Planning is a critical component to working smarter. It’s no good understanding your priorities if they don’t go into your calendar. Remember, the key to working smart is remaining self-directed, and avoiding being too reactive. Given the demands of the outside world, the only way to guarantee spending enough time on your most valuable tasks and activities is to ensure you book them in.

How to master your planning

To plan effectively there are six steps to follow, all described below. Steps 1 and 2 are important as they help you establish your priorities. Step 3 – 6 help you ensure these priorities go into your calendar and that you do them as frequently as you’d like. That’s really all there is to planning: systematically making sure you consistently spend the right amount of energy on the right things. It sounds simple, but it does require doing a number of things well:

Step 1: Get clarity on your goals: A logical and necessary first step, start by getting clarity on your goals, and especially your quarter goals. Start by aligning towards the outcomes that are most important to you, and this will help make sure that you’re planning the right things.

Step 2: Do an 80/20 analysis:  Now, based on your desired goals and objective, get clarity on your priorities by doing an 80/20 analysis. This will will hep you clarify your ‘MVTs’ – your most valuable tasks and activities, and effective planning demands knowing what your MVTs are.

Step 3: Apply the 1-3 MVT RULE: Every day now plan (calendarise) between one and three MVTs. It helps if you have a dedicated MVT calendar for this (something with a dedicated colour in your already existing Outlook or Google calendar). By planning between one and three MVT’s every day, you guarantee meaningful progress every day while simultaneously insuring you don’t over commit each day.

Step 4: Create and implement your weekly default diary: Now create a list of all the MVTs that need to happen every week. Team meetings, weekly updates, all need to have their pre-allocated slot to ensure they are catered for, and so need to be put in the calendar on a repeating basis.

Step 5: Create and implement your monthly default diary: Similarly, there will be MVTs that need to happen at least once a month. These may include reports, improving systems and processes, reflection and planning. Create your list and put these in your calendar on a repeating basis. For example you could have a “improve systems and processes” MVT repeating the last Friday of every month.

Step 6: Calendarise your quarterly reviews: Now calendarise a quarterly review at some point in the first week of every new quarter. Every three months you need to do a quarterly review, to help you review on your progress and your experience, and make any changes you wish. For instructions on how to do a quarterly review, check out this post: How to do a quarterly review.

Time to get your calendar out?


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