Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How Ben Franklin Got Me Here

 by Shannon Baker
I credit (blame?) Benjamin Franklin for me ever writing a single word toward publication. More accurately, Steven Covey (the 7 Habits guy) for being inspired by Ben to create the model of organization, The Franklin Day Planner. I know there are myriad organizational and goal-setting tools but this particular system smacked me upside the head about twenty years ago.

Until then, I had this vague I idea I’d like to write a novel someday. It would be a masterpiece and I’d sell a million copies. But I was young and busy and thought that I’d have more time to devote to that pursuit later.
Then I serendipitously ended up in a seminar on the process of the Franklin Day Planner. The idea is that you start with your values. You write all this down and from values, you develop long term goals, medium term, and short term, eventually landing on daily tasks that will lead you to success.

This isn’t new or groundbreaking. But it did get me off the “someday” track and onto the “write something every day” highway. I’m not saying that is a good thing. (Who is the writer whose best advice to aspiring writers is never start?)

Bit by bit, day by day, I approached my goals, made new ones and inched down the long and winding road toward publication, just like Ben said I would.

Along the way, I had a life. It got complicated with children and jobs and all manner of things. Eventually, I ended up going from one duty to another, checking off all those tasks in my day planner but not enjoying much of anything. During a giant transition period, I tilted. I needed simplify.

Away went the day planner, along with a husband and other useless things.

A little at a time I’ve added stuff back. Suddenly, I find myself in the midst of multi-tasking hell. I really love everything I’m steeped in at the moment but, honestly, the water’s getting pretty hot. .

I’m making lists. And losing them. I have an Outlook calendar at the office but it doesn’t sync to my phone or my home computer. I’m waking up at 3 A.M. in a panic. Who doesn’t do that, though? Right?

Maybe it’s time to get organized. But like a diet, if you do it once, you learn how to cheat and it’s never as effective the second time around, I fear I won’t work the Franklin method well. Plus, there are so many great electronic solutions out there. I just don’t have the time to search them out because of, you know, all that stuff that’s got me hopping.

So this is my chance to have you all do the research for me and report back. What do you use to keep all the chainsaws in the air? What can I use that will work on my Android and my laptop and make me look like the hip, together professional I pretend to be?    


Shannon Baker said...

Bless Mario Acevado's heart, he supplied the quote: Mario wrote: ""If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy." Dorothy Parker"

Beth Groundwater said...

Shannon, I use a long-term to-do list that has about a month's worth of big tasks on it and a short-term to-do list for small tasks for today and tomorrow. I do think it's important to reassess every few months, to go back to to your values and long-term goals and see if you're spending your time on the right activities.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I think goal lists are important: yearly lists and longer term, too. My daily ones... don't usually work so well. :/

Kathleen Ernst said...

Shannon, I'm still trying to figure it out myself. I keep my to-do list in a spiral notebook. Each week I create an updated list. High priority items get stars. Stuff completed gets crossed off. (Yay) I regret to note that some things stay on the list for weeks or months.

Deborah Sharp said...

Glad to read your post and find I'm not the only one sometimes spinning my wheels. I also make lists, but find, like Kathleen, many items lingering and lingering. Sometimes, though, paging back through a notebook I'll see an old list and be amazed that all the to-dos have been done (or some, merely timed out). I do use Google's online calendar for daily appts. and such, but that doesn't really address an over-arc of 'What am I doing with my life??? '

Catriona McPherson said...

Shannon, I use a paper diary - one of the New Yorker style ones with a spiral spine, and a paper calendar on the kitchen wall. Neil, the undergardener, uses google calendar, somthing on a device, something on a smaller device . . . which one of us is more likely to sit up in bed at 3am and say "I'm supposed to be in Seattle". You decide. Lists: I love 'em. But I cross things off either when I've done them or when I've decided not to. Goals: I suppose I think life's a trip, not a project basically. Lots of love, Deadbeat European Constantly Gobsmacked by American Go-gettingness.

Shannon Baker said...

So I can still use paper and not be a total dork? YOu guys give me hope!