planning for 2021

Planning for 2021 – Deadlines and Dead Certs

Tomorrow is the beginning of December and whilst many of us are on the countdown to the holiday season, it’s a good time to be planning for 2021 in order to hit the ground running as the New Year chimes in. Over the next four weeks, I am going to run a series of blog posts in relation to planning for the new year. Today, I will be looking at deadlines and dead certs – events, workshops, challenges etc. that are already booked in to your diary.

Mapping out your year is a great way to keep you on track. However, you must remain adaptable to some extent as we can’t plan for every eventuality – just look at how 2020 turned out, who could have planned for any of that?

In that regard, plan for quarterly or monthly milestones to keep you on track, and celebrate your wins, however small. Working towards a large goal step-by-step will give you the sense of achievement for each little step on the way to the main goal.

The mantra of “Plan. Do. Evaluate” is also golden whilst long-term planning as it is important to readjust goals and plans when things don’t quite go the way we intend them to. Sometimes events that are out of our control come along and we have to evaluate where we are and where we need to get to and adjust accordingly.

Using a calendar or diary is essential to ensure everything is written down and visible so you can refer to it regularly to keep you heading in the right direction, and to ensure that nothing is missed. You don’t want to suddenly remember an important deadline, the night before it’s due.

Below I look at the first two categories you should get written into your 2021 planner:


As a writer, it is likely you have at least one project as a work in progress. However, it is also possible that you have several. They might not all be novels or big projects, but they all count as a WIP. It is essential to keep on top of the deadlines for all of these.

An established writer will have deadlines set for them by their agent, editor or publisher etc. Any dates that you already have set as concrete deadlines should be written into the diary straight away. These are concrete dates and, unless anything disastrous happens (Covid-20 anyone?), will need to be stuck to.

Where deadlines are not being set by third parties, you may want to set deadlines for yourself. Do you want to get that first novel finished in 2021? If so, work backwards and think about when you’d like to have it finished, when would you need to have it with a publisher? When would you need to get an editor? When would you need to have your first round of edits done? When would you want to have your first draft done? How many words a day do you need to write to reach that first draft deadline date? Obviously these are only a handful of steps but this gives you an idea of the deadlines you need to create for yourself.

Dead Certs

These are events that are definitely going to happen during the year. These can include courses or workshops you have booked onto, or are going to teach. Coaching events that you have booked or plan to lead. Are there challenges you intend to take or to set for others? Whether you’re a student or a teacher, get those dates down in the diary.

For example, in the writing community, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is an annual event that happens every November. It may sound like a long way away but it’s amazing how fast time flies by. If you intend to take part as a writer, you will want to block out time during that month for writing, and time during October to prepare.

Similarly, if you plan to coach writers through NaNoWriMo, you need to plan when you will be running workshops, whether you will run preparation sessions, whether you run pre-events to get people interested etc. All of these “extras” to the main event need careful planning and scheduling well in advance so you can be prepared.

On that note, if you plan to run events as a teacher or coach, you not only need to consider the event itself but all of the build up and preparation for it. You will need to find an audience to sell the event to so you will also need to plan your marketing strategy and schedule that into your planner also. Think about when you will market the event, how you intend to get writers in and therefore when you need to start advertising and getting people’s attention. The build up to events is just as important as the event itself and can be the difference between the success or failure of your event.

Do try to save yourself some time and consider whether or not you can set up some sort of evergreen lead-magnet or opt-in to keep the event in people’s minds. Consider an email sequence that provides your readership with useful information (not just sales copy) that will make them see the value of your event and what you as a teacher or coach has to offer.

Obviously closer to the event you will need to use all the marketing techniques including retargeting, social media coverage, paid advertising etc. I will cover some of these things in later blog posts but do consider how much work is required when booking events into your planner. Taking the time to think about it now and planning it out, will save panic when you realise the event is next month and you’ve done nothing towards it yet.

When planning for 2021, consider also seasonal events including religious holidays, annual sales events, seasons etc. If you run a blog you will probably decide to release content relating to seasonal events at those times, so plan for those in your new year scheduling. Annual sales, such as Black Friday etc. should be written in and planned for – know what you’re going to sell, when you will promote it etc. Taking time out to plan well in advance will save a lot of last minute stress and panic and will allow you to have a strategy that is more likely to pay dividends than throwing something out there last minute.

Planning for 2021 (Part I) Summary

One of the keys to success in business is to have planned well. Be prepared for what might be unexpectedly thrown at you and be able to adapt your plan accordingly. Having a basic structure in place can be really helpful when life throws you a curveball as you can adapt rather than have to start from scratch. When planning for 2021, get those main events down in your diary, plan for them and then, if necessary, evaluate and adapt.

How is your planning for 2021 going? Have you started? How many events have you already scheduled into your 2021 planner? Have you planned for the preparation of events as well as the event itself? Have you already got deadlines from third parties? Or set deadlines yourself for your WIP? Do let me know how organised you are in the comments.

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2 thoughts on “Planning for 2021 – Deadlines and Dead Certs”

  1. Thanks Ruth, lots of useful tips here. Have made a fairly good start on plans for next year, but am looking forward to more posts in this series, a good reminder to keep me on track 🙂

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