As a college student that was also starting an internet retail business (www.bikewagon.com), I always seemed to give too little time to planning. I was eager to take action, and get going on projects. This hurt me, and today, I spend more time planning than I used to. My weekly routine for planning is what I call my “dry run”.
I inadvertently stumbled into the dry run in high school. My 10th grade summer was coming to a close, and my younger brother Bruce and I were committed to make the last week of summer count. We brainstormed all of the potential things that we could doeach day and came up with a list of everything we wanted to fit into the week. We planned it out day by day, and fit more into that week than any other week that summer.
Our Sunday afternoon planning session took into consideration any hold up that would get in our way. We ran through each day, and talked about the logistics of each activity in our simple “high school kid” way. This is what I call a dry run.
Now I do the same thing in my business. I start by reviewing my list of priorities, then looking through my calendar to see what is already planned. I’ll then work to fit my priorities into it’s own time slot on the calendar. Doing it this way i’m working from my calendar instead of my task list. I think this is an important distinction because I think it’s easy to get stuck working from your email, or from a long list of tasks. Planning a specific time to accomplish each task has helped me get more done.
Tips for doing a successful dry run:
- Plan personal time. When are you going to read, study, workout, spend time with family and so on? Make sure to plan those things and block the time on your calendar. At times I’ve stepped back and been abhorred to see how little I’ve taken care of myself. (Skipping meals and workouts, running from one thing to the next without any personal time.)
- Set aside time at the end of the week to plan out your following week. I usually set aside 60-90 minutes.
- Run through logistical details ahead of time. Travel time, save locations to calendar in advance.
- Keep a list of all your tasks – I use Trello as my task inbox (David Allen, Getting things done). Anything I need to do is written down here. When i’m looking at how i’m going to spend my week I look at my Trello list(free task management tool).
- Identify all phone calls and low energy tasks and plan them during times you’re not as productive. (For me this is while driving, and most afternoons.)
- Plan blocks of time so you can finish substantial work.
- Group like tasks so you can minimize context switching. (Going from email to something that takes more focus.)
- Coordinate ahead of time with all other colleagues and meeting participants. Send meeting reminders as needed.
- Don’t forget relationships, think of who you might want to spend time with that week. Whether it’s a phone call or lunch appointment with an old friend, plan ahead so you can fit it in. When will you be driving, doing dishes, or any other task where it’s easy to multi-task with a phone call. Lunch appointments may need several weeks in advance. I keep a list of friends I want to catch up with, and shop from that list as I have available open lunch slots.
- If you get distracted, or have a surprise thrown into your week, just regroup and work around your schedule as you need to.
- Another tip to better understand how you’re days could be improved is to do an activities inventory. For a whole day track how you spend your time by writing down what you’re doing every 15 minutes. I use a paper notebook to do this. This might show you certain activities that could be delegated. It will also show you what times of the day you’re not as productive.
- Each night, do a review of your next day. This is a good chance to do last minute planning.
The more clear that you can be in the dry run the better your week will go. When you’re worn down during the week you’ll rely on this clear picture to keep you on target.