Thursday, September 13, 2007

Freedom Through Structure

Straight to it; this blog is about planning, and how doing so can help you achieve more than you thought possible. The goal of the onset of exploring planning strategies is to help ensure you have more time to play; to live.

Of all the planning quotes or idiums there are out there, here a few of my favorites...
4. Plan the work, and then work the plan
3. Right now you are exactly where you planned to be 3 - 6 months ago. (this says a lot about where you are if you didn't do any planning to get there)
2. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
1. Those who have the most fun in life, and who achieve the most, and who have the most free time - plan the most; while those who never plan are the ones who complain they're too busy.

So above we have some reasons why we should plan. Despite the power of quotes 3 and 2 above, I placed number 1 where I did because far too many people make the same fatal error all too often...

...they think planning is boring, and is only done by nerds, workoholics, and assistants' to busy professionals. This couldn't be further from the truth! Some of the best professionals are great planners, yes - but so are some of the best athletes, coaches, parents, etc etc. Think of your favorite rock band (someone I'm sure you think is cool). Doi you think 4 months of touring to promote their latest CD happens without planning every single detail? Hell no.

The reason we have a disconnect with planning is because it is a process, and we rarely every see the process glorified... we only see the results glorified (in the above example, give us the light effects and the concert, not the laborious set up details). We only glorify an athlete's intense training regimen if that athlete is a media mogul and marketable commodity. The list goes on, but there is a common link with another huge cancer we are facing in our society... entitlement; the desire to have more and the feeling that we don't need to work for it because we are above that. The result without the planning is like money from no work - empty, meaningless, and no purpose in the end.

Getting back to planning, by now hopefully you get the WHY... now the HOW. Some of the most effective strategies I have used (or seen used effectively) are as follows;

1. daily planner: allows us to keep track of our appointments, to do list, people we need to follow up with, etc. The only way to go inb my books is a planner that hgas the whole year at easy convenience- such as a week-a-page Quo Vadis.
2. email organization. If your mail server allows this (and most do), add folders within your inbox that allows you to keep your inbox relatively empty, and similar types of mail organized. You might decide to organize your folders such as a) awaiting reply b) follow up c) personal d) non-urgent. However you structure this process, it is important you do not forget these iotems, hence a non-urgent folder - these are the emails you can come back to later in the week (or even month) so that you can focus on the more urgent emails. Make sure that once an email is no longer needed it is deleted. This will save you valuable time every day because you won't have to scroll and search every time you are looking for a specific email.
3. Back up your data. Have an electronic and hard copy (as well as an easily accessible copy within your planner) of all addresses, phone numbers, emails, etc. Back up your work files, back up your to do list, etc. While people may sympathize, if your computer crashes, the world keeps on spinning and you'd be left behind. An important client can never wait if we don't have ourselves organized.
4. Write your plans ahead of time. I write my yearly plan in Nov/ Dec; I write my quarterlies 2 weeks before the next quarter starts, and I write my weekly plan on Wednesday or Thursday for the following week. This allows us rhythm of goal achievemnt and prioritization, and lets us have a more realistic picture of where we can and need to be in the next 1, 4, 12, or 52 weeks. Be detailed, be thorough, and plan your business, social, family, and workout tasks and plans rather than just work.
5. Plan what you want before you die. If you don't do this, you will have regrets on your death bed - I never want to go that way. Refer to Matt's blog on Monday for a great example, anbd remember that at least one of these items must be in every quarter, if not in the week plan.

From some of the most successful people I have met, 45 minutes a day is the requisite amount of time per day you should spend planning. This is of course an average, because every wed/ thurs I spend longer, and every new quarter it is hours. The truth is, I have made leaps and bounds in my planning, and I still have a long way to go. I used to fight it at every turn... and then I realized I was going to keep going where I was going unless I planned the path myself. The good news is, I have made major improvements, and still don't spend 45 a day. I can improve, which means my life is going to get simpler and more stress- free. That's great!

There is many reasons above, and countless other ways to plan. The point is, without a WHY you are passionate about, nothing will happen. Hopefully, that passion comes from a passion for life, and a desire to see, do, and achieve more with the one shot you are ever going to get at having a great life. PLAN ON IT!

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