craft book: KM Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel
  • Finalize pre-release marketing plan for spring
  • Create Goodreads author page
  • BLOG. Like I said, I have lots to process and share!

Work:

  • Set a regular work schedule and keep laptop in my office during the day
  • 5 pages a week of new web content
  • Set up accounting programs for business (including the Wave app, which looks amazing!)
  • Make a style guide and blogging/social media image template
  • Build a content database + content calendar template
  • TAXES

Personal:

  • Establish a better sleep schedule and morning routine: I’d like to be in bed reading by 1030 with my alarm set using the new(er) Bedtime app on my iPhone!
  • Read two books for fun
  • Start 5K training app on my phone and run outside on warmer mornings
  • Meal planning every Sunday night and prep on Tuesdays
  • Set up meeting for CityChurch college women’s book club
  • Creative nonfiction once a week

There you have it! It looks like a lot, but a lot of it will be ongoing and some of it will take no time at all. Here’s to better habits, changes in mindset, hard work, and healthy balance. <3

What do you have planned for February?

2017 planner favorites

My 2017 planner runs from July-June, so I’m good on that front. But if you’re still on the lookout, I come bearing ideas — not because I am being compensated in any way or form, but simply because I’m a huge planner nerd!

There are so many good ones that I could post about them all month, but here’s what has caught my eye this season:

source: TheDayDesigner.com

The holy grail of planners = the giant boutique planners like Erin Condren or the Emily Ley Simplified Planner or the Whitney English Day Designer,  which run around $60. If you can make that investment in a planner, they are beautiful with brilliant, functional design to help you make each and every day a work of efficient art. This model doesn’t work for my schedule or needs, but they are definitely helpful for busy people with many moving cogs in their lives!

source: BlueSky.com

For the last few years, I’ve been using the 10×8 horizontal weekly planner from Blue Sky, which runs anywhere from $9.99-$19.99. I love the way I can see a big picture of my entire week and plan work, writing sprints, and family things/meals accordingly. (Here’s a post with how I use it.) While most of their options in this format are July-June versions like mine, they have this one for January! If you’re more on a Target budget, I would highly recommend checking out their Blue Sky collection in person. They have partnered with some really talented designers, and I can guarantee you’ll find a gorgeous one that works for you, whether you are a daily, weekly, monthly, vertical, or horizontal planner <3

I’m super proud of my friend Karen who created the Dreams by Design planner for people with big dreams and busy lives! It’s a beautifully-designed printable planner that’s super easy to email to a printer or office supply store to be printed and bound. If you click on the link above, you can see a little about Karen’s heart in creating the planner and its neat features!

source: CultivateWhatMatters.com

Since I already have a planner for this year, I just got this six-month system from Lara Casey’s Cultivate What Matters shop ($40) for Christmas to help me organize huge goals for 2017. (Looks like they just sold out until next year. Boo!) Less of a planner and more of an inventory, this notebook is filled with Powersheets — worksheets with questions designed to help you identify your goals/strengths, what’s held you back in the past, and actionable steps to fulfill them. So if that sounds like something that would be beneficial to you in 2017, I would recommend the printable Dreams by Design planner above as it has that + a planner feature.

Last but not least, if a planner feels too confining for your tastes, you should really get into bullet journaling for the price of your favorite notebook. You can literally customize it any way you’d like. I got into bullet journaling this past year (remember the novella truck?) and absolutely love it during busier seasons. The Lazy Genius Collective has a guide to help make sense of it and show that it doesn’t have to be high maintenance at all. But you know that if it was super time-intensive, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole 🙂 You can search Instagram for more gorgeous spreads!

Are you a planner or a pantser in your own life? What system looks most appealing to you?

october update

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Welcome, October! This is our front door in progress. We still need to get the big pumpkins at the pumpkin patch, and if I’m super ambitious/have a craft night with my friend Cait, I want to make a wreath!

First order of business, the winner of the Can’t Help FALLing Giveaway is Meghan Gorecki! But if you didn’t win, the Kindle edition of Close to You just went on sale TODAY for $1.99. Get it while it’s hot. I promise you’ll gobble it up just in time for October 11 when you can get Can’t Help Falling! 

