• Terri

Learn to plan to fail.

And you won't fail.


Photo by Danial Mesbahi on Unsplash

Today I'm going to tell you about one of my best ways to avoid stress, rather than just curing it. When I say "fail", I don't mean failing at your task, or not succeeding. I am referring to when you plan a tight schedule, and you're supposed to work on that article but instead you get a phone call so your whole planning falls apart. Or you had a rough week, the people you work with aren't pulling their weight but you still care to make your deadlines so you pull a few extra long nights. Then you forget you were supposed to go see your parents. You're exhausted but you go anyway and suddenly by the end of the Sunday, when you're supposed to start again the next morning, you're broken down. You've "failed". I know there are more people who know this feeling. You have a certain amount of week goals, deadlines and other things you want to progress with weekly, so you schedule each item in carefully, in the hopes to get it all done. This happens to a lot to writers who are working on a novel. Since a novel is such a long term project, usually with no solid deadline (especially if it's not the writer's primary job), a writer becomes determined to see a certain amount of progress every day or every week. If they have a job or other projects, this easily falls apart. And the recovery of this failure takes a few days of reorganising or rethinking your schedule. Not to mention, living that way is mentally damaging. You don't just need the discipline to work, you also need the discipline to not work. I always found this to be my biggest bottleneck to keep a busy schedule while maintaining selfcare. Selfcare comes in decisions like not working past six if you get up at five every morning, or making sure your work phone is off while you're having lunch or making your dinner. But I'll always believe that "planning to fail" is the best thing I can do for my work efficiency and my mental health. So I'll explain how this works. A lot of people get confused by the title, or think that "planning to fail so you won't fail" is an oxymoron. The basic of it is very simple: assume that you'll be too tired to work, assume that your candle will be burned up, and plan for it. Assume that by the time it's Wednesday afternoon, you're exhausted and you need the afternoon off. Instead of planning the third day of the week completely full, keep the afternoon free. Even if you end up feeling okay that afternoon, rest anyway. The biggest mistake I can make is to continue to work because I'm not "tired enough yet". If you end each day with a depleted battery, recharging becomes a difficult task. Ultimately, you want to end the day feeling like you have enough energy to do one more thing, but then rest anyway. This will assure that you're charged enough the next day. So, in practice this means abiding by a few rules. 1. Aim for no more than 13 active hours a day. So if you day starts at six a.m. you put your work down at seven p.m at the very latest. 2. Within those active hours, you include at least two breaks. I'd recommend at least one of them to be about an hour, but it is adjustable according to your needs and schedule. During a break, isolate yourself from your work, don't let others disturb your hour of peace. While you typically spend part of your break eating, you must also spend some of time turning off your brain. 3. Take a moment before the start of your work week, to plan in your work. Either work with definite hours, or blocks of time, and dedicate those blocks to the tasks and deadlines that you have. Then, keep at least two of those blocks empty. They will serve for you to either rest, or catch up on work that you didn't manage to do a different time. 4. Prioritize. Decided which tasks -must- be done, and which are flexible. If you don't feel well or something comes up, you can change the flexible events to your needs. Remember, your health is a priority. The result of this philosophy is a schedule that allows you enough rest to keep going at the pace you desire. Some might say that this makes perfect sense, yet a lot of people, especially writers, are so driven to fill up their schedule and work as much as they can, that selfcare becomes an easy oversight. These rules, with the idea of planning to fail in mind, prevent that you push yourself into a mental break-down. In the theme of curing stress, the best way to get rid of it, is to remove the source of stress and preventing it from building up. We aren't as immune to stress as we think, we're just too used to it. Depleting your battery to 1% works for phones, not humans.

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©2020 by Terrinia Tells.