Long term vs short term planning
In a previous post I wrote about long term planning.
An important aspect of moving forward towards your long term goals is to create the habit of working on micro-tasks each day.
But we don’t only have that 1 goal we need to focus on.
We also have other things to do in our day. And sometimes we get overwhelmed and stressed out because we feel we have so much to do and so little time.
To help cope with this stress we can use a short term planning for our daily tasks.
The benefits of planning are great.
You might think: ‘I don’t need a plan. I can remember everything I need to do’.
That’s where most people are wrong about the purpose of planning.
The purpose of a plan or to do list is not merely to remember things. The purpose is to take things out of your head by putting them on paper.
Let’s explain this a bit in more detail. The way your brain works can be described like this:
- you take a mental note of an important task to do.
- your brain keeps this task in the back of your mind.
- since you tell your brain this task is important, your brain will push this task forward at regular intervals because the brain doesn’t want you to forget about this task.
- the more things you give to your brain to remember, the more reminders it needs to give.
- too many things on your mind overwhelm you and will cause stress
This is not only true for busy business managers. This applies to everyone.
The daily routine of having a family to take care of, doing house chores and combining this with a full time job can be overwhelming for a lot of people.
This is why planning and to-do lists can help you reduce your stress. They help you take away the responsibility from your brain to constantly remind you of these tasks.
But for this to work, you need to have a system that you can rely on. You will only stop worrying about tasks when you trust your planning system. And in order to build trust, you need to create a routine.
I am a strong believer in creating a weekly planning to manage your tasks and chores.
Once a week you look forward to the next 7 days and think about the most important and the most urgent tasks for that week.
I prefer to do this on Sunday evening because I see my week beginning on Monday. But any day will do.
At first I used a simple piece of paper and made 7 columns (one for each day of the week). Recently I switched to a Trello board.
- To begin, I check my calendar and mark my appointments and events so that I don’t forget the promises I made before.
- Since I want to keep in shape, I also mark my training commitments. This could be running or biking for me. You could think of these as just tasks towards a goal. But since these trainings need to be evenly spread to allow rest in between, I put them on my weekly plan first.
- Now I look at urgent things that have a deadline. Like paying bills for instance. Obviously, these need to be put on my weekly plan before the deadline has expired.
- Next I try to evenly spread goal oriented tasks and chores.
Now you should have a clear view of the tasks for the next week.
Here is an example of a weekly plan (click image to enlarge).
It’s not a real plan, but enough to give you an example. You don’t need to add tasks that you have to do every day. I don’t add a task to go to work because I’m sure I’ll remember it.
Number of tasks.
Don’t put too many tasks on 1 day. Most people have a busy job already, so there isn’t that much time for other things to do.
I try to have a maximum of 3 tasks per day. I will also make sure I don’t have 3 tasks everyday because you need to build in some room for changes and for relaxation.
Having a weekly plan is already great but you need to stick to it. Otherwise your brain will never trust this system and let go of the tasks in your mind.
Plan a daily follow-up. This is a very simple step. You already have your weekly plan so you don’t need to do a lot of work.
When you wake up in the morning, have a look to your weekly plan to remind you of the tasks for this day. If something has changed, like an unexpected meeting or something, adapt the weekly plan.
That’s it. It will only take 5 minutes, but these are very important minutes to build up trust for the system.
Some people prefer to do the daily planning on the night before the next day. That’s fine too.
I integrated my daily follow-up with my journaling in my 5 minute journal. But that is a topic for another post.
Weekly planning is a great and easy way to reduce stress in your life. The best way to make sure you stick to your plan is to do a daily follow-up.
Combine this with long-term goal planning and you have a killer system to boost your productivity.