Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Make (Small Bits of) Time to Plan

Photo courtesy of Stock.xchng

I am used to rare, mega-planning sessions. I will take a day a few times a year, and write voluminous notes on all the things I want to do in the next few months, year, or 5-years. I usually break it down into minuscule little segments so I have a to-do list. Then I forget about it until the next planning session.

That's right. I only rarely do anything with those copious notes. The problem is partly my personality--I struggle with detail, especially pre-planned detail. But some of the problem is my planning process. By the time I get around to the tiny details, my stamina for the planning process has waned. I want to get something down, so I write out my little steps, but they aren't realistic. One point may be "design new logo." Designing a new logo, for me, would mean several steps:
  • Brainstorming what I want a logo to accomplish
  • Spend several hours looking at possible logo ideas online
  • Make a few jottings
  • Determine any help I need
  • Price said help, including more do-it-yourself options
  • Finalize logo idea
  • Decide how to reproduce it for print and for products I sell

David Allen, in his book, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity(affiliate link) taught me that a thing is not planned until you have all the actionable steps down. So "design new logo" is not a plan. All the steps above, perhaps with more detail, is a plan. Planning to that level of detail is exhausting for me. Today, a little light finally went off in my head.

A big block of time is useful to think through the goals I want to accomplish in the minutes that make up my life. But the actual planning is just too much work to do over a long work session. Today, I had about an hour free. I sat down (with a notebook--as much as I love my computer I'm finally accepting my brain organizes information better on paper) and mapped out several major goals I want to accomplish. When I started to tire, I stopped. I got a lot done and felt good about it.

I will pick up my work again tomorrow or the next day for another hour. My mind is fighting me a bit, because this slower process takes longer. But when I finally get all the pieces together, they will be a well-thought out whole. These "micro-planning" sessions are small in the sense that they deal in small amounts of time and they break projects down into very small bites.

This year, I have learned that slow effort beats marathon sessions. For me, that effort does not have to be consistent in the sense of having a detailed schedule or coming to it every day. But I do have to plan time to daydream, and think, and then nibble at the actual work of building something--whether it's a budget, a novel, or a clothing business--all things I have on my planning list, and I have even accomplished some of them.

This year has been a year of living slowly. I have learned a lot about patience. Now I'm learning the valuable lesson that marathon sessions of anything--cooking, planning, or treating patients--just do not work for me. Stay tuned for more on the importance of micro-work. In the meantime, what are your planning tips? Any programs, processes, or books you recommend?

***I will be archiving this blog later this year. I have consolidated my web presence to TeresaYGreen.com. Please visit the site, and join my mailing list to get more useful content!

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