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When we last spoke, I was in the thick of the final revision read-through for my upcoming release! With the help of gracious family members and a friend who took the kids Friday night so I could press send, it. is. finished. Fly away, little rewrites! And please don’t return too banged up in the next iteration when the real editing begins 🙂

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This is the wild-haired, crazy-eyed look of someone who has finished her deadline…and begun another! For my next trick, I shall write a novella this month. I have a fun spread set up in my bullet journal to track my progress (yes, that says track, not truck!):

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This is my big goal for the month, to be accomplished with early mornings, a little caffeine, and lots of grace. During my normal work hours, I have some fun client projects to finish, and in the second half of the month, I am working on my next proposal for Heartwarming plus any edits they may send my way.

I have an official title and cover coming soon along with news about said novella project, so be sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter for all the juicy tidbits!

june update + july goals

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Now that’s July is halfway finished (WHAT?), here’s how I did on my June goals:

  • Read/outline the craft book Story Trumps Structure by Steven James. Does it count that I started it? Barely.
  • Study a few comp titles for my new project. Yes.
  • Develop a tentative outline for the new project. Done!
  • Complete any final edits on Book 3 + proposal. Done!
  • Journal/art journal 2-3 times a week. Nope.
  • Sweat at least once a day. (And hydrate accordingly.) I actually did a lot better on this than I thought I would! I completed the Betty Rocker 30-Day Challenge, often working out twice a day, and only missed five days of sweat 🙂 I think I’ll count it though, since it’s 100 degrees here and impossible not to sweat!
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process. It happened one week. Moving that goal to this month.
  • Declutter my closet, armoire, and kitchen. I decluttered my closet, and it feels amazing!
  • Create a loose content calendar based on topics for the blog. Yes.
  • Make a landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters. I started it, but it’s still in draft mode.
  • Possibly a promo for bloggers/podcasters? I did a conference promo instead! This one will have to wait until after edits are sent in.
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work. Oh goodness. Moving that to this month!
  • Redesign my invoice template. Yes!

Not too shabby, especially since my plans for a quiet summer were foiled by a new book contract. (Seriously. All the praise hands for this divine interruption!) Here’s what I’d like to accomplish for the rest of July:

Here’s what I’d like to accomplish for the rest of July:

Writing Goals:

  • Work through the craft book Story Trumps Structure by Steven James.
  • Complete 75% of edits for my debut novel due 8/15.
  • Write 5-10K on my novella.

Personal Goals:

  • Create morning and evening routines (including #morningmiles!)
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process.
  • Weed out my armoire + organize groups of my cleaning supplies into transportable caddies.
  • Institute a regular cleaning schedule (and stick to it).
  • Celebrate the selah.
  • Guard what comes out of my mouth.

Work Goals:

  • Finish landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work
  • Invite some amazing people I have in mind to join this blog for Table Talk and refine that format 🙂

That’s it — for starters. There are still ~3 weeks to accomplish a LOT!

What are you working toward this month?

 

june 2016 goals

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I can’t believe 2016 is almost halfway finished! It’s been a year so far, y’all. A good one.

Here are some of the goals I have to make life happier + easier during June.

Writing Goals:

  • Read/outline the craft book Story Trumps Structure by Steven James.
  • Study a few comp titles for my new project.
  • Develop a tentative outline for the new project and/or Book 4 if inspiration strikes.
  • Complete any final edits on Book 3 + proposal.

Personal Goals:

  • Journal/art journal 2-3 times a week.
  • Sweat at least once a day. (And hydrate accordingly.)
  • Revamp Sunday night meal planning and prep process.
  • Declutter my closet, armoire, and kitchen.

Work Goals:

  • Create a loose content calendar based on topics for the blog.
  • Make a landing page for services I offer bloggers and podcasters.
  • Possibly a promo for bloggers/podcasters?
  • Take regular walk breaks during long stretches of work.
  • Redesign my invoice template.

