The three biggest mistakes in planning

Planning your activities

One of the first steps in being productive is planning your activities by keeping a list of the things you want to accomplish. Having such a list will immediately rise your productivity. However, the list is just the start to get to a proper planning. There are 3 mistakes people make when planning from a list.

#1 Making your list of tasks too long

In case you make a braindump of all the things you want to accomplish, you’ll mostly end up with 10 to 20 tasks that you can take action on immediately. That sounds like planning right? Wrong! What will you do when you have so many tasks? You’re likely to just pick out the task that is most easy to do, to have a feeling of success. But is that the most productive task? Is that the most important task to work on? Probably not, so when you have done your braindump, look at the list and first chunk the items by category. You’ll have a better understanding of your overall projects.

#2 Not distinguishing between longterm and shortterm tasks

Make several lists to get perspective! Do you know what you want to have accomplished in one year? Maybe this seems daunting to you, but most people can sum up several goals for one or even two years. Take your braindump and your chunked items and give it a go: what categories do you see? What goals do you have for these categories?
Are these ALL your yearly goals or do you miss some goals? It is most likely that you realize that you miss some goals. Why is that? Well, you can’t see the wood for the trees: you have so much to do now, that you don’t see the things on the horizon.
Only after a good inventory of your yearly goals, you can proceed with the planning process. It is essential that you don’t rush this step: it has consequences for your shorter term goals (and even for your to do list for today!).

When you have your yearly goals, apply the MoSCoW method (customized for yearly goal setting):
M     MUST     This goal MUST be satisfied for the year to be considered a success. Example: running a marathon.
S     SHOULD     This is a high-priority goal that should be in your yearly goals if possible. This is a critical goal, but one which can be adapted if necessary. Example: running two (or more) half marathons.
C     COULD     A desirable goal, but not necessary. Only if time and resources permit, you will spend time on this goal. Example: while training to run a marathon, also training for a triathlon.
W     WON’T     A goals that is nice for next year, not this year. It can be a COULD-goal only if you have the time and resources for it. Example: run a triathlon next year.
This method gives you more insight in your thoughts about your goals. It is a first prioritization.

Your yearly goals however, will have no direct motivational effect. Therefore it is necessary to divide your yearly goals, so they become quantifiable. Consequently, divide your yearly goals in quarterly goals. You can use your MoSCoW method, to place them in quarter 1, 2, 3, and/or4. Then divide your quarterly goals in monthly goals, and your monthly goals in weekly goals. We’re almost there! 🙂

Having that weekly goals list, finally gives you the planning ability you need. Now you can pick your chunked tasks again and divide them over the week. You don’t need to plan the week, but you can certainly put down some tasks on certain days (for instance, if you want to work on a specific task two or three times a week).
When planning your day, (at the beginning of your day at the latest!) you just pick out the 6 most important tasks. The rest of the tasks is either to be delegated or stays on your weekly list.

#3 Not creating enough buffertime

To do lists have a way of never ever being finished. There always are some tasks that you didn´t complete today. If that happens to you, you’re not planning right. There is a simple solution for this: if you work 8 hour days, you should only plan 6 hours of them. Leaving 2 hours as buffertime.

But even between tasks you should create buffertime, because you need breaks! Breaks for:

  • going to the bathroom
  • getting coffee or tea
  • get your body moving (‘sitting is the new smoking’)
  • filing your papers (clean your desk) between tasks
  • summarize what needs to be done the next time you’re working on this task

Having only 6 hours for the 6 most important tasks, estimate how much time you will spend on each of these 6 most important tasks for the day: some will only need 30 minutes, others 1,5 hours or more.

To get you started you can use the free ‘Daily60 week- and dayplanner’. Simply fill out the form on this site to get it. Just download it to your computer and print from there. You can use this planner again and again. It comes with a step by step guide, that will take you through the whole process.

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