So, you’ve picked your perfect planner. (If you haven’t yet, checked out my guide to finding one here.). I find that many people look at a new planner as a magical bundle of paper that will automatically change your life. Not so fast. Your new planner will only work if you do. But where do we start?
Develop Your Regimen
During your purchase process, you should have determined what planning tool you will use, what you are planning, and at what intervals. You need to choose a day and time that you will work in your planner, whether it is once per week, month or day.
Once you have determined your planning routine, it’s time to put it into action. I introduce to you Mack’s Method.
Mack’s Method – A Simple, Four-Step Approach To Planning
Mack’s Method is my simplified four-step planning approach.
1. DEFINE Your Goals
When I sit down to plan my week, the first thing I do is a brain dump. I make a list of everything I think I want to accomplish. On the first run, I may notice that some of my goals are generic or large. The next step is to break these goals into actionable steps – a to-do list. If we follow the SMART goal methodology, this ensures that our goals are specific and measurable. Then, I make sure they are timebound by assigning “due dates” to my tasks. Note that if you are a daily planner, you will most likely be adding hourly increments, where applicable.
So, here’s an example of this in practice:
Goal: Clean the house
- Clean the bathroom
- Do the laundry
- Clean the kitchen
- Clean the bedroom
- Clean the bathroom – Monday
- Do the Laundry – Thursday
- Clean the kitchen – Tuesday
- Clean the bedroom – Wednesday
- Etc. – Saturday
You can add your time assignments to your list or even you use a chart.
Since I decorate my planner weekly, I also employ a placeholder mechanism, like post-its to place these items on my calendar.
2. REFINE Your Goals
Once we define our goals, we must refine them. Take an honest look at your action items for the time period. Try to make an honest assessment of whether they are attainable and reasonable or relevant. This also allows you to assess what human and material resources you need to seek.
I call this Burnout Insurance. Productivity has many enemies, but one of the biggest is unrealistic expectations. When we don’t refine and prioritize our goals we can easily fall into the trap of over-scheduling and overdoing. The end result will be either a bunch of incomplete tasks or a bunch of completed tasks…and no quality of life. Your time is limited and so is your energy, so spread them thick like butter on pancakes.
3. RECORD Plans In Your Preferred Planning Tool
You can add your goals to your favorite paper planner or digital resource. Also, you can assign responsible parties for those tasks that require assistance.
A Note On Digital Planning
We have been talking and looking at paper planning tools so far, but this methodology works the same for electronic means. For example, you can use apps like Keep Notes or Sticky Notes to keep a running list of to-dos and refine them. You can then add them to Outlook, Google Calendar, etc. The “blocks” that appear can serve as your visual representation of how full your time is and what kind of adjustments you need to make. One major pro of the digital method is that you can set reminders and easily share them with others!
4. REVIEW Your Plans
Now, remember that regimen we talked about earlier? You need to be checking your planner at the next smallest time increment, and checking for updates halfway through the period. For example, if you are a weekly planner, like me, you need to be looking at it at least once per day and checking for major updates mid-week. Think of it this way – if the game is four quarters, you need to take a short time out between each quarter, and a long regroup during halftime. Again, your planner, no matter the form, is no good if you don’t actually refer to it!
Using Your Planner Can Be Simple
One of the main reasons people do not stick with planning is that the process is too complicated. Hopefully, you have just learned that it doesn’t have to be! Taking an organized approach to organization can make the task much faster and less overwhelming. Good luck and great planning!
What are your barriers to developing a solid planning routine? Share with us in the comments below!