After much experimentation, I've settled on the following method for planning my day. And this method works at all time horizons (weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly).
- Review your goals and objectives to gain alignment. Determine which goals you need to move forward today. Where do you need to make the most progress?
- Write outcomes that you'd like to see for a successful day today. An outcome is written as what you want to be true in order to work backwards against what you need to do in order to make it true.
- Try and keep the list to 3-5 items. This depends on the time you have available — as well as the size of your to-dos — but in general it's a good rule-of-thumb to follow. Keep it manageable.
- I have written two chapters of my book
- I have talked with Dave about the release
- I have designed the book cover
- Create tasks to help you reach the outcomes you defined. With the end in mind, you can write out digestible to-dos to reach the outcomes.
- Set appetites to define how much time you're willing to spend. An appetite is different than an estimate in that it defines how much time you're willing to spend on a to-do. It is a constraint that helps control and manage your time.
- Prioritize the list based on what is most important (related to outcomes). Sort the list by what's most important so you can focus on the highest-priority item first. The priority order should correlate directly to the priority of the outcomes defined in the first step.
- Write Chapter 1 (2 hours)
- Write Chapter 2 (2 hours)
- Call Dave (30 minutes)
- Design Book Cover (1 hour)
- Based on the appetites, create blocks in the calendar for each task. If you don't hold yourself accountable to a specific time in the day, it's easy to let things slip by. Add it to your calendar, and make any necessary adjustments as the day unfolds.
- If there's not enough time, reassess your tasks or move to tomorrow. If you run out of time to complete the to-dos (based on the appetite), reassess the tasks, the appetites, or move it to the next day.
- If something changes, reassess and update your calendar. Plans almost invariably shift, which is fine (and expected). Continue to reassess your calendar, tasks, and outcomes, reconfiguring accordingly.
- (9:00-11:00am) Write Chapter 1
- (12:00-2:00pm) Write Chapter 2
- (2:30-3:00pm) Call Dave
- (3:30-4:30pm) Design Book Cover
- The first step helps you align to your goals, which orients your work and planning against only the most essential and high-value work.
- The second step helps you break down what you want to happen into digestible blocks of work as actionable tasks.
- The third step forces you to constrain yourself against time, holding yourself accountable with realistic expectations.
Although the focus is here on planning your day, you can use the same steps to plan next week, month, quarter, or year. Identify what would make the time unit successful, break the work down, and schedule time to do it.
When looking at longer time horizons (months, quarters, years), breaking the work down will often result in a project, which is a collection of tasks that work towards a single objective. And scheduling time will often result in recurring events, which can come to life as habits.
1. Answer "What will make this year successful?"
- I have run a 5k.
- I have published a new book.
2. Break the work down into tasks.
- 5k Training (project with tasks like "Buy running shoes", etc.).
- New Book (project with tasks like "Decide on title", etc.).
3. Commit time on the calendar.
- (M-Th from 6:00-7:00am) Running
- (Every day from 8:00-9:00am) Writing