Planning is Good, Doing is Better

A few months back, during a conversation with one of my mentors, he said something that I will remember for the rest of my life.  “All this planning and focusing is good, but doing is better” was the exact phrase that came out of his mouth.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was one of those “aha” moments we get every so often.

Now the reason he was saying this to me is because I had been working on a semi large project for that past month or so and I was really close to finishing it.  However, I had stalled somewhat and found myself in a state of “planning and focusing” rather than “doing”.  So, for weeks I was fairly unfruitful in churning out anymore work on this particular project.  I was explaining to him where I was in the process and mid conversation is when he let out the phrase I will never forget.  I know this may seem simple but it’s very profound.  From that day forward my workflow has changed incredibly and productivity has increased tenfold.

Today I will share with you my personal system on how I get things done in hopes of spurring you along to developing your own process.   Remember, there is no one way to do this so pick and choose what you like and discard what doesn’t work for you.

Good Intentions

We all have them, well most of us anyway.  However, for many of us, our intentions never become anything more than a good thought.  They never take form because we never act on them.  This can become a real problem because it’s only the beginning of the equation to getting anything accomplished.  So first we must have a goal, an ideal, something we aspire to accomplish or get done.  Then we must plan.

Planning is Good

Planning really is good.  That ole cliché “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” is certainly true on many accounts.  The problem is we can spend so much time trying to perfect our planning that we never do anything else.  About a year ago I got on this productivity kick where I read anything and everything I could get my hands on about effective planning strategies.  I found that I would spend countless hours during the week just planning instead of doing.  I’m sure you can clearly see why this is a real issue.  Planning is supposed to serve you and your schedule, not be the bulk of your schedule.

As you might imagine I was planning to work with my clients, planning to write and edit articles and spend time on the fitness forums helping out.  The problem was that I spent way too much time during this process of preparation that I lost valuable time I could have been spending elsewhere.

Doing is Better

My mentor was not suggesting that I should never plan; he was simply stating I should spend minimal time doing so.  In the case of “planning is good, doing is better”, the whole point is to have your goal in mind and get to work immediately.  It doesn’t really matter if you are not completely clear or know exactly how you’re going to get there.  Of course you never want to jump into doing something blindly as it usually just leads to frustration but over thinking and too much planning will often keep you from ever acting in the first place.  It can literally put you in standstill.  That’s the way it was for me, at least.

The point is to have a goal and a plan but more importantly a lot of action put forth by you whether or not the details are completely ironed out just yet.

Here’s How I Do It

Each month on the first or the second I sit down for about 30 minutes and write out what I need or want to accomplish on a big white board.  I pick two to three tasks to focus on for the month.  I write down what I want, why I want it and a quick strategy on how to get there.  I write it on a white board so I can go back and edit if need be.  Nothing is set in stone; this is strictly a guideline.  An example might look like this:

Goal:  Publish 8 Fitness Articles at a rate of 2 per week.

Why: To connect with readers, gain more exposure, address common fitness questions and/or debunk myths/dogma.

Strategy: Get up an hour early on Monday and Thursday to write the articles, edit them when I get home and publish the next morning.

Once I have all of my monthly goals on the big white board, I hang it above my computer desk for me to see every day.

Then each night before I go to bed I spend 20-30 minutes relaxing and winding down, clearing my head and thinking about what I need to do the next day to accomplish my tasks.  Then I take 5 minutes to write down a to-do list on a small note pad and leave it right by my keyboard for me to see the following day.  Once I wake up, I sit down, have my breakfast and start checking off my list.  As the day goes on and I get more stuff done, I check more off the list.  If I am not able to get to a certain task, I put a circle by it and revisit it the next day – no sweat at all.

By doing it this way, the majority of my plans are set forth from the beginning of the month.  All I have to do is take a small step each day to reach the end result that is on the white board.  The only planning I have left is the small to-do list that I make the night before, which only takes five minutes or less.  No more wasted hours are spent on pointless planning but lots of time spent doing.

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