Welcome to part 2 of my series on 2022 and planning
This one comes with a lot of screenshots of my spreadsheet. I’ve described the contents below each, rather than doing alt-text, since the description is useful to everyone in figuring out what I’m doing there.
I do some brief tracking every day in what I refer to as my One Spreadsheet To Rule Them All. It has sheets for:
- Summary: overview of the day/series of days on one sheet with an overall score for each day.
- Body: movement, sleep, did I manage to continue to breathe while sleeping (aka my CPAP machine data.) If I had to leave the house/had errands (look, leaving the house is a drain on the body, reliably.)
- Doing: tallying up what I did that day (mostly for seeing if I keep a reasonable balance). I do it by category, more below.
- Lothlorien: my ongoing walk project
- Spirit: Song of the day, Tarot card of the day, place to tick off if I do other ritual things.
- Words: Four sheets that cover:
- Summary by project
- Monthly summary by project
- Daily summary (and calculations for needed progress for hte current book)
- Daily log (each bit of writing in a day gets a line.)
- A few other pages I use for tracking specific things.
The joy of this being in a spreadsheet is I can run calculations on it. That summary sheet is the place I enter planetary information for astrology, so I can do things like “Do I write more when the sun is in this sign or that sign?” exploration.
(Which means I’ve known for two years that I sleep less well around the full moon and I should give myself extra time in bed then. I’m planning on pulling the data from multiple years into a single sheet this winter and seeing what long-term patterns I come up with.)
What that looks like
You get a day’s worth of data here, since I’m posting this on December 22nd, and I start the new file on the winter solstice.
I update the Body tab (movement, sleep, etc.) at the end of my day (just before I start writing), and I update the Doing tab the following morning. (So today, December 22nd, I put in the 21st’s data this morning and I’ll do today’s tomorrow morning.)
As you can see, there’s a header image with my word for the year (glow), some images (this year’s images are mostly from PathofPixels on Etsy or several collections from creators on Creative Market), the tally for overview of days (from awful to ‘lean back’, aka ‘you may have done too much today, stop that’.)
Down the left are the days: normally I filter these so I just see the current month. The next column is “how good was this day”, colour coding done automatically based on the total. Then there’s four boxes for ‘how good was this day’ based on focus, willpower, emotional resilence, and energy (roughly air stuff, fire stuff, water stuff, and earth stuff.) The next columns are astrological locations (this allows me to do some later calculations: note they’re wrong in the screenshot because I messed something up and will have to redo the data entry.)
Then we get ‘how many ritual things did I do’ (routinely 1, my morning offerings, more if I’ve done more things), my song of the day, Tarot card pull, number of words written, points from tasks, sleep time, quality, and my AHI score, if I was sick (which gets factored into calculations) and if there was anything unusual about the day (like it being vacation.)
Here’s that “what did I do today” tally. These are discussed further in part 3, so head over there for those details.
I have a sheet with more body-related tracking.
This has the dates down the left, then:
- Total minutes
- Minutes of activity tracked in my pedometer app
- Minutes of actual concerted exercise (a video, a walk outside, etc.)
- Various other forms of movement (dance, qi gong, stretching)
- Minutes at home when my phone wasn’t in my pocket
- Steps counted
- Time I slept, sleep quality (per my app), and my AHI (from my CPAP app.)
- The right side of the sheet is for me to mark if I went anywhere, because leaving my house is tiring. (Today, December 22nd, was an allergy shot day, and I had errands to do on the way home.)
- The top of the sheet has averages and totals, listed month by month.
That walking project: Between Samhain 2020 and Samhain 2021, I walked from Hobbiton to Rivendell using a walking guide. (Mostly, it gives me a goal to hit that is just about what I want my walking to average out to.) I’m thinking that when I get to Lothlorien (by Samhain 2022), I’ll see about some alternate walk options.
I have a sheet that tracks how many miles I’ve gone, and what pace I need to keep to get there by my desired goal date, and then I fill in blocks and calculate how many miles in a month as I go. When the weather’s reasonable, I walk outside, otherwise it’s in my living room with a walking video.
