Is Planning Every Day the Wrong Approach?

What if your plan for today takes several days to finish?

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)

I have a confession: Sometimes, I’m actually pretty terrible about daily planning.

Here’s what happens.

On Sunday, I sit down and do a weekly review. I look at the approaching deadlines and appointments I need to prepare for. I review the goals and projects I’m actively working on and identify ways to make progress on them in the coming week.

Then, I plan what to do on Monday and give myself a week’s worth of work to do.

It’s not intentional. I’m excited about what I’m working on and I can’t wait to make more progress!

Productivity looks very different when you have kids. You have less time than you think you do. Someday, I’ll have more discretionary time. Until then, my kids need my attention more than the newest podcast, YouTube video, or blog post does. I still read a lot, but there’s less Dr. Covey and more Dr. Seuss.

It doesn’t help that I have a bicameral planning system, with personal and professional tasks tracked separately. I never get to see the full picture. Each half has its allotted time to accomplish its tasks. Each has its fire drills that keep you from working your plan.

As terrible as I am, I don’t feel bad about it. Because I’m clear on what I’m working towards, I know that if I only get one thing done from the top of my list, it was the most important thing I could have done today. I can go to bed and not worry about everything I didn’t get done. Most of it will still be there tomorrow; some of it will get dropped.

When your days are governed by chasing the urgent, you’ll accomplish some urgent things. Then you’ll wonder whether you got the most important urgent things done or just the things that screamed the loudest at you.

When you’re focusing on the most important things you could be doing, it’s okay if you don’t make it all the way through your list. What’s important doesn’t change much from day to day. Maybe “Return library books” becomes a little more urgent, so it gets bumped up a few slots.

I still plan every day. Much of the list looks like what I didn’t get done yesterday. Nothing rolls over by default. Each day is a chance to recommit and reconnect to the vision of a better life I’m working for.

So what if it takes me until Friday to finish off what I said I’d do on Monday?

So what if my win condition for the day involves getting just one thing done?

Some days, it all comes together. I have the kind of day every Monday should be like.

That’s the day for which I’m planning. I’d rather aim high and miss than aim low and nail it.

If you reach for the stars,
all you get are the stars,
but we’ve found a whole new spin.
If you reach for the heavens,
You get the stars thrown in.

“Anything Can Happen”, Mary Poppins

Could I be better about estimating how much I’ll actually be able to get done in a day? Sure. We all could.

Am I being optimistic how much I can get done in a week? Absolutely.

Should I feel bad about not getting everything done? Never.

No day is going to go exactly as I want it to. But I want to be ready when it does.

Question: Are you aiming too low when you plan? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.