Sometimes, I think I was born a planner…as in a person who loves to plan. It may just be the strategist in me. I work well with coordinating moving parts and fitting them together seamlessly. And I enjoy bringing order to chaos. No matter what I am working to unravel, I begin with the resource of time and the various tools to monitor and structure it.
While I acknowledge that some of this inclination is natural, there is a fair amount of nurture in play.
I remember my father was a time-guy. An extremely early riser who sought to seize the day at its start, he kept an American Express diary book on his desk. It was a symbol of luxury to me. The gold lettering against the black leather binding drew me in. But what fascinated me most was the sense of control and power this tool wielded to guide one’s activities and life. I was hooked.
From FranklinCovey and Planner Pads to Erin Condren and Bullet Journaling, within my lifetime, I have witnessed the reimagining of this critical tool, the planner, several times. Today, there are countless apps that have replaced the traditional planner for many. However, with research verifying the value of writing items down, many have returned to old reliable.
Yet, even with an abundance of planner and productivity system choice available, there is evidence that without certain key elements, the ‘to-do’ lists remain undone.
Do you feel that way too? Don’t be ashamed…you are in good company!
Here are four suggested actions to step up your planning game and lead to a more productive you.
Shift your focus from time management to that of your energy. Do a self-assessment. When are you at your best? At what time of day, do you feel the most energized? For some, it’s first thing in the morning. For me, the earlier, the better. There is nothing like the stillness and peace of a 5 AM walk to set me up for a super-powered morning.
For others, the night time is the right time. My seven-year-old seems to fall into that category as she revs up every evening around 7PM…when I am about to crash! 😣
Whatever works best for you, take note. There may be factors that contribute to your energy levels fluctuating. Pay attention to those items. Are they within your control? Can you adjust them? If you have a newborn, the answer would be, “NO!” I get that. But if you’re dragging in the mornings because you had to watch the last three episodes of your favorite drama, then consider making a different choice…for the sake of your growth and progress.
When you are at your best, address the items on your list that require the most energy. For me, that’s my creative work. My creativity is at its best when my energy tank is full.
I’ve mentioned this before in other posts but it bears repeating. Block your time for like activities. If you are going food shopping and you need to pick up socks, consider doing that shopping then as well.
I segment my day into time blocks for specific work and personal activities. Since my energy is at its best in the morning, I block the mornings for writing this blog and other creative endeavors. During my Creative Block, I do not answer emails or check texts. All I do is create. It does take some time to categorize and shift from a varied work flow to a focused one but it works.
ESTIMATE THE EXECUTION
Here’s how traditional planning works: Do a brain dump into a planner (or on a sticky…I’ve been there!) and stop there. Get a feeling of great accomplishment for having a master ‘to do’ list.
However, rarely do we attach a time frame to each item on the list. This extra step has been proven to take productivity to another level. Review the list and determine how much time it will take to complete each item. This simple tweak moves you closer to counting that item done because you can quickly identify when it can be fit into your day and avoid procrastination.
Funny example…my family sends out New Year’s cards every year. Having done this for several years, I know that it requires a lot of time to complete the steps…stuff the envelopes, stamp the return address, place the address labels, seal the envelopes, and place the postage stamps. However, I have never estimated the amount of time for each step nor the process. I assumed it was just “too much.” So, this year…I kept putting it off with the mental tape playing: “I don’t have time to do this.”
When I finally, committed to getting it done (mainly because it was March and I couldn’t take it any longer), I finished close to 200 cards within two hours, not the five hours I imagined. Now, I have an accurate estimation for next the time. That would've been helpful to assess in January. 😬
For every list item, evaluate its priority. Those cards were not high on my priority list. I wanted them out because I appreciate and value my family and friends and I love the opportunity to wish them happiness for the new year. However, compared to other important commitments, the cards were demoted.
Determine which ‘to dos’ are most important and which are not as important. Ask yourself some key questions: Is this item about my family? Will it impact other areas of my life? What is my most important goal in this season? The more questions you ask, the clearer the item’s position will be on your priority list.
Bonus Tip: Never schedule more than 75% of your time. Leave room for the unexpected...LIFE HAPPENS! 😉
Let's close out this quarter with a resolve to step up our productivity game (but not our stress levels) by employing these simple tweaks. You may find that some items fall off the list because they do not align with your growth goals. That’s more than ok. Know that you are doing great work that will translate into the life progress you desire. Keep growing!
Until next time…