Productivity P #3: Planning (Tip 1)

Thanks for following my 4 P’s of Productivity weekly! I wrote about the first P: Purpose here, and the second P: Prayer here. I hope that these first three posts have helped you be a tad more productive the past few weeks. Now I’ll be talking about the third P: Planning.

Ahhhh… so much to say! Where to begin? Well, since I mentioned everything begins with purpose, here’s what I wrote on the 4 P’s primer post about planning:

The more time you spend planning, the less time you spend executing. Execution is another thing and that takes time, too, but the less time you spend planning, the more the likelihood of rework, firefighting, spending beyond your budget… and all these take so much more time and energy than you have to. tweet

At a firing range, you don’t just fire away. You ready, then you aim, then you fire. We apply the same principle to the things we do. We can’t just fire away without readying or aiming every day or else we’ll eventually lose ammo, not to mention we might not even hit the mark.

Since I have so much to say about this P, let me cut the post into three installments:

  1. Planning Tip 1 (this one)
  2. Planning Tips 2 & 3
  3. My Recommended Digital Planning Tools

Whether you prefer using a planner (may I recommend this one) or a digital of sorts, here are three tips on planning (Planning Tip 1 on this post and then 2 & 3 on my next post).

1. Create a Default Weekly Grid

There are usually meetings that happen weekly and there are usually weekly deliverables. Other tasks can’t get in the way of these, so map out your weekly priorities on a schedule grid. Let’s say you work Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 5pm, and you lead a team of two people. This is a sample of your default week’s plan:

Understanding the Grid:

  • The days/hours on the top indicates the number of hours this person is working in a day, total of 40 hours per week.
  • The white cells represent the working hours of each workday. I greyed out 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM assuming that’s when this person takes lunch. ?
  • Tasks/meetings on the grey cells are non-work priorities.
  • The “Non-negotiables” at the bottom indicates the number of hours spent on non-negotiable work tasks or meetings.
  • The “Time for Other Things” at the bottom indicates how much time is left from the working hours after you deduct the non-negotiables. This tells you if you have enough time that day for additional tasks or meetings. Note that lunch time is counted under this category. You can always maximize lunch time to meet people or build healthy working relationships with your team members.

Grid Flexibility

In reality, every week is not as clean and clear-cut as this. But having a default grid allows you to have a good grasp of your week, reminding you of your non-negotiables, enabling you to make informed decisions when saying yes or no to additional tasks or meetings.

For flexibility, here are some things you can do:

  • Keep your grid with 20% to 50% “Time for Other Things” so whenever something comes up that really needs to bump off a non-negotiable, I’d have enough time so I don’t get backlogs.
  • Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings. Give yourself at least 30 minutes in between meetings, in case there are instances when your meeting does not end on time, and to give yourself a breather and prepare yourself for the next meeting.

Bonus Tip

I used to set my grid to open automatically every time I start up my laptop, but now I just take a screenshot of my grid and paste it on a blank PowerPoint/Keynote slide, add some personal touches to the slide (like pictures of my family and some bible verses), save the slide as an image, and use it as one of my desktop pictures. (The grid is not your working calendar. You have your planner or a calendar app for that. You don’t have to adjust your grid every week. Having one just helps you get a big picture of your week so you don’t miss anything out, and hopefully, for the most part, you can actually stick to your grid.)

I wonder what my grid will look like a few weeks from now! It’s still sinking in that I’m already 35 weeks pregnant this week. That means in TWO weeks’ time, our dear C______ Noah will be full-term already! But I’m hoping he comes out on the last week of February so he maximizes his development inside my tummy. ? Please do pray with us for a spontaneous, natural, painless delivery!!!

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