If there’s a habit that’s a total game changer for executives it’s planning. Unfortunately, there are many planning pitfalls I see people falling into which are counterproductive.
Let’s talk about planning mistakes and myths.
Mistake 1: Daily Planning
When I ask people if they plan, they’ll often reply: “Yes, I plan out my day every morning.”
That’s not planning, it’s prioritising. It’s taking a long list of tasks and working out when you’ll do them. The problem with this approach is that it is tactical rather than strategic.
It’s one of the reasons why so many say they feel like they’ve been busy all day without getting anything done.
When we are being strategic with our time, we are taking time to consider our goals. We can block out time for high value work and make sure that what we do each day aligns with our objectives.
If you’ve done the thinking you need to become clear on your high value activities, and you’ve spent time planning out each week, when you hit your desk each morning you’ll be clear on your priorities and able to act on them immediately.
Mistake 2: Overscheduling
When executives start focusing on their productivity they load their calendar with back-to-back work and commitments. The problem with this is there’s no breathing space for crisis, nor is there time to action or diarise commitments you’ve made in your back-to-back meetings.
For most of us there will be urgent and unexpected tasks that come up each day that must be attended to. As a rule of thumb we need to allow a 20% margin each day for things that come up.
Mistake 3: Not allowing time for delegation
When I start working with new organisations, one of the first things I notice is that the wrong people are doing the wrong work. Often, senior leaders are doing work that could be managed by staff two or three levels down.
I find my clients often have resources available to them that they don’t use simply because they haven’t put time aside to plan and delegate accordingly.
When you start the life-changing habit of weekly planning, you’ll have time to identify the work you’re responsible for that doesn’t actually require you to action it. That is, the work that you should delegate to other people in your team.
Plan Weekly. Act Daily.
Put 30–60 minutes aside each week to plan the week and weeks ahead. Identify how much time you have available to you for the week, the work you wish to complete, what can be delegated to others, and what should not be done.
You’ll find you become more realistic about what can be achieved, and you are moving valuable projects forward.
Consider your planning time as sacred. While it may seem that you’re taking time away from other work, you’ll discover this saves you hours and hours each week.
Follow these steps and you’ll notice each week runs much more efficiently and effectively:
- Review what you have on your plate for the next few weeks (upcoming events, deadlines etc.)
- Schedule time into your diary for high value work (projects, stakeholder meetings etc.)
- Identify work that can be delegated to other people (if easy, delegate via email, or send a meeting request to hand over the task);
- Follow up on anything outstanding from what you delegated last week;
- Prepare agendas for your meetings; and
- Take time for reflection. Ask yourself:
- What worked well this week?
- What could have gone better?
- What will I do differently next time?
- Who should I thank/connect with?
Use your weekly planning time to ensure you’re thinking ahead, prioritising the right activities and projects, and spending time with the right people.
It’s a game changer.