The Power of Personal Planning - Part 3

The hardest part of trying something new is getting started and sticking with it long enough to build the habit. Personal planning is one more skill in our management toolkit and I have a few basic principles to help gain some traction. I personally only have so much to spare in my "discipline bank" and I need to use it where it will really help. I recommend that you use 50% of your "discipline bank" for the first few weeks to keep your planning on track. After that, it not only becomes part of your routine, but you feel compelled to use the process before you start your week.

Here are some basic principles to get you started:

  • Do your personal planning when it works best with your schedule and when it aligns with your best "thinking" time. For me, Friday morning is the best time for planning. With my plan locked down on Friday, I don't stress about work as much over the weekend.
  • Schedule 15 minutes, and cut it off, even if that means it takes several weeks to complete your initial plan. I have had many people report to me that they were so excited about seeing their plan come to life that they spent 2 hours or more on it in the first week. Don't do that. You still have work to accomplish, and we need to keep the cost side of our cost benefit equation as low as possible. Do the right amount of planning to get organized, and keep it as simple as possible.
  • Be clear in your mind about what can give in your plan and which objectives are immovable.
  • Be realistic about what can be accomplished every week. Don't kid yourself and be pragmatic.
  • Discuss your plan with someone you trust, likely your boss. Stick to the big stuff; personal objectives and up. No one else needs to hear about all the minutiae in your to do list.
  • Print your plan and make it visible in your office. When I am working at my desk I leave it in front of me. Otherwise I carry it around in my laptop bag. Most personal plans contain confidential company information, so don't leave it lying around. I love having my plan with me when I am in an airport lounge and I don't want to think too hard, just knock something off my list.
  • Make changes every single week. Like exercise, once you skip even one week, it is too easy to just stop altogether. In fact, schedule time as a recurring appointment in your calendar and protect that time as much as possible.
  • Work late to finish your plan. If your objectives and actions were important when you wrote them down, they're important enough to stay a little later on Thursday night to get it done before you succumb to rolling over that objective on Friday morning.
  • Celebrate your successes.
  • If you plan Friday morning, scan through your list and honestly answer the question: "Which items will still be there next Friday?" Put a star beside those items and get them done by Monday afternoon.
  • Put it in matter what!

Does personal planning sound like something you might like to try? The effort is small and the potential benefits are high, so why not take a chance? You can at least add it to your to do list.