Planning. You may have all sorts of feelings about it. You might love it (because it makes you feel in control). Or you might think it’s futile. I mean, why plan if your plans always change?
The fact that plans will inevitably change doesn’t negate the planning. In fact, it’s the plan that allows you to make decisions confidently when things unexpectedly happen.
Planning in advance helps you to be more efficient, AND it also helps you to chip away at things opportunistically throughout the day. This is a hidden side benefit of planning.
Let me share a couple of examples:
I’m a big fan of meal planning. I’m not obsessive about it or anything. I probably spend 10 minutes a week, max, planning meals for the week ahead. But once I’ve planned, I’m in a very good position the rest of the week. Here’s why:
- Let’s say I know I’m having chicken and broccoli on Wednesday. Well, first, I’m adding “thaw chicken” to my task list for Monday so that it’s ready to go when I’m ready to cook.
- But second, and maybe most importantly, I can opportunistically prepare dinner. So, while I’m in the kitchen heating up some leftovers for my lunch, I can chop the broccoli. When I’m taking an afternoon break for tea as I wait for the water to boil I can marinate the chicken.
- This means that by the time I’m ready to cook dinner around 6:30, most of the work is already done. Dinner takes 30 minutes instead of an hour.
Let’s consider another scenario:
- If I spend a few minutes at the end of the week planning for the next week, I may recognize that I need to go to the post office, I need to return some books to the library, and perhaps I need to go pick up some fruit at the market.
- Well, all of these places are within a few minutes walking distance of each other. So instead of making 3 separate trips as I think about it throughout the week, I can make a plan to batch these 3 errands together. Combined, these errands will take less than ½ the time.
When you do a bit of planning, think of it like this: you’re getting on an elevator to look at the 1000 foot view of what needs to be done.
Instead of looking just a few feet ahead of you, you can step above and rearrange the pieces so they fit together better.
Now let’s think about how this applies to planning out the workload in your day.
When I plan for the day, I’m taking a look at my task list and my calendar and making a realistic plan for what I can fit into the time I have available.
And, let’s say that somehow a meeting miraculously ends 10 minutes early.
Now, if I have no plan, what will I do doing this time?
Probably email. Sure, I’ll get a few emails answered, but will that really move the needle?
But if I have a plan, those 10 minutes can be used super intentionally. I can opportunistically pick off a task that I’d planned to do later in the day, or even later in the week and do it right then. I can make actual headway knocking things off the list, but without extra effort.
Sometimes we think of a plan as rigid set of instructions that must be obeyed at all costs. If you don’t follow your plan, you may feel like a failure. But I want you to experiment with changing that mindset.
What if you think of your plan as a friendly guide?
Your plan helps you to identify things along the way that you can take care of now.
And if your plans change. And they will. That’s OK.
Your plan can, and should, be flexible.
When you have a flexible plan, you can tackle things opportunistically. You’ll feel more in flow, getting more done, with less stress.