Planning and scheduling

Do you like when life is somewhat chaotic or do you rather prefer planning and scheduling?

As for me, I stay on the planning side of the fence most of the time, I like when things work as I expect. Planning helps me to get organised, to meet deadlines, to capture my ideas, and it motivates my creativity. It focuses my thoughts and activities in the right direction.

I like to visualise the planning to see at a glance the condition of my plans so from time to time I create various tables to get there. To inspire you, I’d like to show you one of the tables today, a simple table I created for planning my blog posts.

A few weeks ago I decided that I want my blog to have some regularity, not to be a place where I randomly put this or that, sometimes twice a week, sometimes once a month. Some bloggers say that posting regularly is like having an overwhelming job they don’t enjoy and prefer that here-and-there posting as mood strikes or circumstances allow but that’s not me so I decided on publishing a post a week, it seems to be an achievable frequency for me. I would like it to be the basic scheme with some flexibility. But life often gets into way, so I was thinking about ways how to increase the probability of keeping up with my schedule.

In 2016 I created a simple list in my bullet journal where I was planning my future posts simply by writing their topics and checking them off when published. It did not work much and I abandoned the list when starting a new bullet journal for 2017. (Yes, I still keep a bullet journal, though I adapted it a bit to my needs and made it a bit more colourful. But that’s a story for another post.)

I concluded that the list was too vague so this time I wanted to create something more specific. It helped me that some time ago I came across a template intended for planning projects and I saved it for future inspiration. Now I used it as a starting point for creating my table of planned posts. I had to rearrange the template a lot and it might have been easier to start from scratch but it inspired me and led me to satisfactory results which was important.

The table is created in Microsoft Excel 2010 but the software is just a means, a pen and paper would be quite enough in this case. The table might not be so sophisticated but it would work as well.

So, here is how the table looks:

And here is how it works:

1. First I filled the column “Planned date of publishing” with dates in a weekly interval.

2. As soon as I decide a topic of a future post, I assign it to a date. When I enter the name of the topic into the table, the percentage automatically changes to 0% and the condition to “not started yet”.

3. In the “Prepared (%)” column, I can choose from several values available in a drop-down list in every cell of the column (0-10-25-50-75-100%) and as I am preparing the post, I assign the values based on how the preparation proceeds. Thus, when I have a few posts in a process, I can see right away how far I am with each of them, and I can easily find out whether I have enough posts on hand or need to intensify my efforts. Of course, I don’t have to use all the values, just the ones I need. In case of 10, 25, 50 and 75%, the condition automatically changes to “being prepared”, when 100% is entered, the condition changes to “prepared”.

4. When I publish the post, I enter the actual date of publishing and two things happen. The condition automatically changes to “published” and in the column “Finished”, the post is ticked off. I know, the column “Finished” wouldn’t have to be there at all but it is a great visual asset.

Of course, I could enter everything manually but in this way it’s faster so why not to use what Excel knows. The automatic changes of condition are made using functions, the yellow mini-graphs and green marks for ticking the posts off are achieved by means of conditional formatting.

If I decide to add a post in between the dates or to change a date of a planned post, I do it as needed. I only do it in such a way to keep the list chronologically according to the planned dates not to get lost in the calendar.

Also, I added one more sheet into that Excel file with a simpler table named “Ideas for posts”. I created this table in a style similar to the first table, they share one file after all… Here I put the topics I don’t plan to use for writing a post in near future but which I want to keep somewhere for future inspiration even if I never used them. As you can see I actually used the first idea for this post…

The tables may change further but after those few weeks of using and improving them, I really like the system. It’s simple and efficient and it’s motivating to see the process and progress visually. Of course, any tool like this works only as long as you use it…