Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

“He who every morning plans the transaction of the day and follows out that plan, carries a thread that will guide him through the maze of the most busy life. But where no plan is laid, where the disposal of time is surrendered merely to the chance of incidence, chaos will soon reign.”  – Victor Hugo

 I find it amazing that Victor Hugo’s quote is still applicable today. When we think of the disposal of time being surrendered today we might think of email, surfing the net and playing on Facebook. Do you go on your computer with the intention of sending an email and find yourself hours later sucked into a rapid series of responses to other people’s request? Have you ever logged off and realized you never sent the email you intended? I admit I have done this.

So what can we do to combat this magnetic pull of technology and other “time sponges” in our lives? I believe you have to start with a plan for your day, your weeks and your months. Take the proactive approach not the reactive approach and set a time if you need limits. Here are 8 Steps to Planning Your Work & Working Your Plan:

  1. Choose a daily planner in a size that works well for you. This could be an electronic organizer or a paper one. Include appointments on a monthly calendar and tasks on the daily.
  2. Group like things (or tasks) together – this is One of my Absolutes of Organizing. Do phone calls at one time, computer work all at once, outside errands at another, or on your way somewhere. Planning these out can save you hours a day.
  3. When you get on the computer, have a mission don’t just play unless all your work is done. Make a list and check it off. Then take time to respond to others’ requests. Have an analog clock or set a timer so you can see the passage of time or be buzzed when time’s up.
  4. Limit your list to the 5 most important things you have to do each day.  A longer list may be too overwhelming.  This will also help you focus on priorities. The daily planning process takes about 10 minutes to write down.  You can do this either first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed – whenever you can think clearly.
  5. Check your progress around lunch time and re-prioritize if necessary. At the end of the day, if something is not done, move it to tomorrow’s list or the next logical day that it could be done.  If all five things get done, you can add some less important items to the list or take the rest of the day off to do some things you want to do.
  6. Plan out the weekly household chores like cleaning, food shopping, doing the laundry and taking out the trash. Assign each to one day and divide the duties among family members. For working parents if you can pay less than you make per hour to clean, do it! You can also break the laundry down into loads per person in the family, doing one or two per night so it is not a huge task. Have each family put away their own clothes.
  7. You may have repetitive monthly tasks like paying bills or doing Quickbooks or writing your company newsletter. Assign these to a day or week so you get in a routine. The nice aspect of routines is that once the task is done, you can forget about it until next week or next month. This frees up space in your mind and on your calendar!
  8. Speaking of free space, if you need more time to yourself or with your friends, schedule it. Spouses with children can give each other a day off. Groups of friends can plan a regular monthly get-together. Because those of us who work hard, need to play as well.

What do you do to combat the time sponges in your life?