If you have heard me speak, read my blogs or articles, or listened to one of my podcasts, you have probably heard me say, “Failure to plan is planning to fail!”
Heck, I like that saying and use it so often that I sometimes think I made it up. But I didn’t. Don’t know who did, but in my book, it’s brilliant. Because I know without a shadow of a doubt, you need to plan anything worth doing that is truly important to you.
Do you have a system in place to plan? I’m not talking about your daily “to-do” list. That’s not a planning system. That is a compilation of random thoughts about life’s urgencies- things you need to get done- that you write down. You feel great crossing stuff off the list when completed. It’s a good tool for remembering all that stuff, but not so good when you want to accomplish important tasks and projects.
It is the big tasks and projects that move us forward in our lives or our businesses. Those things that we work for, dream about and really get us stoked when we accomplish them.
When I talk to my clients about creating a system for planning, I usually hear some objections. For instance, I don’t know how to plan, it’s too time-consuming, or I’m not good at planning. Others tell me they prefer to be spontaneous, or have ADD and can’t hold their attention that long.
In my book, these are all excuses that lead to feeling overwhelmed, frenzied and out of control. Just because you are running around all day, frantically getting things crossed off your list, doesn’t mean you are getting any closer to your big dreams and aspirations. Often it leads to flopping into bed at night, exhausted, and wondering what in the world you actually accomplished.
Whether it’s creating a video marketing campaign for your business, writing your book, getting a new job or losing weight, without a plan, you are planning to fail.
Let’s take a look at those objections to creating a planning system, and see if we can shift your perspective.
I’m not the planning type, I prefer to be spontaneous, and it is just too time consuming! When you don’t know what your next scheduled activity is, you’ll end up checking your Facebook page, surfing the web, or playing Candy Crush while deciding what to do next. We all know how much time we waste in those activities! A well-planned day leaves you with more free time, not less! Time to be spontaneous.
I’ve tried it in the past, and I’m just not very good at planning. There is no such thing as being good or bad at planning ahead. You either regularly do so, or you don’t. Right now, you are in the habit of not planning. Like any habit, the more you practice, the easier it gets and the more natural it feels. The rewards for taking time to plan in advance are a tremendous reduction in stress and overwhelm, and a great sense of accomplishment. Each time you experience that, it will reinforce doing it again. You don’t have to be good at planning; you just need to make it a habit.
I have ADD, so it works better for me just to go from one thing to the next and back again. That’s perfectly fine, as long as you move from one planned activity to the next. How much time you spend working on a task is totally up to you. In my experience, having raised a daughter with attention deficit, and working with many ADD clients, the more structured the day, the better you’ll feel. Having too much unstructured time without a plan leads to feeling out of sorts. If holding your attention for long periods of time is challenging, schedule more frequent but shorter work times for each task.
I’ve never done long term planning, and I just don’t know how. You probably have more planning and organizational skills than you think. If you ever put together a wedding, a big birthday party, or a vacation, you’ve planned ahead. You picked a date, you research and chose a place, you thought about and got all the things you needed, sent out invitations, packed suitcases, etc. How did you know to do all that? Whether you realized it or not, you envisioned the end product and then mentally walked yourself through all the steps to completion. Perhaps you wrote them down. You probably scheduled a day to look at venues, or go to a travel agent. These same skills can be put to use when planning your week.
There are tons of books, on-line software programs, or productivity coaches who can help you create a system. Once you’ve got it down, it is a matter of practicing it over and over again. Here are some tips to get you started.
1. Pick a specific time of the week to plan for your upcoming one. I prefer Saturday, while enjoying my morning coffee and breakfast. My home is quiet; I don’t have business appointments, and I am not rushed. Choose a day and time that might work best for you.
2. Set the alarm on your phone to remind you it’s time for planning. Until it becomes a habit, it is easy to forget that you set time aside to do so.
3. Do a brain dump of all the things you would like to accomplish in the upcoming week. Ideally, these tasks will be attached to a greater monthly or even yearly goal. I like to do this writing on a pad, divided into two columns; one for my business and one for personal tasks and projects. You may prefer a computer spreadsheet or notes on your smart phone.
4. Begin with the end picture in mind. Then walk yourself through and write down every step you would need to complete to get to that end.
5. Look on your calendar to see what’s already scheduled for the week. Then start filling in those unaccounted for hours. Depending on how busy the upcoming days are, you might need to prioritize the things on your list, and put some on hold.
6. Always overestimate how long things take. In the best scenario, you’ll find yourself with some extra free time.
7. Stick to the plan, but be flexible. When you wake in the morning and review the day’s calendar, you will know exactly what you’ll be spending your time doing, and when. However, if the unexpected happens, and you need to change the plan, make sure you reassign the task to another day and/or time.
I’d love to hear how you plan and manage your week, or if you think some of these ideas will help you. Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going. And please share this with those who might benefit as well. If you find yourself struggling, email me for a complimentary strategy session, and I’ll happily help you come up with a system that works for you!