Sunday, September 30, 2007

Planning Effectiveness

At some point after college, I fell out of the habit of planning for effectiveness on a daily and monthly basis.  I am not really sure when it happened.  I think it was around a year after graduating.  Without external schedules of full time college, half time work, recreation, and a long distance relationship forcing it, I let the advantage slip away.  There is really no reason for it other than sheer laziness.  Planning of this nature is a proven tool for getting more out of each day.  Rachel knew this as far back as high school.  Looking to when she used the planner in high school and college, that too was when the volume of what needed to get done was so large there were no other options.

I suppose part of the reason I stopped doing it was the result of reading the Effective Executive and the 80/20 principle.  I learned that there are a few keys tasks I complete each day the generate most of my success for the day.  The corollary to that was my laziness kicked and I realized I could get what I want with limited effort, so why work harder?

I think there is another reason planning fell out of favor with me.  Previously though I was taking the right actions, I was chasing the wrong goal.  I thought my reward for all the planning was long term success.  I savored the thought of greatness, measured through financial well being.  Once I achieved that, I was confused and did not know what to work towards.

What I am beginning to find is that success doing things is its own reward.  You can account for all the major factors for success in a few hours per day, but with nothing worthwhile to fill the rest of that time, the low value use of the remainder becomes detrimental to mood and attitude.  Laziness, sadly, is not its own reward.  I really wanted Office Space to be right ("Nothing, I'd do nothing"), but it is wrong.

An idle mind festers, gradually decaying.  Without occupation, detrimental thoughts build to fill the idle time.  Eventually they create enough overhead that the few hours a day that are needed for success are paired with another 12 hours a day of garbage thoughts.  These thoughts need to be purged, as they burden every task one does.  They also inhibit mood.

Looking to the more successful, happy people I've known, they all plan their time on a regular basis. I think this is a two fold tonic.  First it ensures the person is getting quality out of their time.  It is not a case of doing more with each day for the sake of accomplishing as much possible to reap rewards.  Rather, it is a case of making the most of each hour of the day, planning to enjoy the rewards of time well spent.  Either way the destination can be reached, but planning makes for a better journey.

The other benefit of the planning is it provides a set period of each day where the overhead, detrimental thoughts can be purged from the mind, either for corrective action at a later period in time, or simply to a piece of paper so they can be forgot about.  This is a tremendous, overlooked value of planning.  Who wants to think about negative things all day?  Not me.

It is time for me to resume maintenance of a day planner.  While I have a PDA, I do not think that is the solution.  The purpose of doing this is to simplify and focus my life.  Adding an electronic device that needs to be charged and maintained does not do that.  Instead, I will get a simple paper day planner.  While in college I had a small Franklin Covey binder that worked very well.  Their planning system was effective, and it is an easy way for me to resume doing this.  However, I'm not sure what I can get today, so it may be a longer term solution.  Either way, at some point today I will get a day planner and start using it.

Subsequently, each morning when I get up and each evening when I leave work, I will update my day to day plan.  I suspect that from that, making time to do the monthly and yearly planning will evolve.  If not, ultimately I will schedule this.

It is very hard for me not to view this as creating work for myself.  I know a little planning actually makes my life much easier, but for so long I have been focused on doing as little as possible to enjoy each minute.  I now know that is not the trick though.  I have the most fun and am the happiest when I am working towards goals.  I enjoy the small daily successes that come with full use of my time.  It is who I am, and I need to act on that knowledge.