Top planning tips for managing your workload

How Do You Know That You Have Achieved a Goal?

My background means that i can sometimes get a bit obsessive about planning.
As Partnership to Success week 6 commences, I thought I would share some planning tips I have picked up over the years.

Before I start, here’s a quick progress update: 

My blog is up and running and I’m posting every couple of days.I can’t decide whether it’s better to post more often or not. My concern is that if I get into the habit of daily posts, then I will, sooner or later, struggle for material.
Obviously, if I blog 3 or 4 times a week, then there remains a chance that I will struggle, but it’s likely to be further down the line, and by then, I will be better established, and better able to source new ideas (Optimism, I know!).

I have my opt in form on the blog and I’m starting to post comments to other blogs. 

I think all is going pretty well so far.

Top planning tips I use to maintain focus and achieve my goals day by day.

If you want to use, or even just check out any of these planning tips, then where I can, I’ve added links.

My first and most important planning tip is to always prepare forthe day ahead.
Always start the day in the same way. I go through a set routine  that consists of:

    1. checking yesterday’s to do list, and carrying forward anything that I haven’t done onto today’s list.
    2. checking my plan to see what I should be doing today
      For those of you who are following the Partnership to Success programme and are not used to planning, I’ve put together a simple template plan on a spreadsheet.
      Please feel free to download it if you think it would be useful
    3. Compiling today’s ‘To Do’ list.

Your To Do List

Lot’s of people see a ‘To Do’ list as just that. a simple list.
But with just a tiny bit more effort it can become a much more useful tool.

If you start with a To Do list that looks something like this:

Planning Tips - To Do before

 

And just add a couple of extra columns, and remember to book yur down time, and you could end up with something like:

Planning Tips - To Do After

So just by taking a couple of minutes to think about how long each task will take, and making sure you have included your down time, you have achieved 2 things.

Firstly, you can see at a glance whether you  have enough time today to do the things you want to do.

Secondly, you can very clearly see where you are against where you expected to be.

The Actual Time taken will give you a record of how long things take, and will allow you  to get better at planning as you move forward (If you find that writing a blog post takes other than 2 hours, then update your estimate the next time you do it.

Planning tips to make your ‘To Do’ list realistic

Let’s start with a word of caution.

Sometimes you will find that the amount of work you have to do will exceed the time available.

When this happens, remember that cutting back on the time for any given task WILL have an impact on quality!

You only options are to find some extra time from somewhere or to put something off for a day.

Poor quality has a nasty habit of sticking, and can easily undo a lot of hard work!

So here are 5 top planning tips to use each day:

Planning Tip 1

Use smallest planning unit on your to do list of 15 minutes, no matter how small the task.
This has 2 benefits – it can ‘buy back’ some time if other tasks overrun slightly, but more importantly, you need to remember that the plan is a guide only, and if it’s too detailed, it implies a very high ;evel of accuracy!

 

Planning Tip 2

Plan to use 80% of the available time (so for example, if I have 10 hours available, I will plan 8 hours of work).
This way, when something goes wrong, I don’t fail to deliver on the day’s tasks.
If I finish early, I can either bring something forward from the next day, or give myself a reward of an early finish.
This is even more important in longer term planning.

 

Planning Tip 3

Don’t plan to work 7 days a week.
OK in practice, sometimes you will, but that just gets you ahead of the game!
If you plan to work 7 days a week and then take a day off, you will lose ground that will be very difficult to make up.

 

Planning Tip 4

Take regular breaks.
Don’t work through lunch, or ‘forget’ you coffee breaks.
There’s lots of research that shows we concentrate best, and are most productive in short bursts.
I use the Pomorodo technique.
I set a timer for  25 minutes. Personally, I use the Tomato Timer (because it’s free, really easy, and unlike some others, has an audible alarm)
At the end of that 25 minute period I take a 5 minute break.
Every 2 or 3 hours, I take a 20 minute break.

 

Planning Tip 5

Use the 25 minute rule 
This is more frequently referred to as the 15 minute rule, but in practice, because I work in 25 minute periods, I use 25 minutes instead.
The rule states that if you can’t solve a problem in 25 minutes,you should either walk away and come back to it later or ask for help (or both).
In practice, I tend to move on thethe next thing on my To Do list, and then come back to the problem after I’ve completed that task.
For me, taking a break only really works if I force myself to think about something else.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and you find these planningtips useful in managing your day to day workload.

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3 Comments

  • Hi Carl,

    These are great planning tips.

    I believe planning is one of the most important parts of running a business, no matter the size of your business. I personally use Trello for task management and projects.

    Best regards, Selma

    • Carl

      Reply Reply May 14, 2017

      Thanks Selma,

      I totally agree with you – planning is critical to running a successful business.
      I’ve haven’t used Trello, but I’m open to new ideas – if a perfect planning method existed, we’d all use it – so I’ll give it a look. At first glance, it’s a little more visual that I’m used to, but that may be a good thing!

      Kind regards
      Carl

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