You’re all fired up to start a new creative habit. Or kick a bad one.
You know you need a regular schedule to make it work.
But what will you do when life get’s in the way?
Without a fall-back option you can easily be derailed by life’s ups and downs.
You need a When-Then Plan.
Let’s look at an example: You decide you’re going to put in an extra hour on your creative work every day.
You set the alarm an hour earlier and in the blink of an eye you’re in the studio with a cup of coffee in your hand.
You keep to this for a week, a month, longer.
You pat yourself on the back for your ‘streak’. You share it on social media and your peers shout, “Awesome! Way to go!”
You’re on a roll.
But then the dark day dawns:
No problem. You’ll get back to your routine tomorrow or next week, right?
Or maybe not.
A weird thing happens when we break our streak. We feel demoralised. We feel like a failure. No-one breaks their streak right?
We’ve read how Stephen King writes daily without fail. How Miquel Barceló makes art every day even on holiday. Clearly we’re not in their league.
We feel deflated.
Tomorrow comes and we don’t go in the studio for that extra hour. We may not go in there at all.
Well, let me share a little coaching secret:
It’s accepting that life will - and does - happen. So you need to know in advance what you’re going to do when you’re hit by situations outside your control.
What a When-Then Plan Looks Like
The When-Then Plan is a humble affair. It goes something like this:
WHEN I can’t get into my studio for an extra hour in the morning (or any hour at all), THEN I will...
WHEN I can’t do my hour’s writing before work, THEN I will...
Using the When-Then Plan to Maintain Momentum
“But wait a minute!” I hear you say, “That doesn’t cover the hour I lost.”
You’re right. Your contingency plan won’t replace your original intention but it WILL keep you connected to it.
When we check in with our work, even just for five minutes, our Inner Critic backs down and our much more useful Critical Faculty comes into play.
Our critical faculty helps us readjust our plan to take account for the time we’ve lost and decide how to go forward.
If we have a deadline for our creative work, it helps us plan catch-up sessions or decide what isn’t absolutely critical to do.
If there’s no deadline, our Critical Faculty will help us analyse how our work is going and where we can best put our energies in the next session.
The When-Then Plan is a Review Opportunity
Another major bonus of the When-Then Plan is that it helps you transform those ‘unfortunate’ interruptions in your streak into productive pauses.
You can use these pauses to assess your direction and make sure you’re on track. Think of them as a chance to tune into your inner voice and make sure everything is as it should be.
Hit the Ground Running!
But the most powerful aspect of the When-Then Plan is that it leaves you primed to leap into your creative work at the earliest possible opportunity.
You’ll hit the ground running without any of those horrible feelings of dejection that normally accompany breaking your streak.
So remember: Your new habits are only good intentions without a When-Then Plan.
Go and write down yours!
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