Four Simple and Effective Steps to Begin Planning Your Day
What is the key word for most people to describe their day? React.
It’s the easiest way to approach your day. You just let it take its natural coarse to chaos then look back wondering what just happened.
Reacting is ALWAYS there for you the next day and it’s the gift that keeps on giving if you let it.
There is another way.
In my research I found that most people say they plan their day (mostly because it sounds irresponsible if you don’t).
But as the covers are pulled down, little to no planning let alone effective planning actually occurred.
My professional response: HUH? (internally, as far as you know)
And ironically, so few people know how to plan. I mean really plan. IF they sit down and plan, they lose all of their “planning time” due to disorganization.
But this is a solvable problem.
For simplicity sake, I’ve taken the word PLAN and created a process to work through for a few minute plan for the day. Here it is:
P – Prepare to Plan
L – Look Back / Look Ahead
A – Action Items
N – Now Simply Plan
The acronym may sound simplistic, even remedial but considering how many people do not consistently plan their day beyond a simple to do list, I want to put the cookies on the bottom shelf.
You like cookies, right…?
This is a good place to start.
Now, let’s do a deeper dive into each letter.
Here are the Four Simple and Effective Steps
Step 1. PREPARE to PLAN
The first step is simply finding a time to plan.
As in most things in life, starting is often one of the biggest challenges.
If it’s not scheduled, it often doesn’t get done for me. So, the first step in Prepare to Plan is to schedule a time to plan.
This looks different for each person.
For example, if you have the same routine each day, it should be very easy to choose a consistent time to plan. Let’s say it’s the first thing you do when you get to your desk. This would mean NOT checking email or Facebook first thing. (how insensitive, I know!)
If you travel a lot like me, then the time changes often which means I must be much more intentional about looking at when in my day is best for me to take these coveted few minutes.
The point here is only you know your schedule and when is best for you.
The rest of the acronym is useless and only light reading if you don’t take the time to Plan to Plan your day.
Step 2. LOOK BACK / LOOK AHEAD
The second step is looking at your calendar. (Which means having a calendar;)
These are the appointments within your day. Do you have meetings? Conference calls? Lunch plans?
You can do two things here:
- Confirm what is already on the schedule by looking at your calendar so you know what your day ahead is going to look like for you (Look Back)
- Schedule any appointments that need to be added to your day (Look Ahead)
How many times have you been bitten by finding out about a meeting or conference call you completely forgot about and either found out at the last minute by a calendar reminder or walked in late?
Easily avoidable newly adopted planning fans.
Sadly, most of us leave yesterday completely in the past. The flaw in this approach is when something was NOT completed or moved into today’s schedule and not given the proper attention: rescheduling.
Step 2 allows you to simply and quickly review your yesterday so you can have a more effective today.
This back and ahead perspective allows you to know major pieces to the structure of your day so you can add the details around it which is found in the next step…
Step 3. ACTION ITEMS
The third step is looking at your to do list or task list.
These are the action items that must be done today.
I need to look back to yesterday to see what was NOT accomplished or pushed to today that needs attention. (Looking Back)
I also need to look ahead and what I need to get done today or in the near future. This is where your to do list (in whatever form) is transferred into your day.
Is there a task my boss gave to me that has a deadline?
Was there an assignment given to me in a meeting that I need to actually do?
Do you have travel plans that need to get booked or expense reports that need to be completed? (the story of my life!)
Or if you have a meeting at 2pm that you’re expected to present information, you’ll need to schedule time within your day to prepare for your part in the meeting. (and preferably before 1:50pm – current parties discluded)
Sounds simple yet again, so few take the time to prepare. And as a result, they enter into Q1 – URGENT and IMPORTANT (aka: freak out zone) and enter high stress and anxiety. (for you and by the way, EVERYONE ELSE…)
Can you say preventable?
Step 4. NOW SIMPLY PLAN
The fourth and final step is plan your day.
If you’ve done the previous three steps of setting a specific time, looking back and forward then focusing on your action items, then you can now simply plan.
You have a majority of the needed information to go into your day eyes wide open and maximize your day.
[tweetthis]Planning is one of the few activities that a small investment of time will produce exponential results. – Bryan Paul Buckley[/tweetthis]
This minimal amount of time (5-10 minutes even) will give you the best chance of succeeding today.
I’ve yet to find someone who has tried these steps and has chosen to go back to reacting to their day.
And for me, IF I miss a planning day, it just takes a few hours of “reacting” and everything stops for me to plan the rest of the day. Make the bad man stop!
Get to this fourth step and let the results determine if this was the best use of this minimal investment of time.
In the End…
Honestly, what is the risk? Is spending 5-10 minutes the worst use of your time? What if this becomes the most valuable 5-10 minutes of your day?
So, are you willing to P.L.A.N. tomorrow?
- Plan to Plan = schedule a time
- Look Back / Look Ahead = calendar
- Action Items to Complete = task / to do list
- Now Simply Plan = schedule your day
In future posts, we’ll do a deep dive into how best to maximize your day through more complex planning concepts.
For now, let’s implement and maximize your P.L.A.N. and get the basics down.
Schedule 5 minutes to PLAN your tomorrow by writing this time in your calendar right now. I’m waiting;)
What time did you choose to plan your day?