This tracks the song of the day (from a series of playlists), the Tarot card pul of the day, and marks for different kinds of rituals. (My usual morning practice takes 10-15 minutes tops.) Graphics on this one include some from a purchase on Creative Market.
I have three different sheets for word count purposes: the log, a daily count, and a by-project count. The image above is the log, where I put in every chunk of writing I do, and categorise it and give it a type.
(For romance novels/stories, this is the book/story, otherwise it’s stuff like “article” or “Dreamwidth post” or whatever. “Bells of Atlantis” is the romance writing for reasons that amuse my brain, the numbers in “what” in this case are the chapter numbers. I’m currently trying to finish two books because time got weird, and I’m in “work on whichever one I can move forward on” mode this week.)
This means I can do a small amount on ten different projects if I want, and have them all calculate up right. I set it up this way last year, and it was a pain in the neck but so incredibly useful, and I’m glad I invested the time.
Here’s how that comes out on the daily sheet:
In the daily sheet image, you can see calculations by month at the top (including how many days I hit my goal for one of my writing communities, and how often I got over 2K, which has been my during-pandemic goal (not commuting was very good for my wordcount: I will be adjusting that back down this year.) Next at the top come totals for the year, and whether I’m ahead of pace. The third summary section has to do with the book in progress, so I can see how many chapters I need to write to finish by my deadline. (In this case, it’s misleading: I want to finish both books in early January so I can write a novella.)
Across the bulk of the sheet are the date, the total number of words, and then the five major categories I write in. I could add more if I needed, but this covers me well.
I’m not bothering to share the totals sheet here, it just looks pretty and also fills the authorial projects list as I come up with book titles.
I have been weirdly resistant to tracking my reading, but doing it in a spreadsheet log turns out to getting some useful info (including “when did I read that?”) and also “how much Edwardian to 1920s stuff have I read recently?”
I have not in fact quite finished the book listed here, but I am pretty sure I will in fact finish it when I go to bed tonight, so have some sample data.
The reading log has columns by month for number of books and number of pages (useful if I turned out to read few very long books), a column for genre/other groupings, and one for time period (heavy on the divisions for the period I write in.)
I count fanfic of novellaish and longer length (and shorter stories that are interstitial between novel-length works) but don’t count every random short fic I read.
Tracking notes in general
Types of goals: Overall, I turn out to do best with keeping a rolling average going, both for word count and exercise. I have days where I do a substantially smaller amount than average (walking half a mile instead of a mile and a half, writing 500 words rather than the 1500ish that is my goal average going into 2022).
I may have days when I do none, if I’m actively sick. As opposed to the chronic health bog that is my usual life where several things are tedious, but none of them are shouting over everything else.
Why track: Fundamentally, that chronic health stuff is why I track. I know that if I have a super busy day, I will be up for less for the next day or three or five. (I’m revamping the spreadsheet this year so there is a “You did too much, don’t do that again too soon.” category.)
Those daily averages help me catch trends of bad days so I can do something to help myself out (plan to take it easier, cancel some optional stuff, do easier cooking, get more sleep, maybe take some extra meds.)
But also, tracking stuff you care about is a way to make sure you spend some time on it. I get cranky about the necessary walking time, but I really hate putting in lower numbers for it, so I will push myself just a hair more sometimes. Same thing with wordcount.
In December of 2020, I took the HB90 course from Sarra Cannon, and have found it tremendously helpful in filling the middle-range gap in my planning: the stuff that’s between weekly and yearly. She designed this with an eye to writing and specifically indie publishing, but it works well for anything where you can create long-term goals that you work toward over months. If you’re not sure about the course, Sarra talks about it on her YouTube channel and has planners that explain the method.
How long does this planning take? It takes me 2-3 hours to do the quarterly planning, but once I’ve done it, I don’t have to do a ton other than the weekly planning for a quarter. (I may drop some projects or add some, but I have a good idea of my capacity and options.)
