Posts Tagged ‘planning’

Now what?

It’s the thought many people have after a long-anticipated event. Doesn’t matter if it is a marathon, huge exam, graduation, or a recital. Something that one has put massive amounts of time, energy, and concentration into. I am currently in a grey area of lostness-
precipitated by my senior recital, which occurred on Sunday. I see that my slumps are worsened by a lack of big-picture planning. Let me explain…

I have my ultimate goals in life–things like becoming a physician, teaching and playing flute at my highest possible ability. But those goals are not one-step processes. Each one is made up of smaller checkpoints and the path to each checkpoint is a series of action steps. My senior recital was a checkpoint. My priority checkpoint for the last month or so (that sounds a little sad–as if I were ignoring it before that time, but think realistically. Can any person truly have more than one priority at any given time? Can you have multiple things that are the “most important?” No. Something always wins even though other important things may come in at a close second.)

When I am working toward a checkpoint I am constantly focused on the next action step. And my action steps are probably smaller than you would imagine. Say my checkpoint is to get an a in one of my classes. What is my current action step? Is it to write the paper that is due next week? No. Is it even to write the outline for that paper? Think smaller yet. What is the smallest item I can possibly do? Here is how I break up the checkpoint for getting an A. I will use this semester’s Psychology of Women’s class as an example. For this class I have a grand total of 2 exams and 5 papers for the entire semester.¬†Checkpoints would be:¬†paper #1, paper #2, midterm exam, paper #3, paper #4, paper #5, final exam. Action steps for paper #1: choose a topic, determine a focus, find x number of journals/books with research and/or support for my view, read each source (x number of action steps), read the corresponding chapter of the text, review corresponding class notes, reevaluate my focus [depth and breadth] for length/connection to class, write outline, write rough draft, edit draft, add bibliography, final edit. Sounds nit-picky, but in reality it’s what you would do anyway, I just break each step down visually instead of mentally. This keeps me from getting overwhelmed. I could just say: write outline, write rough draft, write final draft. But I can’t sit down and do any one of those in 30 min without prior preparation. I break down things into approximately 30 min tasks so I always k ow precisely the next thing I need to do, precisely what I need to do it, and I know that I can accomplish it in a reasonable amount of time. It also prevents me from getting ahead of myself and spend hours writing before I realize that my topic is much too large/small to fit in the assigned length. I obviously have multiple classes so knowing my next action step makes it easier to plan my days and study sessions. I no longer find myself at the library switching subjects only to realize that I am missing some key element that I need to get closer to my next checkpoint.

And now back to my original point: a lack of overall planning. When I am absorbed in my priority checkpoint I always have a very clear picture of where I am and where I will go next. Once that checkpoint is achieved I have a time of “what next?” I obviously know the next actions in all the checkpoints that are in front of me, it’s really an issue of choosing which checkpoint will be my next priority. Do I want my net priority to be Psych 346? Psych 313? Phys 112? My planned marathon? A flute competition? A pet project of my own? If I reach one checkpoint without planning my next checkpoint, I become lost in the sea of possibilities. I waste time only half-committing myself as I thinks about what I could/should/want to do next.

Even as I write this it sounds ridiculously over thought. But I have realized that I need this ultimate structure in my life. If I always know where I am headed next then I find it is much easier to deal with all the swells and dips that come in life. Instead of being in a tiny boat and being upset by each single wave, I am instead in a large boat and each wave just gently rocks me, but doesn’t throw me off course.

So what will my next priority be? I’m not sure yet, but I know I need one asap. Perhaps my first priority will be to choose my next priority checkpoint.

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