Do you reverse park?
I was visiting a client recently with whom I have worked for a few years, but this time armed with a new piece of information that I had picked up on quite by chance. Having visited the offices many times before, I confess that I hadn’t even noticed this common trait, and that made it even more amazing when, with eyes freshly opened, I spotted this in all its glory! Everybody based in this office had reversed into their parking space.
It is a part of their corporate culture to be prepared (the Cub Scout motto) for what comes next and so it is actively encouraged. The MD of the company is apparently said, on occasion, to challenge people who do not follow suit.
As someone with a background in project management, planning ahead tends to be second nature and so I like to think that I am more proactive than some. Yet still, with the pace of life seeming to grow ever faster, I find myself racing from one meeting to the next and sometimes relying more on my own abilities, rather than my rigorous preparation, and I talk to many people who’s diaries feel slightly out of control and who suffer acutely from this problem.
Making a list is cathartic. The things racing around in our head seem to occupy more volume than they do when they are written down and so planning proactively can seem to make things calmer. In addition, in spite of what the calendar tells us (and what is sometimes expected), we only have around 220 working days out of each year. When written down we can see what is achievable and make much better use of our time as a result. It leads us to have those internal stop, start, and continue dialogues that will enable us to make the most progress in the time available.
Stephen Covey identified four levels of maturity in planning which he based around goal setting. The first level of maturity, unsurprisingly, is to plan your next day in advance. Finish each day by spending fifteen to twenty minutes planning the next. Having practiced this for a week or two, the next level of maturity is to spend half an hour to an hour at the end of each week to plan the coming week.
The third level, you’ve guessed it, is to plan the month and the fourth level is to plan the entire coming year.
It is not as easy as it sounds to reach each level of maturity and as with any habit, you need to consistently achieve it for a period of 30 days or more to be sure that you have truly reached it. However, as 2016 is fast approaching and the time for your new year’s resolutions is coming close, why not take the opportunity to look ahead and start this process now.
Given that you have a blank year ahead (well almost) why not start by plotting the major milestones that lie ahead for you. They will include major project and business deliverables such as new product launches, contract re-tenders and such like. Holidays, birthdays and any other major family
and business events that you can see ahead should also be included. Block out time for them now and not only do you have your 2016 annual outline plan but also the basis for each monthly plan.
Then give some consideration to the structure of each week. How does each one generally play out? You will want to look back at previous weeks to see what proportion of your time is spent in meetings, what issues tend to arise out of the blue and how many personal projects do you manage to complete.
Firstly, block out the best time for your major projects, secondly consider how much time you need for personal contact time i.e. those calls, emails and conversations that arise during the course of any week, personal development time should feature in each week and some contingency time for the curve balls. In doing this ensure in particular that you schedule an hour at the outside each Friday to look backward and forward and plan the coming week.
Lastly consider your working day. Here you can be much more detailed. When do you generally start and finish work. When do you have the most energy and so should schedule your most challenging task of the day and how often do you check your emails. Again allow some planning time at the end of the day to ask yourself did I achieve everything I set out to achieve? If not, then why not? And if not then what should tomorrow look like?
Planning is not a precise science and a core part of planning is to roll with the punches and re-plan regularly. Equally core however is to be disciplined and to maintain an up to date plan that reflects both what has happened and what needs to happen next.
In this festive season of goodwill we tend to turn our minds to planning for next year. Why not make this year the year of proactive planning and make a small change from the first of January. Best wishes for the holiday period.
About the Author
Eddie Kilkelly is Managing Director at insynergi.