Normally I do that planning about 2 weeks before the new quarter. By that point (because a lot of my life is actually pretty predictable…) I have a decent idea of what’s coming up and what I want to do about that.
I should note: I run my quarters starting on the fire festivals (starting in February, May, August, and November), because this lines up with my writing schedule, including NaNoWriMo, and with a bunch of other cycles in my life. Sarra runs on the January/April/July/October starts, so I am perpetually out of sync with others in the chat group.
What this helps solve for me
1) Having a clear idea what my broad goals for the quarter are and creating a list of specific projects that fit in those goals.
Sarra suggests three goals: I don’t factor my work goals into this (because work already has plenty of time for me to focus on these! Though I do use some of the scheduling approaches for long-term projects with deadlines.) Mine are usually writing, witchy life, and daily life projects.
2) Figuring out how many days I have to work on those things.
I write every day (though I don’t always manage fiction every day), but I have a lot of other projects that fit into specific days on my calendar. Sarra suggests figuring out how many working days you have: I go a step further and work out a spreadsheet that lets me lay out predictable stuff on my calendar.
On average, I have an hour in the evening on workdays to work on projects or necessary life stuff (sometimes more like 90 minutes), and allow two hours for writing. On weekends, I have an hour or two of project time on Saturdays if there are coven things that day, and I keep Sundays free as my one reliable project block, as well as time for focused witchy reading/study/work.
I have a spreadsheet where I can set out the days. I mark off time for known events (work, gaming, coven stuff, weekly budget stuff, planning time, any other days where I know I won’t have time to do my usual chunks of stuff on that day.) Then I mark up the other chunks of time, so I can get a total of “how many hours do I have for this kind of work this quarter?”
- Deep work : focused project work that really needs a couple of hours at a time. (I only get this on Sundays, non-coven Saturdays, and vacation days, and it’s when I do my book editing as well as more complex projects.)
- Evening : That hour or so I have between getting home / reading / making and eating dinner and my writing time. Good for writing-related admin tasks, the data wrangling I do for a friend, some kinds of “let me figure out what I’m doing about this thing I need” research.
- Witchy: Time specifically for personal practice – reading and study on Sundays, plus I mark off time for this on the new and full moons, plus planning time for significant coven stuff (like an initiation). Smaller stuff I just cover during the week as I need to.
- Regular: Things I do every week (and can’t do other things during that time) – my budget on Thursday and planning on Saturday. (I plan an hour, and usually have some time left to work on something else.)
Sometimes I look at that and go “Wow, I need to plan to take some vacation days.” so I can do some more deep work and editing. (Fortunately, I get a generous yearly allotment, by US standards, and most of the time it’s not a problem to take them when I want or at least within a week of a given date.)
What does this actually look like? In my current quarter as I write this, (November 2021 through January 2022) I’ve got:
- 54 days of work
- 6 days with coven stuff (lighter than usual, we don’t schedule between our Yule ritual and early January)
- 24 days with some evening event (in this case, I think it’s all gaming.)
And then I calculate how much actual time (in hours) I have for each of those categories. This comes out to:
- 182 hours of writing time (over a total of 91 days)
- 124 hours of deep work (over 30 days: I’m taking two weeks off from winter solstice to New Year’s.)
- 79 hours of evening time (over 57 days)
- 49 hours of witchy time (over 32 days)
- 26 hours of regular activities (over 26 days)
Then I take those numbers and reduce them by a margin. This gives me space for having a bad day (healthwise or otherwise), stuff coming up I didn’t anticipate, etc. I use somewhere between 10 and 20% as a margin depending on the category. This gets me down to:
- 164 hours of writing
- 99 hours of deep work
- 71 hours of evening work
- 44 hours of witchy work
- 26 hours of regular time (this is the one with no margin)
My spreadsheet also lets me know stuff like “Out of 44 hours of witchy work, you need to plan on 6 new and full moon hours.” We do in fact have an initiation coming up in February if all keeps going well, so I’ll need to allow for that time in next quarter’s planning and I’ll do less personal witchy stuff as a result or need to find the time from another category.