That’s the gist of it!  I know it won’t go 100% according to plan, but I personally do best and accomplish things when I lay out my intentions.

What are your goals for this summer? How are you making them happen?

I wrote THE END {vol. 3}

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I just wrote THE END on my first draft/first edit of book 3!

And around here, we celebrate every little thing that gives us a somewhat viable excuse to throw a party. This is my first story to finish with two kids! Most of it was written with an infant and a preschooler between my day job, sleep regressions, preschooler valet services, trips to the coffee shop, and a few Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups for good luck. Here’s the scoop:

How can someone write a first draft and do a first edit in the same round?

Well, like all good things, it’s complicated.

This book was my second manuscript but was shelved at about 25% complete in 2013…until Mary Weber’s class at the 2015 ACFW Conference revived my love for these characters and the message behind this story.  So I wrote 30K during the first half of NaNoWriMo 2015 before I had to shelf it to complete a revision request on Book 2. My agent gently reminded me that an editor had requested to see the full after this manuscript placed second in the RWA Lone Star Contest, so I have been reading for flow, writing 15K of new scenes here and there, and editing/making editorial notes as I go.

Why did I shelf it?

This story is best suited for the audience between Young Adult and traditional contemporary romance. Like my first manuscript, I call it Inspirational New Adult because the coming-of-age threads are just as important as the romance, yet the term “New Adult” carries a very edgy stigma (four words: 50 Shades of Grey) though my story is obviously clean enough for the inspirational market.

Based on the advice of my agent and the general consensus of publishing professionals in 2013, there were no proven sales patterns for CBA publishers to take a risk on a story geared toward that audience, so I decided to pursue a different story that became Just Breathe.  It was absolutely the right advice and best move to make!

But while I had two manuscripts on submission, I decided I really, really wanted to finish Book 3 before moving forward with my next contemporary romance project. (You can blame Mary Weber and you can blame my characters for being ridiculously irresistible so I couldn’t stay away.)

aren't they pretty?

here’s who I would pick to play them. aren’t they pretty?

I have SO much respect for the brave lovelies learning how to navigate the adult world and going through so many transitions.  So here we are! Hopefully two years later, the inspirational market is ready for a story like this 🙂

Like you, I will probably read this next bit later and want to punch myself in the face…

But I was stuck at the corner of Here and Where-To-Go-From-Here last week when a plot thread fell into my lap while I was driving my daughter to school. And it wasn’t just a normal plot thread, it was a ribbon to tie my ending up in a neat bow AND strengthen two other storylines. Yes! It also explained my random urge to listen to classical music all week, and you’d better believe I think it was very much related 🙂

So note to self and note to you, dear reader: When you’re stuck with no clue what to do in your story, sometimes it can come to you when you least expect it — when your stereo is blaring children’s worship songs + two kids are exercising their lungs in the back seat + BEFORE you’ve had any caffeine. It could happen to you!

What’s next?

I am going to do one more read-through to fix some editorial notes I gave myself and then ship it off to critiquers! After I press send, I am going to take a nap. And read 393990394 books. And then get started on my next contemporary romance, which I’m super excited about!

What can we celebrate for you? Please allow me to cut you a thick slice of chocolate cake with extra sprinkles.

friday 5: fun news + FREE #NaNoWriMo printable


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Happy Friday! It’s an October Friday, so even better. I have a few things to share today, so here goes.

LS Sealwhite(1) finalist (1)1. This week, I found out one of my new manuscripts was the runner-up in the RWA Lone Star Contest’s Inspirational Category! I entered this manuscript to get feedback and direction moving forward with it, so it was a huge surprise and affirmation to what I learned at conference that this story is one that needs to be told 🙂 More on that later, though.

NaNoWriMo

2. I made the decision to enter National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November. This means that novelists have the month of November to write 50,000 words on their WIP. I’ll be dividing that between two projects and spending the rest of this month preparing so it doesn’t end up like past attempts — falling on my face and then skidding some. I’ll share my plans here next week.

