My planning system
I've evolved a system that really works for me and I am anxious to share. Unfortunately, it is hard to explain, so I wanted to post my first attempt to explain and get some feedback. The following is from a blog entry:
There are so many planning systems out there, but only one matters- the one that works for you. I have evolved my own planning system after years of trying others. I have to say that this planning system has been a miracle for me. It borrows heavily from the ideas and thoughts of others, but it is uniquely mine.
Before I get into specifics, I would like to outline my issues with planning. First, I love planning and thinking about planning and reading about planning more than doing. I admit this. However, I also love the joy of accomplishing something, which can't happen if I spend all my time thinking and reading about planning. So, I needed a system that gets me going and still feeds my desire to play with planners. (If you are in my boat, you know what I mean. Do you get excited by a new planner concept? Do you love notebooks/pens/office supplies? Does reading the term "personal planning methodology" get you as excited as a kid hearing the ice cream truck?)
My second issue with planning is that I have what I call a "muddled mind." Although I am not dumb (several Ivy league degrees hang crooked on my wall), I have trouble sorting out what I should do. Which project is important? How does it relate to my overall focus in life? Hmmm...these questions are hard so why don't I look for a planner?
I long to join the ranks for people who can just do it.
So, without further ado, here is the system. I will give the nuts n' bolts first, then the reasoning behind it.
1. The system is designed around goal setting, except that it is goal setting in reverse (will explain). For the first seven days, you set 5-8 goals per day. You must achieve at least 5 of these goals. If you achieve 5 goals per day for a week, then you continue to set/achieve 5 goals per day, but you also add to this 5 seven day goals. Thus, after you get used to daily goal setting, you add in weekly goals. After you have done this combination of daily/weekly goals for 4 weeks, you set four week goals. Then, you move on to 12-week, 24-week, and one year.
To move to 7 day goals, you must achieve your daily goals for 7 days. To move to 4-week goals, you must achieve your daily/weekly goals for 4 weeks. To move to 12-week goals, you must achieve your daily/weekly/4 week goals for 12 weeks. And so on.
The idea behind this is that you learn goal setting step by step. After setting daily goals, you get a sense of what kinds of goals work for you, so you can move on to weekly goals. After setting weekly and daily goals for 4 weeks, you get a sense of how to set a longer term goal (weekly) and break it down into daily steps.
If you were to only set daily goals, it would be hard to ever achieve multistep, long-term projects, However, it is hard for some of us to set goals. Hard to think ahead, plan what needs to be done, etc. With this system, you learn goal setting. The other great thing about this system is that is creates incredible momentum. You accomplish something everyday. You get the high of writing something done and checking something off. You start to look forward to your "next step up," moving to the next level of goal setting.
In the beginning, there are a few points to keep in mind. First, many of your goals at the start will be clearing backlog. That is certainly okay. As you get better at using the system, the backlogs will clear and your goals will focus more on projects and long-term improvements. Second, at the beginning you should try to achieve things that pop out at you. Maybe 30 minutes cleaning your desk. Or a walk outside. Anything that gives you immediate positive feelings so you will keep going.
Now, the fun part for us self-improvement/planner junkies...
There is tons of information about planning projects, goals, about self-improvement, motivation, etc. In the past, I would read all this stuff and not be sure how to implement it. This system I have described gives you a framework for using all of this. You will need to read about project planning and goal setting to make this system successful. You will have to tweak forms and create systems. None of this will be theoretical anymore, because your focus will be on your goals and keeping with the system. Every project planning form will be tested in this system. As long as you move forward and hold on to this system, none of this is a waste of time.
One of the best things you can do is to find and do goal setting exercises. You know, like listing 100 you want to do before you die, drafting mission statements, etc. If you are like me, you love this stuff. More importantly, all of these exercises will help you generate goals for the system.
Brainstorming becomes a blast because you know you have a framework to achieve.
I keep a binder of projects divided by category and spend at least an hour a week brainstorming. I also have a binder of motivation quotes and articles.
This system may seem simplistic to those who have spent hours evolving ways to manage to-lists. The great thing about this system is that it works in harmony with whatever else you've got. All you have to do is identify the goals for the relevant time period. It makes whatever system you are already using better and it makes you actually use whatever system you have. I have to look at my project lists, I have to brainstorm, I have to consider my roles in life. I have to set priorities. Covey's quadrant jumps out at me now. My five goals are "golden" in that they represent my real commmitments.