Do you plan your day first thing every morning, or do you just jump straight in and answer a few emails?
In the past I knew I needed to plan my day, but still failed to do it. I’ll explain why later in this article. Nowadays I start every day with a coffee and my daily planner. I’ve learned my lesson.
However, I’ve got an even more valuable tip for you if you are trying to improve your personal productivity.
The key step is actually taking your to dos for the day, and entering the time you expect each job to take in your diary or scheduler.
This way you can see if tasks are achievable.
For example, today I have to write two FP Advance blogs, an article for an industry magazine, and finalise a blog I wrote last week. I’ve also got two calls to make. Each FP Advance article will take two hours. The magazine piece about another two hours. I need an hour for lunch, and then I need to allow 30 mins for the two calls. Then I’ve got half an hour to edit the blog from last week. That’s a full day for me.
Where do I create problems for myself?
There are some shortcuts that I have tried (that don’t work). I know that most clients I work with do the same, and it doesn’t work for them either, so take heed. How many of the shortcuts below are you guilty of?
1. I don’t enter times in the diary
When I don’t enter the time each task will take in my diary I always seem to get in a pickle. Why? Because I can delude myself that it’s all possible; that I can get everything done.
When I take ten minutes to simply plan out the time each task will take, I often spot in the planning phase that I’m being unrealistic. It won’t all fit into the time I’d like to work today. If I’m ok with working until 8pm it all fits, but if I want to stop at 5pm, it doesn’t.
2. I overreach
I often try to do too much. Now, you can laugh this one off and say “Yeah, everyone does this. So what?”.
By deluding myself that I might get it all done, I am avoiding the real issue; that I probably have too much on my plate. More on this in a minute. Lying to myself is never a good thing. Moving forward in one’s business requires total honesty.
3. I don’t allow time for a proper lunch break
Sometimes, I just omit lunch altogether in my day plan. Big mistake. A person has got to eat in order to concentrate and work at their best. If I try to ram down a quick sandwich on the fly it’s never enjoyable, and it still takes 20-30 minutes minimum by the time I nip out to get it and eat it.
4. I don’t allow some down time between tasks
There needs to be some down time between jobs for a few reasons:
- It can take five or ten minutes to regroup and to mentally switch from one job to the next. Not in every case, but taking that time just to have a break or a coffee is useful and enjoyable.
- Sometimes my team need a response to something, and I can do that in these in-between times. If I plan my time to the second, it might work for me, but not for my team.
- Occasionally a task overruns the time I allowed for it, and so some slack in the timings lets me recover that easily and without any stress.
5. I don’t allow realistic (and then some) time for each task
I often used to put in timings for each task and still run into problems.
Because I entered the amount of time each task would take if it all went perfectly, I was on fire, and there was not one distraction.
Sadly, that’s not the real world, and so often things would implode. The minute I start thinking I might be able to shave five minutes off this job, or steal ten minutes from that one to do another one, I’m in real trouble.
Facing the truth
Why would I do the things I’ve listed above? I’m not an idiot.
The only conclusion I can come to is that it’s a form of denial or delusion, and I see it in almost every single one of my clients. The truth is, when it doesn’t work in the planning, it doesn’t work in the execution. The planning is the key step.
What’s really behind all of this is that in the past, I just had too much on my plate. With too much on your plate there are decisions that need to be made.
a.) Work out what’s important – Probably, something has to go. You can’t do it all. However, this now requires you to make choices about what’s most important to get you to your objectives.
Most business owners don’t ever make these tough choices consciously. They let disorganisation make the choice for them, and it’s a really poor way to do it. You can go for months or years at a time wondering why you seem to be chasing your tail, and not doing the things you know you should do to succeed.
b.) Build a team and delegate – Alternatively you could get more support in place, so that you can focus on the things that only you can do. The rest can be delegated to other members of your support team.
The test here is easy enough to work through. If you can afford to hire more support, then just do it. If you are really tight for cash you might want to let go of the non-essential tasks by making conscious choices, as I outlined above.
The most important thing is to stop the delusion and that all comes from one simple step; doing the planning at the beginning of every day.
Planning for success
Here are the key takeaways:
I’ve learned that it’s the planning part of the day that is critical. If it won’t work on paper now, right at the start of my day, it’s not going to work as my day heats up.
Conversely, if I plan the day well, with time off for a lunch break and some free time in between, everything not only gets done, but it gets done in a fun and enjoyable way. I can’t describe what a difference that makes to my journey. And remember, success is a journey, not a destination.
Stop deluding yourself, and get planning your day properly by entering the time each task will take into your diary at the start of each day.
If you can’t plan your day effectively and honestly yourself, get your Personal Assistant or an organised team member, to assist you. Doing this with another person can stop you lying to yourself, and can dramatically improve your productivity and quality of life.
Let me know how you go.
I spend a bucketload of time reading articles, books, and information from all over the financial planning world. I even attend conferences abroad, as well as the usual suspects here in the UK. Why? So I can distill that down into some amazing free advice in my weekly blog. Sign up for it below. (You can leave anytime, although I don’t think you’ll want to)