Once I’ve done all of that, I can figure out how much time I realistically have to do different kinds of projects. This involves another sheet on the spreadsheet, where I write down all the projects I want to do, guess at how many hours they’ll take, and what type of work and type of goal they’re dealing with. These numbers don’t need to be perfect (Though for some of them, I’ve got a pretty good idea how long they’ll take me. that’s where all the previous time tracking is handy.)
I can compare those numbers to how much time I’ve figured out that I likely have, and adjust until the projects I’m aiming for fit under the time. (This is why I built the margin in first.)
Some projects are long. I have 30 hours this quarter for editing a book, and 50 hours for doing a bunch of wiki work over vacation, to get a public wiki up about my books.
On the shorter end, I have projects for an hour every month to plan for initiate discussion (this covers my time to read the chapter we’re discussing and take notes to give us stuff to talk about if needed. Sometimes I need two hours.)
When in doubt, I overestimate the amount of time it will take – I pretty much always have ongoing projects that could use more time if I find myself with extra time to work on something. Being realistic with myself about how many projects I’ll likely progress on, however, is trickier.
I’m the sort of person where I’m fine planning this out in a fair amount of detail in advance. The trick for me is that I can decide I’m putting something on pause or not getting to it, even if I’ve planned time for it. (And usually the biggest chunks of time are related to things I’m pretty committed to getting done.)
Things not included here:
There are some things I don’t include in this planning, because I do them every day. (I also write every day, but I like having an idea of whether there’s anything that might affect writing time – if I were travelling, for example, I’d still write but expect to have less time.)
- Eating (though I usually do the bulk of the time-involving cooking on Sundays). I do meal planning every 10 days or so before grocery shopping which cuts down on time spent figuring this out day to day.
- Walking (I try to do 20-30 minutes every day, either outside in decent weather or inside if it’s not.)
- Reading (at least 20 minutes, I prefer to aim for 30-45. I do this between work and dinner.)
- Minor household chore stuff (dishes, feeding the cat, cat litter) with usually an hour or so of additional cleaning every week over the course of the weekend.
- Other necessary personal stuff (shower, meds, sorting my meds out for the next week, etc.)
(The walking is, alas, a necessity for health reasons, as much as I can. I find the time demand annoying, but I admit I feel a lot better when I do it.)
Projects live in Todoist, which holds all the “I want to remember to do that sometime” and “I want to at least think about doing that sometime.” Some of this is routine reminders for stuff. Some of it is appointments (it syncs to my primary personal calendar). I also toss a link to stuff I want to watch in there, with a bunch of subprojects. (This means I can go “I want to watch something sorta about history” and open up that list, and find a thing.)
I am not great about doing a weekly review, but about every six weeks I have a fit of going through all my projects and assigning dates to stuff that should have actual dates. (These are usually the sort of “I need to make a phone call sometime, not urgently, ugh, phone calls are hard.” tasks, or things that I want to get done but don’t have a real deadline. Work tasks and stuff involving scheduling with other people get dates up front.)
I also stick all my long-term astrology notes in Todoist, as noted, so they pop up on my daily list. (It means I can clear out about 20 things first thing in the morning, which is also sort of fun.)
When I was checking on topics to cover a friend (quite reasonably!) asked what I did for monthly planning.
Answer: Mostly, I don’t.
I’ve played with doing a monthly spread in the planner but in practice I set it up and then never look at it again, which is not very satisfying to me.
I do have some specific monthly tasks: they get plugged into the appropriate times on my quarterly planning sheet, so I don’t doublebook myself for that time (usually these are things I do in my evening time before writing.)
- End of month budget stuff, paying credit cards, etc.
- End of month book sales numbers into the spreadsheet that breaks those down in different ways
- Monthly data wrangling for the friend I do data wrangling for (ideally in the first week of the month, but this is a bit more fluid.)
I also do some new moon, full moon, and change of solar zodiac sign, but those are rarely the start or end of a month.