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3. You know how I love being intentional and planning things? I made a planner printable for NaNoWriMo, and you can download it for FREE by clicking here. It’s 15 pages with two days on each page. The layout’s designed to encourage you to jot down non-writing responsibilities so you can have an overview of things that might get in the way (no excuses!), intentionally plan out times of the day to write, and then jot down notes for the next day so you can jump right into it more easily.

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4. My writing sister Kara Isaac got to see a real, live copy of her first published book baby this week! So the sisters and I have kind of been partying all week and remembering our favorite parts of the story. I can’t wait until the rest of you can read this stellar romantic comedy in April 2016! If I ever had a book recommendation, it’s this one. Kara has these clever turns of phrase and gets her characters into predicaments that will make you laugh out loud.  She’s a fantastic storyteller! You can pre-order it here: Amazon + Barnes&Noble.

Homegirl read all the books at @antoinettebakingco after finishing her blueberry crumb bar. #allieG

A photo posted by laurie (@laurietomlinson) on

5. Yesterday my kids and I met some friends at our favorite bakery in town. After eating her blueberry crumb bar, I caught my girl surrounded by books in the window. She just turned four, so she can’t read quite yet. But she really loves looking at the pictures and telling the stories out loud. If this picture doesn’t make me feel like I’m doing something right as a #wordnerd mama, nothing will! 🙂

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BONUS: Last but not least, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of me as I expand my consulting business to serve individuals. So many shared and showed the love last week! I truly have the best friends, family, and hopefully new clients! <3

Hope you find time this weekend to watch some good football (or read a book while everyone else does), warm a mug with your favorite hot chocolate, and feel the hug of soft flannel or fleece.

my writing bucket list

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You can learn a lot about someone by looking at her bucket list. I found a handwritten one for writing I started in 2012 when I first got my booty into gear about writing for publication.

I know it’s not news to you how much I love a good to-do list, but bucket lists have always especially fascinated me. That makes that person come alive? Where do his or her priorities lie? What unique places does this individual mind go to in terms of this topic?

For the sake of accountability and fun (and because I’m turning 30!!!) I’ve added a tab to my website with my own writing bucket list in progress. And here it is — short, sweet, sometimes a little weird.

Finish a novel [x 2]

Sign with a literary agent

Write for The Writer’s Alley

Sign a book contract

Win a Genesis Award [x 2]

Publish an article in Relevant Magazine

Start a sustainable freelance business

Take a selfie with my own book at Barnes & Noble

Indie publish my NA series

Finish a NaNoWriMo month (50,000 words in one month)

Writing Retreat at Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs

Attend Mt. Hermon Writing Conference

Celebrate book contracts with my critique partners

Write a nonfiction eBook to give away

Research trip to Ireland 🙂

Teach a class at a conference

Research trip to Texas Hill Country

Does anything on this list surprise you? What are some of the things on your bucket list?

What are you doing to make it happen?

when mamas create

 

{Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

Have you listened to the podcast Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert? The bestselling author who’s had Julia Roberts star in the movie version of her book (Eat, Pray, Love)? She’s on a mission to help artists get past their fears so they can do their thing once and for all.

I’ve only listened to the first episode, but was inspired by what was there. Obviously I can’t quite endorse it yet because I’ve only heard the first one, not to mention we have very different views on life and faith. But in the episode, Ms. Gilbert interviewed a woman who had the nagging desire to write. She became an English teacher instead and later had two children, shelving the dream and refining her craft in the meantime. Now that her kids are in school, she can’t ignore that niggling desire anymore. And she’s out of excuses, but she just can’t seem to get started. 

In Ms. Gilbert’s advice to her were some very important points that resonated with me in my current relationship with work and art and writing:

Mothers need to be given permission to do the things that ignite their souls. 

And fear shows up as perfectionism, insecurity, guilt, procrastination, and anything else that keeps them from doing those things.

I’m going to say this up front: The number one person who needs to give a mother permission to create is herself. The mom on the podcast is one example of so many who are riddled with guilt that their desires and attentions are pointed on anything but their children. They second guess any compromise involving their kids and often err on the side of sacrifice.

