Assess Your Planning Tools and Productivity Levels
First, you need to look at your current system and workflow. For a reset, you might be tempted to migrate to a new system, which is understandable with the countless ideas that you find on YouTube and Pinterest. However, you can learn more about what will and won’t work for you by looking at your current habits. Think about the tools that you use frequently. What purpose do they serve? What do you like or dislike about them? Do you find aspects of using them tedious?
Sometimes, we might find we’re working across multiple tools, some serving similar purposes. As great as these tools can be, maintaining too many can actually be counterproductive. So, first look at those tools, and their strengths and weaknesses for your current planning routine. Then, track how much time you spend planning and working.
Now, you have an overview of your tools. You can dive deeper by checking if your plans are easy to implement. For example, if you’re working on a large project, have you broken tasks down into manageable chunks? Likewise, think carefully about whether the information you’re keeping track of is important. You might find you’re putting less important tasks onto your to-do list which shift your focus from urgent tasks or deadlines. This could be making it easier for you to procrastinate, and prioritise the wrong things.
A quick way to understand what you need to be productive is to think back to a busy time. What do you gravitate towards when you’re busiest or out of your comfort zone? As deadlines approach, you might find yourself stripping back to the bare minimum for planning so you can focus on work. This time period can be a good indicator of how you can plan for the future, and actually get things done using those plans. You might find all you need is a sticky note to-do list that took five minutes to write. While this might be too stripped back for daily planning, it highlights the kind of approach you need to get things done.
Reset Your System and Habits
The first thing to-do is eliminate and minimise. After following the above steps, it will be clear which tools and information are cluttering up your planning space. Some might be easy to eliminate, while others might require a bit of migration. It’ll be easier to complete a reset if you reduce things down. You’ll have less tools to manage later on. Similarly, you might find planning will be quicker if you decide to note less information in your daily or weekly plans. You can always re-introduce these tools later on if you find you’re missing them.
Next, be sure to outline clear goals and set appropriate tasks. What exactly do you want to achieve? What steps do you need to get there? Ideally, break your goals into actionable microtasks that take no longer than an hour to-do. This will allow you to slot tasks into your day, and prioritise tasks from a variety of projects. You’ll be able to juggle multiple responsibilities in this way, knowing you’ve accounted for everything using various microtasks that you complete day by day.
Once you have good goal setting habits in place, it’s time to limit how much time you spend planning. By committing to a certain planning routine, you’re less likely to use planning as a form of procrastination. For example, planning during the day might put you off work, whereas planning the evening before can help you to wake up with a clear focus. Alternatively, a morning planning session might motivate you if you know you’re only committing 15-30 minutes. One way of achieving this is the 15x1 planning model. This model encourages 15 minutes of daily planning, and 1 hour of weekly planning using goals that are aligned to what you want to achieve.
The main end goal is being able to achieve your goals. As long as you feel you’re able to complete meaningful work, then you’re on the right track! Naturally, things will change and adjusting your planning habits is a good sign that you’re always using your system to achieve what you need at that moment.