December 19, 2009

Implementing Your New Year Plan

Written By Cary Schmidt

The “final article” on the new year planner has become two. First—let’s discuss putting it into practice. In the next article—thoughts on developing an organizational system that works. (Click to read the first and second articles in this series.)

So you’ve spent several hours or days mapping out vision, goals, projects, events, calendar, details, and tasks—now what? Do you hit “save” and close the file, sending it into “Neverland?” Do you print it, bind it, and place it on your bookshelf to collect dust for the next twelve months? What brings the plan into a functioning reality? What will prevent it from merely becoming good intentions that grew older?

Without making it practical and practiced, building a planner means we’ve spent a lot of time accumulating a well-described wish or even a fantasy.

Not only is this final part of the process the most fun (at least for me), it is also what makes stuff happen. So let’s dive in:

1. You Must Have a Daily-Life System—I don’t care if it’s a pad of construction paper and some crayola crayons, or if it’s the latest, greatest techno-gadget that vibrates, beeps, and dresses you in the morning; you must have something that you will live by and look at every day. And this system needs a place for every day of the year—a spot where you can park things reliably and not have to remember them until you need to. Two essential rules about your system: you must look at it every day (or you won’t trust it) and you must not leave anything on yesterday (or you will only increase your stress exponentially). Your system should work for you, that’s all that really matters.

2. Every Project, Task, Detail from Your Planner Should Be Placed into Your System—yes, this is really simple work (sort of mindless) but WOW is it liberating! It might take you a few hours, so find a comfortable spot, make some coffee, build a fire, play some music, and settle in for a while. Start with the first page of your planner and enter every single “pre-planned detail” into your system on the day you want to remember it. Give yourself some lead time! Don’t enter it on the due date. Enter it on the start date. This is very important. Otherwise, you’ll go through the entire year only remembering things on the day they are due! That’s enough to make anyone self-destruct.

3. Live By Your System—If you’ve done your planner correctly, then you know what day you need to purchase your wife’s birthday present, what day you need to line up a guest speaker, and what day you plan to begin preparing a new series of messages. If you’ve given yourself lead time, then the exact day isn’t all that important. Living by your system means you can give yourself permission to forget all those things and focus on right now. Most of the things you need to be reminded of will show up in your system when they need to. Until then, look at today, this week, this month, and press ahead.

Once everything is entered into your system, the actual planner basically becomes a dust-collector. You might read through it periodically. You might reference it for next year’s planner. But now you live the plan by referencing your system on a daily basis. Just remember, if you don’t look at it and live by it every day, or if you leave things behind on yesterday (and the days before) you are merely building a stick to beat yourself with.

And finally, I can’t over-stress the importance of margins—lead-time. In every event, think of how much lead-time you want, need, and how much is reasonable. Too much lead-time means you will be reminded of something too soon and simply disregard it. (ie: “I don’t need to do that anytime soon…”)  Too little means you’ll be living in a state of constant urgency with little flexibility. (ie: “Aagghh!”) Just a lovely way to live!

Your turn! Consider sharing this series of articles or posting a helpful comment below…