But children notice things. When Mama creates, they will either see her guarding her time, protecting her art, working hard, and investing in becoming the best version of herself. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they will see a martyr-mother and become conditioned to letting duties delegate dreams to the back seat — both hers and their own.

Yikes. The reality of that possibility makes me cringe.

The truth is, children of a certain age can learn to be self-sufficient during that pocket of time designated for your writing. They can learn to be creators themselves, if not in words or art, then in opportunities. Even if they’re not natural creatives, per se, they’ll live in a climate that encourages them to nurture their own dreams, give them feet, and pursue them unrelentingly.

Ms. Gilbert compared the guest caller to a plane on a runway. She’s spent plenty of time refining her craft, starting a blog, and building momentum, but she’s reached the point where it’s either run out of gas from excess taxiing, crash and burn into the neighboring field, or take off.

This is my commission, not just for moms, but for anyone with that chance within them that’s begging to be taken. It’s time to stop letting fear (and its various disguises) sabotage the passion God has given us. It’s time to take off, to do and create, find the healthiest balance, and discover the best version of ourselves so we can give more freely and love more deeply

bravery, that judge, & other thoughts on the Genesis Contest

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Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley

Are you on the fence about entering the first 15 pages of your finished manuscript in the Genesis contest? Let me give you a little perspective that may help you make your decision.

I’m going to preface this post by admitting up front that my experience with the contest is beautiful and life-changing, but very unique. Yet I think that no matter what outcome you achieve, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

  • You get invaluable feedback on your finished manuscript. This is the chance for you to see what experienced writers have to say about your work. And the semifinal-round judges are published authors in your field who know what it takes to get the attention of an editor. Confession: before I entered for the first time in 2013, the only people who had seen it were my mom, husband, and a select group of friends. Having unbiased input from someone who isn’t your adoring critique partner can show you ways to add dimension to your work and accentuate your writing strengths.
  • Granted, there always seems to be That Judge who doesn’t really get what you’re going for and gives you a score that’s way different than the others. Still, that perspective is helpful to see — and it helps you practice taking criticism for your passion-poured work, which you’ll get even when you’re published. You have to develop thick skin and discern what’s truth about your work and what simply doesn’t resonate with one person’s experience. So take it gracefully, even if it seems out of left field, and get a second opinion if you need to. 🙂
  • It helps you bond with others in the same stage of the publication process. Your fellow Genesis entrants know the roller coaster toil to The End that you battled and won; they’ve been elbow-deep in the same trenches you’ve wrestled through. When the first list of semifinalists came out, I friended some of them on Facebook, and that led to some of my most treasured friendships and writing partnerships to this day.
  • If you final in the Genesis, you instantly get your work in front of agents and editors. The final round judges are all editors and agents. Even though I already had an agent last year, I had two inquire about my representation to the Contest Coordinator. Plus, if you attend conference, people see your semifinalist or finalist ribbons and take notice. The agents and editors with which you have appointments may sit up in their chairs a little because they know that you entered the Genesis contest and are serious about your work. It’s hands-down a fantastic and attention-grabbing attribute in a query, one-sheet, or writing resume.
  • Because even if you don’t place in the top 10, the bravery it takes to enter will launch infinite more acts of bravery in your writing. I maintain that pressing send on my Genesis contest entry was the bravest thing I’ve done to date in my writing journey. It’s the moment I can exactly pinpoint my mental shift from thinking of myself as a wannabe writer to believing in myself as a pre-published author. That alone is better than any plaque or scoresheet anyone can ever give you.

What doubts are holding you back? Still think your writing isn’t ready? Reluctant to invest the contest fee? (The Genesis is fair and comparable to other contest fees, even contests of a far lesser caliber.) 

Good luck to everyone, and know that I’m ridiculously proud of you!

my survival plan for 2015

I wasn’t going to do a Word of the Year.

