The Value of Planning

    Planning is very valuable to productivity in most cases. It is what essentially goes behind making a time budget, a detailed schedule, and as well for longer-term endeavors like goals and discovering what you really want to do. Planning is what is actually at the core of solid productivity and time management and while not everything in productivity, it plays an integral role. Here are five reasons you should plan

  1. Planning will give you a guideline. Since life is not perfect and everything is going to go at least little differently than expect, having a plan puts you ahead of the game and even when off track a bit it is easier to get back on track.
  2. Planning keeps you focused. When there is a plan in place, it is easier to focus on the goal because there is one. It is when there is no goal (or too many goals at the same time) when focus goes off the wall.
  3. Planning increases chances of success. While there is a chance of success without a plan, it is just that, a chance. Now planning doesn’t always guarantee success; however, it does help. When a pivot is needed, this is where planning comes back in to course correct.
  4. Planning strengthens other skills. Planning is a main part of executive functioning which also encompasses skills such as time management (scheduling, being on time, getting things done on time), prioritizing, goal-setting, and organizing (whether physical, electronic, or mental).
  5. Planning is a skill that you improve upon. The more you plan, the better at it you become. This is a skill that is valuable in practically every profession, organization, as well in your personal life. No one will be upset at you for planning well. Only in excess is planning a problem.

    Just as anything else that is good, too much planning can be an issue. Planning in excess can lead to not actually executing on any decisions or anything just because all of the time is spent planning. Another caveat of too much planning is being to inflexible, which in pretty much anyone’s life that is not practical. Being too rigid with a schedule or plan is detrimental to productivity. Overall, life is going to happen either way, you can plan or you could not plan. Planning properly will always put you ahead. Let me know your thought on planning and ways that you plan that are effective

Related Posts

The Importance of Scheduling Everything

Make a Time Budget

The Power of Focus

The Power of Focus

     I have already touched upon the drawbacks of distraction. Just to reiterate, distractions are very detrimental to productivity, efficiency, and for our general happiness. One thing I can't stand is being interrupted. I don't like interruptions even if I have nothing that important to do. I can't stand being derailed from what I am doing, just to do something else and again lose all the time it takes to switch focus from one thing to another. This is how working for someone else can possibly be difficult because you have little control of how you spend your time and what to prioritize. This of course is a case by case basis and many factors come into play. In my work experience so far, I frequently have had one boss coming with a priority, coworkers with priorities, customer/client requests, and so on. Everyone wants your time and when you are paid by someone else, they have control of the time. This is the classic trading time for dollars of working a "9-5" which can take the form of all different hours but ultimately is the same thing. I say all of this to emphasize the value of focus.

     Focus is extremely important. Just as distractions can derail you, focus can save you time and accelerate your goals and tasks. The first step to finding your best focus is finding out when you focus best. One way to go about this is to track your time. Do a task that requires a good amount of focus but doesn't take too long. Also, this task must always take about the same amount of time. A good example is reading a page of a book (use the same book with a comparable amount of words). If you already know when your focus is best, then you can skip this step and go ahead with working the best time. Some tasks are better at certain times than others. Everyone is different and there are several studies that talk about when it's best to be creative, best to learn, best to do physical activity, etc. The best solution is to find what works for you. This can change throughout the course of your life as well. For example, I used to read in the morning but if I have to be at work early, then I don't have time to read and it is better to read in the evening even if it's not my ideal time.

     Whenever you can focus the best is the best way to set up your schedule. Of course most of us have circumstances that prevent us from creating our ideal schedule. It could be a job or various family factors such as small children or being a caretaker that can prevent us from creating our ideal schedule. Since we live in a world that is not ideal, we should not drive ourselves crazy trying to develop this ideal schedule!

     Another important thing to remember is to not try to do this all at once. It is best to do this little by little. Keep making consistent progress and you will find yourself with a close to ideal schedule that allows you to be very productive. This will take time. I am still tweaking my schedule frequently and have been keeping schedules for 14 years!

The Drawbacks of Distraction

      It is common knowledge that distraction is bad for productivity. However, there are many different ideas on how bad it really is. For example, let’s say it takes 20 minutes to do a task and you stop for 2 minutes to do something else. On paper, that means it would take 22 minutes to complete the task. However, that's not actually the case if the task takes any type of concentration. The more concentration and thought required, the more damaging distraction will be. A task such as vacuuming or sweeping a floor will not be derailed significantly if the task is interrupted. It is simply a task that can be stopped and started again whenever. It will not take longer because one does not need to get back into focus for it. Whatever is on the floor will need to be cleaned, whether it’s 15 minutes, or 4, 8, and 3 minute segments.    

      However, it's different with tasks like reading a book, writing a blog post (like this one), setting goals and doing long-range planning. The distraction (i.e a phone call) may only be two minutes, but we must also take into account the time it takes to get back into focus again as well as lost momentum. That 20 minute task may become a 30 minute task just by the one two minute distraction.

      This can be worse depending on how easily distracted you are, your work styles, your environment, and a lot of other factors. So the numbers can be different. For example, a person learning a new task will definitely be more derailed by distraction than someone who is experienced in the task because there is a lot of uncertainty in doing a new task and not sure if it’s being done right or how to do it. Also, some people might be quicker on certain tasks because they enjoy them more than others so that will mean there is more natural focus and less tendency towards distraction. This is not an exact science! 

      The time it takes to get back into a task could be determined by timing certain tasks and seeing how much distraction can affect the length of time to complete the tasks. This is where the time budget and time tracking tools come into play. There are well known methods for focus such as the Pomodoro Timer where there is a set time to focus on a task, for example 50 minutes, then take 10 minute break for all distractions like emails, social media, responding to missed calls and text, etc. It is also important to determine when the best time to focus is. It may be in the morning, after a cup of coffee or tea, in the evening, etc. Whenever you focus best is the time you should work on these tasks that require focus. There may also be times of the day that work better for certain tasks, this will be determined by you as you realize how you function. Again,everyone is different.

      Another key to minimizing distraction is to get the big tasks done first and early in the day. This reference commonly referenced as “eat that frog” (book by Brian Tracy) will get the tasks that are concerning you out of the way so that you will be able to focus on the other tasks later in the day. I personally find this to be very helpful because undone tasks can bother me. I am way less productive if I am overwhelmed with tasks both big and small because I am constantly distracted by what has to be done. Unfortunately, in many work situations as an employee, you do not have control over what work to do. In the workplace there are so many distractions that you are frequently derailed from your plan for the day. For example, if I schedule what should be four hours of work for a eight hour work day, and I actually get through those tasks that I plan to focus on, then I am actually doing well, leaving the other half of day for tasks that come up the same day. This can certainly vary Nevertheless, the more practice that is done, the better this gets.