managing self

Planning Session 1 – Get it all out!

I couldn’t wait to plan my fresh start. It was difficult to know where to begin, but with pen, paper and a whole lot of ideas jumping round my head, one way was to just write. Here, I detail my first planning session, kicking off 2012.

Write, list, draw, whatever, all commitments for the year. For example, I have subjects to complete towards my Masters degree, ALIA NewGrads and writing here at Flight Path. Some times I can’t do things (or think) in any coherent order, so I’ve written all over a piece of paper. Whatever came to mind, seemingly random items. Questions which assisted my thought process included: –

  • What did I learn from last year?
  • What worked? What didn’t work?
  • What area/s of life do I want to work on?
  • What area/s of life need working on?
  • What behaviours or habits do I need to look out for?
  • What is stopping me from achieving goals?
  • What projects/events will I have on this year?
  • (for me) What will be my research/exploration focus?

Write down everything. I mean, EVERYTHING.

Guidance may need to be sought during this process. I looked to position descriptions (for jobs I’d like to aim for) and ideas of mid to long term plans and goals. I then highlighted items of particular importance, my focus areas – fitness, writing, well-being – with a bubble. But whatever takes your fancy.

I wrote down everything from what I definitely knew I had on, to what I’d like to do, such as learning Mandarin. As projects and commitments jump onto the page, this process may seem quite overwhelming, and it was. It’s supposed to. For me, it was like some sort of shock therapy to bring some perspective and realise I can’t achieve and do everything that’s landed on the page. Believe me, without established priorities and planning, if I attempted to pursue everything on that piece of paper, I’d most likely end up burnt out again, or on a bathroom floor, literally.

The second activity in this session was to identify what planning tools I’ll need to help me see the year ahead. Planning tools I’ve chosen are: –

  • Diary – for what’s on and due
  • Task manager – to be an inbox for tasks and managing next actions for projects
  • Year planner – to view all projects for the year on a Gantt chart-like spreadsheet
  • Quarterly planner – for a closer look at projects and due dates, particularly for the university semester
  • Checklist – to tick off regular tasks, such as reading, blog posts and exercising.

Each tool will be assigned a function. For example, my checklist is for habit development and repeating tasks. I will not be writing in due dates, events or appointments. This is what my diary is for. And this way my repeating tasks won’t bulk up my task manager.

I also started to think about my personal learning environment, systems and processes I need to have in place. I’m a systematic type of person. I like to plan and set in place whatever I can to free my mind from mundane, day-to-day processes, and time-wasting moments like ‘where did I file away my last bank statement?’ and the hunt that proceeds. Systems and simple processes that become routine and habit can save time and allows for focus on other, more complex tasks. I’ve already proven this to myself.

Some questions to ask are: –

  • Where and what tools serve as in-trays or inboxes?
  • How are day-to-day things processed?
  • Where can efficiency by improved so I can routinely capture the information and tasks I need?

For example, work emails, Gmail, physical in-tray, Evernote and Google Reader are probably most places where I’ll find tasks to action and ideas to organise; inboxes for things ranging from mobile phone invoices to blog post ideas and professional reading. For this first session though, I didn’t think too much about this and I still haven’t. At this point I figured once the projects and goals are set, I’ll have a better picture about what tools and processes I’ll put in place to facilitate them.

At the end of my first session, I had a piece of paper with scribbles, a rough list of planning tools and began to co ordinate regular events, like study, beach volleyball seasons and ALIA NewGrads, into a year planner. Details of said planner will come….however at this point I needed a boost of inspiration, so I spent an afternoon starting on my vision board by painting decorations.

For another example of conducting annual reviews and planning, see post from The Act of Non-Conformity.

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