Even though I did one in 2014, putting 365 days in a neatly wrapped box seems limiting. Daunting, even. Life is full of so many different, constantly changing, unexpected, beautiful experiences. And to be honest, I mostly don’t like the feeling that the #oneword idea is just a social media gimmick 🙂

But as I thought about what 2015 would look like for me, the word SURVIVE kept coming to mind. Adjusting to life as a work-at-home mama of two littles. A perpetual planner and administrator with a huge dream and no idea of what my daily schedule will look like.

Well, SURVIVE, I see your uneasy intimidation and raise you a swift kick in the jewels.

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Yep. I’m not just going to survive in 2015; I’m going to thrive.

2015 won’t be represented by one word for me, but an entire lifestyle. I want to enjoy mothering a baby — this little boy for whom we’ve waited and prayed for so long — even more than I did the last time. I want to be intentional about my faith and life and work and writing in ways that maximize their potential to make me come alive and enable me to give best to those around me.

What does this look like? I’m not sure exactly. But here are a few ideas when it comes to work and writing:

  • Read at least one book a month with a goal of 15 in 2015. I think my total was, like, 5 in 2014, and that’s not okay. Books are just part of who I am. My brain needs the exercise. My fingertips need to feel the grain of pages.
  • Write in short increments every weekday with the end goal of finishing Jake and Adriana’s story. First draft and edits. I normally write about 1.5 books a year, and I’m confident I could do that even with the changes 2015 will bring. But I’d be content with one book. One ridiculously good one 🙂
  • Work a month ahead of time. It should come as no surprise to you that I’ve separated my regular work and writing-business tasks into things that can be done in advance + things that require daily or weekly maintenance. I’d like to get the majority of the next month’s work- and writing-related blog posts finished one weekend at the end of every month and then complete weekly tasks at the beginning of each week. This system is more sustainable and conducive to protecting creativity. Days will be freer for writing, spending time with my family, other creative endeavors, and more life-giving things!
  • Anticipate how I can spend my time most effectively to make sure everything gets accomplished, but realize that things aren’t in my own control but God’s. Or at least they should be. It’s absolutely best that way.
  • Don’t overthink things. My SisterChucks (writing sisters) and I have a motto and promise to each other not to overthink things. So I want to work on diverting unproductive thoughts before they can consume, sabotage, and steal my joy.
  • Enjoy. Above all enjoy it. To thrive in the John 10:10 “rich and satisfying life” God intended when He gave me freedom — even in moments the thief intends to “steal, kill, and destroy”.

Do you have any 2015 goals or big events coming up this year? Tell me what you hope your year will look like.

a peek inside my planner + time management tips

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In a former life, I was an office manager in charge of organizing around 120-140 new projects a month and dividing responsibilities among multiple employees in the most efficient manner. So, I guess you could say I like organizing. Just a little.

I’m not exactly Type A for most things. In fact, I bet my husband is somewhere laughing right about now. But bright color coding and lists are my jive. As a reformed overachiever, I still typically balance a lot of things on my plate and want to be sure my priorities are in the right place and goals get accomplished.

Last year, I found the perfect planner to support my love of lists and intentional living: the Blue Sky 10 x 8″ Weekly/Monthly Planner, especially when teamed with designer Dabney Lee.  If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you got a front-row seat to my #plannernerd panic when June came to an end and they still hadn’t released their new July-June planners. It wasn’t pretty. But what IS pretty is my the planner I finally ordered.
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Here’s a peek inside and some organizational tips. Because we’re friends like that.

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Each month, I write out the bigger commitments and events I know about ahead of time as I go. Things I probably should remember but never would be able to keep track of on my own with Mom Brain.

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There’s also a really cool feature next to each monthly calendar: lists for To Do, To Call, and To Buy. I typically use the To Do for monthly goals, ranging from personal to professional to writing goals. Do I want to write 25K words this month? Up my running mileage? Read a craft book? Go on a date night every week with my husband? Grow out my fingernails? What fun things can I do with my daughter this month? Since I have a secret aversion to talking on the phone, To Call is for blog posts I want to write. To Buy changes every month, but I’d imagine it would also make a good place for monthly budgeting goals or tracking expenses!

