Some people think that productivity is all about planning. Yes…and no. Planning is vitally important, but it will only get you so far. Sooner or later, you’ll actually have to do the work. As we said in the middle school where I taught: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
The Road Map
Planning can help you create a road map. Planning can help you determine where you need to go (long range goals) and how you will get there (interim tasks). Planning is safe. Planning is easy. For some of us, planning can scratch that organizational itch, putting all of our tasks and ideas in a nice list where they belong.
I use lists when I plan. I have master lists of goals and tasks. To keep from being overwhelmed, I break down big tasks into steps. Every morning, I start with a short list of things that really have to happen that day. In a perfect world, I end the day by assessing what I accomplished and creating the short list for the next day.
I know I need to work on planning when:
- My work surface is covered with sticky notes and scrap paper covered with mini to-do lists.
- I’m lost or running in circles. That’s my signal to sit down and plan my day/hour/next ten minutes.
- I can feel the whoosh of deadlines passing me. Seriously. Being behind and missing deadlines is a signal that I need to plan more effectively. I’m still working on this lesson.
The dark side of planning is like quicksand. We can get so bogged down in planning that we lose track of what we actually have to do. The more we struggle in the planning phase, the harder it seems to get out. Getting stuck in the planning phase can lull us into complacency and render us ineffective.
I know I have to focus on work when:
- Deadlines are looming.
- I realize I logged onto Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram just to check in…an hour ago.
- I want to do something fun or work on a personal project. I earn the time with check marks.
Once you have your plan in place, how do you decide what to do first? Next week: Prioritizing!