Have you ever been asked how your day or week is going and automatically answered “good” or “busy!” but without really knowing if you’re having a relatively good day?
Here is what I do so I actually know the answer to that question. The principles here work for planning at any frequency. For me, weekly planning is critical because it guides what I do daily to take me towards my longer term goals.
My planning is a hybrid approach of many methods that happens to work for me. It constantly evolves and I added ‘continuous learning’ to what I call my Daily Card (more on that next time). You could take the parts that work for you.
It’s not how you spend your time, it’s how you spend your energy
Step 1: Respect Planning Time
I made a commitment to myself to plan for 15 minutes daily. This saves me time and energy long term. I plan before my available workday begins. The time is scheduled my calendar and I strongly protect that time.
My available workday starts when planning ends. I let people know when I start my day. The time prior is mine and adds to my productivity. Being invisible helps.
Being busy is not the same as being productive. In fact, being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. – Tim Ferris
Step 2: Prepare
Given how precious planning time is, the evening before is crucial for me to have a great day. I even have an Evening Checklist I can share.
- To protect planning time, I ensure tomorrow’s slot is clear and not overbooked, except in rare circumstances where I make an explicit priority call or re-arrange my time.
- I ensure everything I need is ready for the morning so I won’t need to go to my desk, computer or any other distractions.
Step 3: Simplify
I use a pencil and a cue card. That’s it – no more no less. Which means I could do it on a beer mat if I needed. I trialled software and A4 paper but I’ve landed on one cue card for several reasons.
- The physical card is harder to ignore – it keeps me honest.
- The card feels like a call to action.
- The limited size provides focus.
- It signals the end of a lengthy “to-do” list weighing me down.
- I can easily post it to any surface to keep my goals to the forefront.
- Finally, the card is robust so I can wrap up a great day by bringing it home literally and figuratively!
I also sometimes bring my Weekly Card and my Life Canvas to remind me what is important (more on that later also).
Step 4: Focus a.k.a. De-vice
I leave behind all distractions – my phone, any electronic device, other paperwork and all other devices. I avoid my email (until 12pm earliest daily).
Step 5: Enjoy!
As I suggested in The Mathematics of Embedding Habits, I linked daily planning with morning coffee. So I physically crave planning (a minor issue I’ll resolve later!). It happens to be just after meditation, which is a bonus. This means I am relaxed, have a clear mind and positive attitude for the day ahead. During meditation I may have subconsciously visualised what a good day looks like. I am in a beautiful space outside. In fact I always look for opportunities to work flexibly and outdoors within my environment.
Once I have completed the five steps above, planning itself takes only 15 minutes. It guarantees a great day ahead. I’ll describe the Daily Planning Process itself next time. If you think this will work for you then decide your time and place, lock it in your calendar and defend it. Get your pencil and cards ready to plan a great day from next week onwards!