Now (*rubs hands together*) for my favorite part of this planner. The weekly spread!

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Every week, I look at my monthly calendar and write down any events. Then I make a list of weekly goals on the far right Notes column. This includes meals I want to cook, work projects that are due, scenes I want to write in my manuscript, what days I’m going to blog, and various and sundry things like house projects. Then I spread them out across the week in the daily list section. I also look at the workout class schedule at my gym and write down any classes I’d like to take.

My weeks rarely go according to plan because that’s just life. But mapping out my week helps me make sense of the craziness, accomplish more, and not let anything super important slip through the cracks.

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Each day in the planner is like a to-do list. I LOVE the vertical format. I try to make a list of things I’d like to accomplish based on what commitments I have. This helps me budget my tasks wisely. For example, if I know I have a meeting one night, I can plan a crockpot meal so I don’t have to scramble. If I have two work projects due on the same day, I can budget my word count goals so I can still get my writing done with just less volume that day. If I want to cook at home more since the amount we’ve eaten out lately is atrocious, I can write down the meals I’d like us to have that week, make one grocery list, and plan accordingly based on what our week looks like.

I’m pretty good about sticking to my planner, but I could be better about prioritizing some things. {*cough* following my gym schedule!} My approach is to be ambitious when planning my goals but to give myself plenty of grace and wiggle room. And having a safe place to put ideas is also a really good thing!

As far as planning/time management goes, I’m a firm believer in this:

  1. You can accomplish anything that’s really important to you! Most of the time, when people say “I don’t have time,” realistically they should be saying “I’m not willing to make time.”
  2. No one person can do everything. And that’s okay. It’s important to be flexible and budget in lots of wiggle room, or else you might go crazy. Just ask College Laurie about this.
  3. People are more important than getting everything done. Sometimes throwing the schedule aside and investing in someone else is the absolute best thing you can do.
  4. There is a motivating satisfaction in crossing something off of your [preferably color-coded :)] to-do list.

Do you use a planner to manage your time? And more importantly, will anyone besides me fess up to adding things you’ve already finished on your to-do list just so you can cross them off? 

Psst: Be on the lookout for one of these in a giveaway next week! Don’t think for a second I could keep this goodness to myself!

july goals

july

It’s July! Okay, it’s almost mid-July.

This month has been crazy so far. Like the kind of busy that makes an introvert want to crawl under the covers and pull the sheets over her head for a little bit. Except, that’s not exactly plausible with a curious toddler in the house. (Homegirl will be ridiculous at hide-and-seek someday.) And it’s not exactly practical when the heat index is hovering around 110 in Oklahoma.

I have been without a planner for 10 long, busy, directionless days since my last one ran out. But according to the Amazon delivery tracker I’ve been watching, it will be here today! It’s time to put a plan of attack in place for July and to update this blog on my writing plans + hopes + dreams for the month.

When we last spoke (I think), I was finishing book two and taking a little break before beginning book three. That little break has turned into a loooong break, but I’m ready. I’d like to squeeze in an hour of focused writing each remaining day this month with the hope of getting in over 20K on this project.  I also want to plan which scene I’ll be working on the next day to help reduce the amount of writing time I spend twiddling my thumbs and wondering which scene will pack the most punch at that moment in time. Ain’t nobody got time for that. 🙂

Now, let me introduce you to my latest book babes, Blake and Lacey:

BlaceyI loved writing them as minor characters in Take Heart, so they got their own story. These are their actor doppelgängers.  Pretty close, anyway 🙂 The small-town football hero with strong family roots + the outcast cheerleader with a warped perception of love and beauty. Their sensational personalities and completely different life experiences make for a really fun dynamic between the two of them. Can’t wait to share their story with you someday. And, on that note, it’s time to get crack-a-lacking!

What are you working on this month? How are you making it happen amidst the busyness of summer?

writing the end, sickies, and sandcastles: february goals

februarygoals

I reached my January goal of finishing my latest manuscript’s first draft! Hooray! My goal was to make it to 72K with the knowledge that I still needed a few scenes to fill in some gaps, and I usually add about 10K of “muscle” in later drafts anyway. I made it to 74K!

