Planning Habits That Drive Productivity


Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” –
(Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)


As a child, I never understood Alice in Wonderland.  It was filled with weird scenes and a terrifying Queen that was not very nice.  Today, I still don’t know if I fully understand every symbolism that the book portrays.  I do however; get what the Cheshire Cat was trying to say to Alice in the quote above.


If you don’t know where you want to go, then any path will get you there.  In the same way, if you don’t take the time to Plan, you risk finding yourself moving away from your goals.


If you are serious about increasing your productivity, then make planning a habit.


Do you plan your day in advance?  If not, chances are that very often, you find yourself in reaction mode instead of following up on your strategies.  With proper planning, you can be proactive and clear about what you want to accomplish each day.


Which planning habits can you put in place that will help increase your productivity?


The following steps can help you create the right planning habits in order to drive productivity:


Step 1:  First be effective, then efficient


Before you can even begin to be productive, you need to determine what productive means for you.  No, it is not the amount of tasks you get done in a day.  In fact, sometimes only getting 1-2 things done can be more productive than another day where you get 30 menial tasks done.


  • Determine your Most Important Tasks for the Day. What are the 1-2 Big Rocks that need to be done that will advance you towards your goals fastest?
  • Know what outcome you want to achieve from your day
  • Capture everything you need to do (paper or electronic)


Step 2:  Now be Efficient


Now that you know what you need to be effective, schedule your day to be most efficient.


  • Make sure all your Deadlines and Appointments are scheduled into your calendar.
  • Next, schedule your Big Rocks and Most Important Tasks according to your energy levels. When is your energy highest?  These are the moments to work on those tasks that require the most energy from you.
  • Batch similar tasks together. This allows for minimum transition from one task to another.
  • Try theming your days for maximum efficiency. If possible, try and schedule your meetings all on one day.  Have your development discussions or 1-1 on the same day every week.
  • Leave Open Blocks for the unexpected. These will be the moments where you can manage the urgent without it impacting what is important.
  • Schedule time to read emails or return messages.


Note on multi-tasking:  Although the ability to multi-task has once been revered, it has now been proven that it hinders your productivity instead of increasing it.  Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN mentioned that there is only about 2% of the population that are super multitaskers. It’s sort of a genetic gift.  In fact, Most of us don’t have this gift. These are the people who are truly able to do several different activities at the same time without losing efficiency or losing quality as they do all that work.


According to Dr. Sanjay’s research, while you may think you are multitasking, you’re not actually doing both activities at the same time.  What you are actually doing is diverting your attention from one part of your brain to another part of your brain.  That takes time, resources and brain cells.  What happens on the other side of the brain is that you’re starting a brand new activity, so in fact you’re probably slower and not nearly as good at doing both activities at the same time.


Based on these findings, I recommend single tasking items that are high level.  These are those tasks that are part of your Big Rocks (Most Important Tasks) and would benefit from your undivided attention.  You can then multi-task low level, more menial items.


Step 3:  Mid Day Check in


It is important to check on your progress mid day.  This will allow you to gage if you are on track to accomplishing all you intended to complete.  Are your Most Important Tasks done?  Make sure to adjust your afternoon if necessary based on your results so far.


Step 4:  Review. Plan. Repeat


Another check-in?  Your mid day check-in was to ensure you were going to be able to complete those tasks you deemed a priority and to realign if necessary.  This step is about reviewing your entire day and taking note of anything important.


In the Beginning of the process, don’t get discouraged if you over plan too much.  The key is to learn from what didn’t work during the day and to continue doing more of what did work.


The end of day review is also about creating your plan for the next day based on the events of the current day and what you foresee as your priorities for the next day.


Review. Plan. Repeat