Relax, I will not try to convince you that you need time planning, OK? You might be a spontaneous person, and you might wrongly believe that time planning will kill improvisation, but time planning actually adds more spontaneity and improvisation to your life. It’s up to you to take it or leave it.
Here I will not provide the exact time planning methodology, I will just laugh at myths and misconceptions. I know, there are people who hate planning (ENFP for example), but if you like it – consider this list as some ideas how to plan better, bring more clarity, peace, and relaxation to your life.
So, the myths:
1: Time planning is the planning of time
Reality: Time planning is the planning of attention.
Imagine the situation: you planned to do some important task at 8 pm, imagine that you are exhausted after a difficult day at your job or some another activity. Can you concentrate your mind on that task?
If you ever had difficulties like this, then you probably understand that time is not like money – if you have additional 15 minutes, you cannot spend it on whatever you want. Time is not that important by itself – the attention matters. If you are writing a report with a focused mind, you can do it in 30 minutes, but if your mind is scattered, this might take 2 hours. It might be a good idea to stop planning time, but start planning attention instead. When is my attention fresh? When can I do the most difficult task? When am I tired? When can I do the work that does not require the brain?
Spend each moment with a focused mind. One task at a time. If you are relaxing – relax only. If you are working – work only. This is the first step to managing your attention well.
2: Every moment I must know what is the task to do right now
Reality: Every moment I must know what are the tasks I must do.
Time planning is not the planning of time, but it is the planning of tasks. Only when you know all the tasks you must do, you can select what are the most important ones. If you just follow a pre-planned schedule you will not notice how some postponed tasks become urgent. To prevent it – know your priorities and select the task that is the most important now from a list of tasks.
3: Unexpected things might break the plans
Reality: Unexpected things sometimes change or adjust the plans.
I often hear this: why to plan if they are going to break anyway? But I don’t really get it. If you know what tasks are important and if there appears a more important and more urgent task, you will just switch to that task. So what is breaking?
Suppose you planned a weekend trip with your family, but then a client (or a boss) called and suddenly you have some job to do. What are your priorities? If your priority is the job, then plans are not breaking, you are just adjusting them – switching to the most important task. Your family will adjust their plans too – maybe disappointed, maybe frustrated, but they will go to do something important.
Nothing is breaking, the reality is ever changing.
4: Planning kills improvisation
Reality: Planning gives freedom to improvisation.
You can hold all the tasks to do in your mind and intuitively decide each time what to do now. And then forget some task which suddenly becomes important (exam!!! tomorrow!!!).
Or you can hold all the tasks to do written down and intuitively decide each time what to do now by looking through the list. So, you will never forget any task that might be urgent. Less urgent tasks → less stress → more creativity → better improvisation.
5: But how can I plan when no one is planning around here?
Reality: If no one is planning their time – then you will get a huge benefit if you do.
Sometimes it might seem like you are the only one who is planning – there is total chaos around, and everyone tries to interrupt or distract you. But if you plan your attention, have a list of tasks to do and clear priorities, how can anyone break your plans?
Maybe, you have already done all the urgent tasks and they don’t even need to interrupt you (see #4).
Maybe those urgent tasks are not that important compared to your current work and someone else can do them? “To make that report for you right now I must postpone the presentation I am doing for tomorrow’s meeting. So, is it OK if I do it next week?” – most of the time this works, especially if your arguments make sense (no excuses allowed).
Maybe those urgent tasks are really important, so you adjust your plan and do them. No disaster. Just a little adjustment. Peace. (see #3)
6: I don’t have time for time planning.
Reality: You don’t have time because you do not plan your time.
Is additional 15 minutes every morning or evening a waste of time? Should I do something more important? At least for me and most of well-paid CEOs and managers I met this is not the case.
First, time planning makes you focused. You have chosen the most important task and you are doing it now. You don’t need to worry about other things to do.
Second, time planning lets you do the most important tasks first. When the mind is fresh, you can do the most important, the most complex, the most difficult task the most efficiently. That saves time.
Third, whenever you got some free moments and want to do something, you have your list of tasks – pick some of them according to available time and the condition of your attention. And do. You always know what need’s to be done, so no single second is wasted.
