If you have spent any amount of time in the business world, you’ve discovered that there are two distinct types of people. There are the planners and the pantsers. Planners are the ones who like to sit down and figure out where they want to go, figure out how they’d like to get there, and then set out in that direction. Pantsers are the ones who fly by the seat of their pants.
No matter what camp you find yourself in, you will find some value in what I want to talk about today. When you don’t sit down to develop a plan for yourself, there is a potential that you will feel overwhelmed quickly. I can say this, because for a while in my life I didn’t create plans for myself. I flew by the seat of my pants.
Fast forward through a lot of heartache, anxiety, and overwhelm to today, and you will find someone who loves to plan things. Why am I so adamant about creating plans? I think it has something to do with spending time out in the mountains but also just wanting to have something to work toward.
When I go out to the mountains, I always create a plan. I will even create backup plans for when I go out, especially so in the winter when conditions can change rapidly. When I have a plan, I feel less anxious about approaching the situation because I have taken the time to think through different scenarios and what I will do in the event the plan needs to change.
The other important piece about planning is when you have a plan, you are more likely to stick to a set amount of time you’d like to devote to the task at hand.
Funny thing about time. The more we think it will take a certain amount of time to complete a task, the more likely it will take that much time.
For example, think about when you have written a paper or prepared a project or report. You will always look to see when the deadline is and then work toward meeting the deadline. What if you approached this a little differently and said to yourself: “What would it take to get this done in half the time?”
Why is this an important question to ask? Because as Parkinson’s Law states, work will always complicate to fill the available time. If we think we have 3 months to complete something, it will take us 3 months to complete it. If we think we have half the time, then it will take us half the time.
When you work outside the expectations that are being set, you will find that you can change the dynamics of what will get done. Don’t wait for someone else’s timeline to finish a task if you have the means to complete it now.
A handy book I have read about creating a plan with this principle in mind is the 12-week year by Brain Moran & Micheal Lennington.
12 Week Year
The basic premise of the 12-week year is that you break your time down into 4 – 13 week blocks each year. You spend 1 week planning the 12 weeks and the next 12 executing the work in 1-week sprints. Often we will overestimate what we can get done in a year because we don’t take the time to sit down and create a plan for ourselves that is realistic.
When we take the time to regularly look at where we want to go over the long term, building these 12-week blocks becomes much easier. Also, we can check in with ourselves after the 12 weeks and see how much progress we’ve made toward the larger goal. This can motivate us to continue on our quest for our bigger goals.
Ever since I adopted this mindset, I have been much more productive and I feel a lot less stress around the work that I am doing. Even when delays happen, I am able to see much more easily where I can adjust my time in the next week to account for the schedule change.
I take this idea one step further. I like to manage my time daily. This allows me to get a sense of the progress I am making from one day to the next. If one day my plan changes, I am prepared to move the tasks to a different day with ease.
I no longer get stressed about schedule changes because I see with the flip of a page to my SDCA journal where I can shift the change to. I can keep track daily of what progress I am making toward my quarterly goals and objectives that I have set for myself. This helps me to focus on creating Work:Life Harmony for myself.
As I am making my way through the weeks, I am referencing the Quarterly Planner to make sure I stay on track. The other practice I have adopted that creates exponential gain for me is to do a regular self-reflection process called hansei. It is a Japanese practice that literally is interpreted as self-reflection.
During this practice, you are asking yourself a series of questions designed to help you see where your opportunities are to get better at self-leadership which will translate to team leadership if you lead a team.
By using this type of framework, I can create a daily flow that allows me to work so that I can live, rather than living to work. If you’d like to create a plan for yourself for 2023 consider taking a look at my SDCA Journal available on Amazon.
SDCA Daily Management Journal by Steve M. Beauchamp
The bottom line is that if you don’t make a plan for yourself, it will be challenging to make adjustments when the time comes. Think about it like sailing a boat or flying an airplane. Both are affected by how the wind blows and need to regularly adjust to stay on course. Sometimes extreme adjustments are needed to avoid a large storm, but getting back on track afterward becomes easy. Without the plan in place before the storm, there would be a lot of confusion over what to do next.
You wouldn’t get into an airplane or board a vessel without knowing where you are going, would you? Don’t treat your future this way either.