I like to set goals every week for my writing. I use a special planning notebook to track my effort and assess my progress on my many projects. Lately, I have not been meeting my goals. My 14-year-old miniature poodle Dory has been through two dental surgeries this month and a lot of my time has gone to nursing her instead of writing.

My 14-year-old miniature poodle Dory

When we took Dory in for a follow-up last Tuesday, I thought we were done with the dental stuff. They’d extracted ten teeth the week before. It took her two full days to shake off the sedation, but she was otherwise okay. Then the vet told us Dory had popped the sutures on one of the canine extractions and needed to have them re-done, which meant another sedation and another long day at the vet for my anxious old dog.

As if that weren’t enough, Dory was vomiting the day before the second surgery, and we had to take her in to figure out what was going on. Nothing much, it turned out, but it took half the morning to figure that out.

It’s easy to get frustrated by this kind of disruption. Emergencies crop up, and I can’t do the things I wanted to. If it isn’t the dog, I’m the one who’s sick. Sometimes another family member needs my help. Life, as they love to remind us, happens, and we have to adjust.

In January, I discovered how common it is for my schedule to be disrupted. I was reviewing the planning notebook I used for the last two years and discovered that my most common observation can be summed up in seven words:

This week did not go as planned.

Week after week, I recorded the unexpected distractions and unavoidable disruptions that affected my writing. Sometimes I made my goals despite everything, sometimes I didn’t. But there was always something going on that could interfere with my work. It was an excellent reminder that despite my other responsibilities, I can still find time to write.

Sometimes I give up on planning entirely

Despite illness, fatigue, family obligations, and vet visits, my projects move forward. I complete a draft, schedule blog posts, finish reading a book for research. The secret to my success is simple. I make a plan.

I check in on Mondays to chart a course for the week. I do my best to be realistic with my expectations. I actually try to plan for the things that might put me off my stride, like doctor’s appointments and social events. No matter how carefully I think things through, there’s always some sort of surprise to be dealt with during the week. I just do the best I can, and that seems to work. Planning helps me make progress even when life forces me to abandon those plans.

Meanwhile, I’m happy to report that Dory has started playing with her toys. It’s the moment I’ve been waiting for. She’s finally recovered enough to realize that not only has the pain from the surgery faded, but the pain her bad teeth were causing her is gone, too. From the way she was racing around, I could tell she feels better than she has in ages.

This week did not go as planned. But it was just fine.

What do you do when your plans get disrupted?

6 thoughts on “Disrupted Plans Still Help Me Write”

  1. Kit, do you use a special kind of notebook to do your planning? Or, do use a blank notebook? I’m trying to use a special notebook that I fill in the dates and list things I plan/need to do. Sometimes it work and sometimes not! Oh, well. Just have to start over. I think that’s my philosophy!

    1. I’ve used different things over the years, but in 2016? 17? I discovered bullet journaling, where you build your own calendar pages, etc, so I buy blank notebooks with page numbers (like Leuchturm) to build my planner in. You can find videos about Bullet Journaling that explains the process. My favorite thing shows in a few of these photos: threading. You use every page in the notebook by indicating in the header the page that comes before, and the page that goes after, so that pages about the same topic don’t have to be consecutive.

  2. I like your acceptance of those plans that don’t go the way you thought they would. I need to adopt a less black-and-white view of disrupted plans. It’s all about flexibiity, when I remember to be willing to go with the flow that actually works. But I have had a history of giving up on a project or day when my initial vision is overshadowed by circumstances. Great insights!

    I’m glad you pup is doing well. Dory’s a tough little dog!

    1. Thanks! It’s something I’m still learning how to do. My recent goal-setting is trying to be more flexible. I set a really low bar (10 minutes a session) because I know if I just get started, I’ll probably do more than that, but if I tell myself up front to do more than that, I never start. Also, instead of writing every day, I am shooting for seven sessions a week. That way I can do a second session on days when I’m free and don’t have to feel guilty if I need to skip a day.

      I’m astonished at how tough a 13-lb dog can be…

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