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Planning Your Day – STP036

Episode 36 –  In the second of our series on managing your focus, we give you the structure to help you set your day up to be efficient, manage your focus and attention, and win at life.

Some of the USEFUL stuff in there is:

  1. Don’t wish your life away just trying to get to the end of your day

  2. Demand a high quality of life DURING the day

  3. 5 Tools and Techniques to bullet-proof your day and make progress towards what’s important

  4. Some of it comes from – David Allen’s GTD

  5. And some from – Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes

  6. And the rest is from mw

  7. We look at the 5 tools in a simple ‘manual’ way first

  8. A Notebook

  9. An Action List

  10. Buckets

  11. A Calendar

  12. A Routine

1) A Notebook – Or something to dump your ‘head stuff’ into…

  1. Stop waking up at 2am because you’ve just remembered things

  2. The journey my Fisher Space Pen took

INTERACTIVE LISTENERS – DECIDE ON HOW YOU ARE GOING TO ENSURE YOU CAN WRITE DOWN ANYTHING THAT COMES TO MIND AND GET IT OUT OF YOUR HEAD

2) Action List – Stop being woolly…

  1. What’s wrong with a to-do list? I let you in on the secret

  2. The actual to-do list I was referring to (actually it’s a good article)

  3. ‘Write Blog Post’ is the wrong thing to have on your list

  4. A better version could be:

  5. Decide on Blog Post Subject

  6. Write first paragraph

  7. Write second paragraph

  8. Write third paragraph

  9. Review and edit post

  10. Choose an image

  11. Upload to WordPress

  12. Post on Twitter

  13. Start with an “Action” and keep it simple

INTERACTIVE LISTENERS – IF YOU HAVE YOUR LIST FROM LAST WEEK, RE-WRITE THE ITEMS ON THERE INTO ACTIONS. A VERB OR ACTION WORD FIRST – AND KEEP IT SIMPLE.

IF YOU DIDN’T DO LAST WEEK INTERACTIVELY, PRACTICE WRITING OUT SOME TASKS AS AN ‘ACTION’

3) Buckets – Where you put the stuff ready to do it…

  1. Choosing categories to batch your work. GTD calls them ‘Contexts’.

  2. Deciding on your buckets. Consider:

  3. Where do you do your stuff?

  4. Who do you do it with?

  5. What items or devices do you need?

  6. What are your different frames of mind?

  7. What do you tend to do when you’ve got high/low energy?

  8. A good resource for inspiration is at – Simplicity Bliss

  9. My buckets:

  10. Errands/Shopping – Things to buy, dry cleaners, groceries (we use Wunderlist for this)

  11. Home – Clearing garage, painting, housework

  12. Agendas – Things I do with other people, work, family, everyone

  13. Quick Jobs – Firing off e-mails, reading memo’s, updating calendar

  14. Calls – Self explanatory

  15. Downtime – Where I put articles, website links or pamphlets for later reading

  16. Brain Dead – Cleaning things, tidying, clearing out

  17. Full focus – Stuff I have to pay attention to, writing reports, reviewing complex data, meetings. Often these will be things I will use the Pomodoro technique for

  18. Routines – Regular repetitive tasks. Things I do every day/week. All my repeat things are in here from daily meditation to clearing e-mails to zero. My 18 minutes actions are in here

  19. Review – The weekly review, along with any regular reports and info I get which doesn’t need full focus, but is also not a ‘quick job’

  20. Someday Maybe – Things that I don’t need to do soon, but which I want to keep on the radar because thay may become live tasks at some point. Be careful as this can easily become a ‘dumping ground’ so must be cleared out weekly

  21. You need a physical representation of each bucket with the relevant jobs or actions physically inside them. You can use Expander Files, Filing Cabinets, In-Trays, A book divided into sections, Even actual buckets!

  22. Note – if you are doing this with pen and paper, it’s important to keep a copy of the full action list somewhere ready for your weekly review. You are ensuring that each action is ALSO in one bucket.

