New year, new goals, new tools – Lynn Cahoon

New year, new goals, new tools – Lynn Cahoon

 Jenn McKinlay: January is shaping up to be a wonderful month for new mystery releases and I am thrilled to share them with you! First up we have A Fatal Family Feast the sixth book in NYT bestselling author Lynn Cahoon's sixth Farm to Fork mystery series. Foodies, rejoice and welcome, Lynn!                                        

Lynn Cahoon: Goal setting, scheduling, planners, online calendars and scheduling apps. I’ve done them all. Well, maybe not all, but enough of a sampling to know what works for me and what doesn’t. 

Since it’s the beginning of the year and a lot of us are doing resolutions and annual goals, I thought I’d talk a bit about where I started, what has worked, and what was a total fail (for me.) As with all ideas and products, your results may differ. 

My love of time management planners started when I worked as a trainer with Region IV. I’ve always been organized. I was the girl in my college class that had done all the assigned work for an ‘A’ in a self-directed class two weeks before the end of classes and ruined the chance for the curve for the rest of the class. When I worked for the state, I got a Franklin planner. In the leather case. I still have the planner and now it’s mostly my address book. Anyway, I read Covey’s First Thing’s First book and used it as my bible. When I started doing mystery shopping and running my own business, I used other planners as my record keepers. 

When I became a published author in 2014, I had more dates and projects to keep track of. Keeping a schedule with big projects like writing a book or working a launch required more than just a note in a daily planner. I started using an Excel writing schedule which lists my contracted deadlines and what I’m writing, when I need to start, when I need to finish, and when the book will release. I’ve got plans through 2024.

I still use a handwritten overarching sheet with the things on my desk now – this blog, writing the current book (and words left), cover work, self-publishing to do’s, and upcoming edits. It lives on my clipboard along with a monthly schedule where I get to check off things as I do them and keeps track of writer events as well as total words written for a month. I really like checking things off. 

The Asana system helps me plan out my future, just so I know what’s next on a project. 10K words a week means I can finish a book in around 7-10 weeks depending on if I hit my goals. It’s a big picture look at the writing life and has helped me be more realistic on what I can reasonably get done in a day/week/month/or year. 

My Google calendar keeps track of author events, birthdays, dog grooming appointments, doctor appointments, and also serves as a reminder to do marketing. Monthly newsletters, social media posts, joint author events on group pages, etc. 

Finally, I drill down to this week and today. I set three ‘goals’ for the week. One is usually – write 10K. Other goals could be writing blogs (like this one) or attending an author event. Or developmental edits. 

I know what I have to do today, tomorrow and the rest of the week to meet these goals. Most of the larger goals, like copy edits, are broken down into bite size pieces using the Eat the Elephant model. Some are just phone calls or quick to dos that drop off my list quickly. 

Things that haven’t worked? 

A bullet journal. I’m not artistic enough to make planning fun. The blank page taunts me and I wind up just copying the same format I could buy in a cheap dated planner. And save a lot of time. I think having another blank page in my life (as an author, I always have blank pages in the writing process) makes me brain dead. I hate to use up my decision-making brain power on something that isn’t story. 

Same with fun stickers and artsy stuff for my planner. One, I need room to write things because I always have something I need to write on a day. And two, I’m frugal. (Okay, cheap.) I hate to use a sticker when I might find a better use for it. 

I also can’tjustdo a digital calendar. On the other hand, I can’t onlydo paper calendars. I review all three of my calendars (Google/work/written planner) for events monthly. If it’s only on my digital calendar and I’ve taken the day off my computer, things get missed. If it’s only on my paper planner, I can get lost in the digital world, and miss appointments that don’t have reminders set. 

And we haven’t even talked about my annual plans that I keep on three different documents. I have my 2022 Goals, 2022 Schedule, and 2022 Writing plans. The goal sheet is things I want to do or be this year. The schedule is a month-by-month plan on what I can write/edit/author events/and real life plans. And finally, the writing plan is for all those I want to do someday plans. Like taking a class or writing in a new genre. Or writing a series that has been calling to me for years… 

Of course, my amateur sleuths are also big planners. If there’s anything of me that shows up as one of my sleuths habits, it’s my love of planning. 

Now that I’ve bared my love of planning/planners/and goal setting to the world, it’s your turn. What one planning tool do you use that keeps you in line?  


I’m giving away an e-copy of A FATAL FAMILY FEAST to one lucky commenter. 



Angie Turner’s Idaho restaurant, the County Seat, is the perfect site for a picturesque country wedding, but the party planning skids to a halt when the groom-to-be is implicated in a murder investigation…

When Angie’s best friend and business partner, Felicia Williams, picks the County Seat to host her upcoming nuptials, Angie wants it to feel like a family affair--especially since Felicia is set to marry the farm-to-fork restaurant’s talented sous chef, Estebe Blackstone. Unfortunately, the bride’s actual family is far less enthusiastic about the union. They’re pulling out all the stops to cancel the couple’s wedding, even arranging for a surprise visit from Felicia’s ex-fiancé (and her father’s current lackey). But when her ex is killed days before the ceremony and Estebe is framed for the crime, Angie and the County Seat crew must scramble to solve the murder and save the wedding . . .


Lynn Cahoon, author of A FATAL FAMILY FEAST, a farm-to-fork mystery, is a NYT and USA Today author of the best-selling Tourist Trap, Kitchen Witch, Cat Latimer, Farm-to-Fork, and soon to release, Survivors’ Book Club mystery series. No matter where the mystery is set, readers can expect a fun ride. Find out more at her website

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