TheEnd

So for the first few days of February, I’ve been taking it easy. Allowing myself to unwind so I can approach editing with fresh eyes. After I finish this post, I’m going to spend the rest of naptime diving into edits.

My top priority today has been taking care of this little sickie (pictured here with her tenderhearted giant guard dog).

sickiebrooke

And helping me make this all happen is this treat:

chai

Major props to Whole Foods for carrying my favorite brand of chai in the world! Everything’s better in this magical, magical land. I found out it was going to snow (again) and ran to the store on my way home from the gym. Normally, I’m armed with a meal plan and grocery list, so this was a new experience for me. But never fear, I came out with three cases of LaCroix, some thai soup, chicken, naan, and this chai. Weirdest snow grocery haul ever!

Okay, focus, Laurie. Didn’t this post have a point?

My goals in January were to finish the remaining 25K of my draft and translate the remaining 30K of my book that was still in first person. Done!

In February, I’ll be focusing on:

  • Completing the second draft to send to critique partners.
  • Writing my proposal for this book–well, to be more specific, my synopsis. (Ugh.)
  • Being more consistent with blogging.

What are your goals for this month? Don’t mind me. I’ll just be building sandcastles 🙂

shannonhale

november goals

Wow. I can’t believe October is already over! My favorite month has been a whirlwind in every aspect of life. Here’s a little writing update and the airing of my November goals.

At the end of September, I sent off my requested materials to agents and editors I met at conference. I’m still in the thick of the waiting game and don’t have any expectations as to when–or if–I’ll hear back either way. But it doesn’t really feel like waiting when I’m having so much fun!

I’m taking a little break from my first manuscript before one final(ish) round of edits. Unless someone or something expedites that process, I think approaching it with a fresh eye will be the best thing in this situation.

In the meantime, manuscript two is ready for some much-needed TLC. While I’d love to do the traditional NaNoWriMo, I’m excited about finishing this project and will try to fast draft the remaining 40K-ish words as much as I can during November. My friend Carol says she’s sending her internal editor on a month-long trip to Bermuda for November, but mine apparently has attachment issues. I’ll report back on how this little experiment goes 🙂 Anyway, I’ve decided to change the first chapter to third person and see how I like it. First person has always been my thing, but I think my handsome hero’s POV would add a lot to this story.

In a surprising turn of events, I now have a third work-in-progress, a prequel to Take Heart. It came to me when I was reading my critique partner Anne Love’s manuscript and one of her minor characters really jumped off the page. So now, at the wise recommendation of my dear Kathleen, one of my side characters has her first three chapters written, the makings of a plot scribbled into a rough one-page summary. I kind of love it! But I’m going to be a good girl and finish at least the first draft of book two before I dig in to this. For now, this will be a work-in-waiting.

That’s all for November on the writing front! It’s going to be a busy one, but I’ll be back with plenty of updates.

What’s on your horizon for November? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

{august goals}

**Thanks for all of the love on my New Adult blog post! The ACFW loop blew up with a lively email conversation on the topic a few days later, so it’s been fun and encouraging to see such a positive response to this genre.**

 

august

I can’t believe August will be here tomorrow. The eighth month of the year. And if the rest of this year is any indication, I’m pretty sure it’s going to fly!

Maybe it’s because it’s my birthday month and my last chance to make this age all it can be, but I’m setting some pretty big goals for myself in August.

I can do anything for a month, right?

My writing-related goals for August are:

  • Develop my pitch for my first manuscript
  • Polish my one-sheet copy
  • Complete NaNoWriMo to finish the bulk of my second manuscript

Yes, you read that correctly. If you don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is usually in November. But the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month, which works out to 1600-1700 words a day. I’d love to have something to show for this new idea at conference–I’m that excited about it!

I’ll update you when I figure out how I’m going to make this happen 🙂

Have you set any goals for August? Is anyone crazy enough to join me?