INTERACTIVE LISTENERS – DECIDE ON WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE AS YOUR BUCKETS, AND HOW YOU ARE GOING TO PHYSICALLY SET THEM UP

4) Calendar – Where the good stuff happens…

  1. Golden rule – only put 2 kinds of things on a calendar:

  2. Things that HAVE to happen at a fixed date or time

  3. Blocks of time for your focused work like – Thinking Time, Weekly Review, Full Focus Time

  4. Don’t put actions on your calendar unless they have to happen on a fixed date or time

  5. Leave some gaps in between to allow things to move – plus buy yourself some white space

INTERACTIVE LISTENERS – HAVE A LOOK AT YOUR CALENDAR NOW, AND BLOCK OFF SOME TIME FOR YOUR FOCUSED/REVIEW/THINKING TIME. AIM FOR UP TO 1/3RD OF EACH WORKING DAY IF YOU CAN. BUT EVEN AN HOUR A DAY IS STILL GOOD.

5) Routine – How you make sure it all happens…

  1. Daily routine – I use Peter Bregman’s 18 minutes daily structure

  2. We’ll cover this in more detail in the next episode, but the key parts are:

  3. At the start of your day spend five minutes asking yourself the following questions…

  4. —Review your Action list – what will make this day highly effective?

  5. —What can I realistically accomplish in my areas of focus? (From last episode)

  6. —What will leave me feeling productive and successful at the end of the day?

  7. Pick 3 things from your Action List and put them into your calendar for today as they are now things which MUST happen on this day

  8. Set a chime or beep to go off every hour (on a watch, device or your Time Sergeant)

  9. START YOUR DAY

  10. When you hear the beep or chime, pause and check in with yourself:

  11. —BEEP! STOP! Take a deep breath. Then…

  12. Am I doing what I most need to be doing right now?

  13. Am I being who I most want to be right now?

  14. —Look at your calendar, deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour

  15. At the end of the day, take five minutes and consider these key questions:

  16. —Did I get it all done?

  17. —How did my day go? What were the successes? What were the challenges?

  18. —What did I learn today? About myself? About others?

  19. What do I plan to do – differently or the same – tomorrow?

  20. —Who did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question? Share feedback with?

  21. Weekly Review – I use a version of David Allen’s Weekly Review from GTD. It looks like this:

  22. Grab the full Action List, Notebooks,  any loose documents, Calendar, your Buckets

  23. Review the notebook since last week – are there any items which need transferring to the Action List (I make a star in the corner of the page, makes it easier for next week)

  24. Look at last week’s calendar, this week’s and next week – Is there anything I’ve missed which needs transferring to the Action List? (quickly review in your head meetings you had, calls etc.)

  25. Look in each Bucket – Are the Actions in the right place, do any need putting onto the calendar as they now have to happen on a fixed date, can I dump any, do any need moving into the Someday Maybe Bucket?

  26. In your head, walk around every physical location you regularly visit – are there things which need turning into actions?

  27. (We haven’t covered electronic stuff yet – but at this stage I would also look at all my emails and check to see if they have a clear Action if needed)

  28. Look at the Action List – Am I writing things as clear simple actions?

  29. You look at the bigger picture on what’s important in regard to your Purpose and Areas of Focus (from episode 35) – Am I doing the right things to support these, what are the actions?

  30. During the review you scribble notes, and then transfer it into Actions (of course!)

INTERACTIVE LISTENERS – FAMILIARISE YOURSELF WITH THE DAILY ROUTINE. COPY MY LIST HERE FROM THE WEEKLY ROUTINE AND PLAN TO PUT YOURS IN YOUR CALENDAR

  1. Holy Moley there’s a lot there – but it’s worth doing because the benefits to you include:

  2. You become more flexible – you can handle change

  3. Life is easier to handle if you are mobile

  4. Your frame of mind becomes calm – regardless of the amount of activity

  5. You no longer feel like you’re reacting, but you are in control and agile

  6. Focus – Attention it all comes easily

  7. No more panic attacks at 2am (or any other time)

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