Fourth, when you need to estimate how much time you need to do one thing or another – it becomes easy because you see all your things to do.
7: Time planning is for busy managers and CEOs.
Reality: Time planning is for everyone who needs to do more than they have time.
If you are a housewife – plan your dinner one month in advance. So, you will spend less time shopping and thinking what to cook today and more time with your family and children.
If you are at school – plan the time when will you do the homework, so you will have more time to read books (or play games).
If you stay organized at the tasks you hate – you have more time for the tasks you love.
8: All I need for time planning is a calendar.
Reality: For time planning you need a to-do list and a calendar.
If you read all the points – you already got the idea that you need to make a list of the tasks to do. This is the main thing. If you fill your calendar with tasks from the morning to the evening, you are either a very strict person and no one is able to bewilder you, or just wasting your time. This way of planning is not resistant for interruptions, distractions and kills improvisation.
Calendar is for strict appointments: 1pm – dentist; 9pm – event; 25th November – exam. And for reminders: tomorrow is a meeting – prepare; birthday after one week – buy a gift; vacation after one month – book the tickets.
The main tool is the to-do list. Better if it has priorities (important, urgent, ordinary), or some kind of classification (according to difficulty: difficult, easy, no-brainer; according to the type of activity: computer, phone, at home, away; according to the field of life: work, leisure, family, home). There are many theories of time planning. Start with a to-do list and you will see what you really need.
You might find ideas that you don’t need a to-do list. Try those ideas, and when you realize that you need it – come back :)
9: I need a super fancy app to plan my time.
Reality: a sheet of paper or an excel spreadsheet is enough.
For a long time, I kept several to do lists categorized according to their type of activity on separate sheets of paper. Now I moved to excel and keep them there. If you are just beginning – a sheet of paper is enough.
10: I plan my time once a month and I’m done.
Reality: time planning is a continuous task.
Everything is always changing – new tasks will appear, old ones will disappear and become not relevant, circumstances will change, something will take more time than you planned and so on. Time planning is like sleeping – you step out of your busy world and arrange things a bit. What is done? What is not done? What is urgent? What are the priorities? What’s new? Then you can come back.
How often one needs to refresh the to-do lists and calendars? It depends on how many things you have to do. If just a bit – maybe once a month is enough indeed. If a lot – maybe once a week. If you are overwhelmed with a mile long list of tasks – maybe once a day.
But time planning is a continuous task – whenever you did something, you mark it as done. When something new appears – you put a new entry.
11: I must do all the things on my to-do list.
Reality: It is impossible to do all the things on your to-do list. If you have done all the things – there is something wrong with your list.
You will never know what will happen tomorrow. You will never know exactly how long one or another task will take, especially if it is creative. To-do list for tomorrow will kill you when you see that you have managed only 2 tasks out of 50.
I suggest keeping a general list not aimed at completing it in a specific period of time. Every day you will have hundreds of things undone – that is the reality. That frees you from a health damaging conception that you need to do all the things and only then you can take rest. You must be able to go and take rest from time to time no matter how much you have to do. (Yes, do the opposite things – as the Chinese emperor taught).
12: I must plan my job, but another time is freedom!
Reality: If you want freedom on your leisure time, plan it too.
Are you going to keep in your mind that on 25th December you are going to an event? Isn’t it better to write it in your calendar? Weekends, birthdays, special occasions, household works – everything can be kept organized. Dinner – plan them in advance, it will make life easier.
13: Planning is going to solve all my time-related problems!
Reality: Following your plans might alleviate time-related problems.
So, you have a to-do list and you know what is the most important thing. But you scroll the facebook instead. What’s the use of all the planning?
If you know that you must prepare for an exam or presentation, but you wash the dishes instead – what’s the use of all the planning?
If you know that you must bring your car to scheduled repair, but you wait for it to break completely instead – what’s the use of all the planning?
Planning is easy and fun (at least for me). But following the plan is hard. Ability to follow is developed with time. My suggested method is like this – make a plan and try to follow it. If you keep failing either you will get mad at yourself and really start following, either you will realize, that you are an ENFP and planning is not for you.
Good luck in your planning!
What is your experience with time planning? Is it helping you? Or the opposite? Can you tell us in the comments?