Planning To Be Productive

Learn to DO more, not PLAN more

So many times we hear about planning in order to be more productive.  Those who strive to be as accomplished as they possibly can engage in planning and setting goals and the like.  Often times those same individuals will spend massive amounts of time planning their day, week, month.  They will plan to attend a meeting, fix the car, take the kids to practice, etc…  Many even plan to plan.  That’s right.  Some plan time to plan for their time.  Is there a better, more constructive way to utilize ones time?

Planning, by almost all accounts, is paramount in succeeding at whatever it is that you do.  I’m not here to argue that point.  Rather, to what ends do some people go in order to feel as though they are being productive.  As my wife and I have not been exactly great at planning in the sense of…well most everything, we have planned certain aspects of our lives within the scope of our professional careers.  Actually, it has probably been more of an outline, and a rough one at that.  Much of that has changed for me in the past year and now my wife is starting to make some changes as well.  During our discussion this morning we talked about how our daughter, as well as many people we have been in contact with, seem to have an idea that planning is important and then upon completion of planning to achieve something they seem to stop as though the planning process was the end goal.

 This is what I would call planning to plan.  I’m sure we can find a cart full of psychologists who would love to shed some light on this in the name of interpreted historical data.  However, for the sake of this conversation and in the name of “getting it done” I think it quite simple to observe that regardless of a perceived reason for this type of anti-analytical behavior one can understand that planning is only the beginning of the process.  Follow through is what ultimately gets the job done.  Or at least gets it started.  

 At the ripe age of 45 I finally started becoming more deliberate in my attempts to get things done and began to rediscover the art of planning.  I am now 47 and I think I am getting a good grip on this.  As some may find this funny and/or sad I know many people who never get a hold of the idea, or better yet the practice of proper planning.  I used to scoff at those who were so hell bent on planning everything in their life as I found them to be the most rigid, uncompromising people I had ever met.  To a degree I still feel that way with the exception of those, of whom I would place myself into this category, do their best to plan but realize that life is not so clearly laid before us that we can organize and plan ourselves into a frenzy and consequent depression.  For instance, If you spend more time planning than you do completing tasks then you really ought to check yourself.  No I mean check yourself, as in hockey when one player “checks” the other player upside the wall.  Yes, you need something to knock you into reality.  

 I would agree that some have more free time from which to plan more heavily than others.  My wife and I have 8 children of which 7 still reside at home with us.  As their ages span from 4 to 18 it is in our best interest, as loving parents, to pay close attention to all of them and do our best to direct them in ways we hope to be best.  In doing so, we are pulled away from our tasks quite often to be the parents God has called us to be.  If we lived strictly by our over planned schedules we would have to dismiss some of our responsibilities as parents and would then be, un-arguably, poor parents.  That’s not to say we haven’t done that as we have…too often.   But my wife and I try to keep each other in check and remind each other that our first duty is to our children (after that of God, of course).  


So how does someone in this position plan at all?  I have found that for the past 6 months my planning has changed.  I used to plan a weekly schedule which generally by the end of day 1 or 2 was all mixed up because of other non-work related obligations.  Once the schedule was mixed up one has to rearrange the remaining week and hope that the mix ups are minimized.  It never really worked as life has it’s way of doing what it does.  After getting discouraged and sometimes depressed over what I perceived as failure to complete, I revised and tried again.  This went through many revisions and has come to a point where I now view many individual tasks in the form of projects.  So instead of creating hundreds of little tasks for each day, I list time frames for a given project.  

Yes, this does require that one list the tasks that each project must have and that is a good thing.  It gives you the plan of attack, after a few revisions, and you can see if your plan (project) is making sense as to the order for completing the project.  So, for each project I have a separate sheet which describes the idea of the project, the tools needed and the order of the tasks that will help get me to completion.  As I have many projects underway at any given time I plan out my day by giving a certain amount of time to certain projects each day.  Not all projects require daily attention.  So my calendar shows, for the most part, only times slots for project work to be done.  This does require the understanding that if you fart away your time that none, or few of your projects will get done.  This system works for those of us who take joy in working and understand that it is part of accomplishing your duties while here on this crazy planet.  If you dread work then most everything will leave you short of happiness.  However, that is a discussion for a later date.

So, think about projects that you wish, or need, to complete.  Separate each project and tear it down to find out what each one requires and list what you think it will take to complete the project.  This will change over time as new aspects will reveal themselves and need to be imported into the tasks for a project.  Likewise, some other items will need to be removed.  That is normal.  Compile your projects in one area and then place them in order of importance and urgency.  Now begin to create time slots for the next day to work on a project or two or three.  As the tasks from a project are completed, check them off.  Notice I have only projected one day at a time.  I do not suggest trying to lay out an entire week or beyond as, again, life has a way of demanding time from you that was unanticipated.  That is ok, this is life.  

 Stay focused and be deliberate about completing your projects.  Also, be reasonable with yourself.  By planning no further in advance than a day you not only save time but your sense of completion is not obliterated when the inevitable happens.  Also, this is a guide to daily planning only.  Yes, you will need to schedule in certain things further in advance than a day.  Such as vacation, charity works, dentist appointments, etc…  That is understandable and needed.  I just caution about over planning too many things.  Let work work itself out with only daily planning and making deliberate efforts in completing your projects.

 Good luck.

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