Category: Routines

For some people “plan” is a 4-letter word.  I’ve heard some say that planning takes too much time, or even that it’s a waste of time.  Granted it does, but it’s actually an investment of time, rather than a waste of your time.

The majority of people don’t plan for the things they want to accomplish.  Some will keep ideas or an unwritten plan in the most dangerous place in the world—their heads.  NOT a good place for things to be.  There is a difference between how things play out when it’s in your head and when it’s written out in detail.  Writing it down makes it real; it comes to life and take on form.

So, what do you think of when you hear the word “plan”?  Does it make you cringe?  It’s not as bad as it may sound.  My description of a plan is “A process that includes setting goals then developing the strategies, tasks, schedules and systems to accomplish objectives of related goals.”  Planning will actually save you time, guide your actions and help you accomplish what you set out to do.  It will also help you avoid pitfalls.  There is power in the process.

If you do work from a plan, do you just work from an outline or from a detailed plan?  Your plan is your road map, so you need the details.  To create it think about what the goal or end result is; the objectives; who’s involved; other resources needed; your timeline and any constraints.  Create tasks for each objective and break them down into smaller pieces, assign a start and completion time to each.  Think about how you’re going to measure your progress and know how things are getting done if there are other people involved in the process. Plan your work and then work your plan!

Recently I interacted with someone who just did not have his act together.  With missed appointments, frequent last minute cancellations, unproductive lengthy meetings, and unfocused conversations, I realized that this man has no foundation.  There was nothing for him to build upon and without that foundation in place, he flounders through his days.  At his rate, it will take him much longer to get anything accomplished.

Dealing with someone so challenged can be absolutely unnerving, to say the very least.  It’s just not possible to get anything done operating without a solid foundation to support you.  Operating this way is like trying to build a skyscraper on a clay foundation.  It simply won’t work.  Without a solid foundation to help you make and keep appointments and scheduled meetings, plan accordingly, have concise, productive meetings and a focused agenda, the building can come down fast.

What does your foundation look like?  What do you have in place to help with your calendar and other scheduled items?  Do you plan on a regular basis, have concrete reasons for scheduling meetings and create agendas for them?  If not, you might be experiencing the aforementioned situation.

Think about what you’re building.  Why do you do what you do and what goals are you aiming for?  Start from scratch and create your plan.  Create your goals and be sure that they are values-based and S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound).  Next, create the plan for reaching each of those goals and place the related individual tasks on your daily to-do list and in your calendar.  Before you schedule a meeting, ask yourself if it’s really necessary to meet.  If so, does the meeting have to be face-to-face or can it be virtual?  Who  needs to be there and why, and what items need to go onto the agenda?  Create that agenda and assign time to each item, then stick to the agenda.

If you’re floundering through your days, take a step back and look at your foundation.  Ask yourself if it’s supporting you now and if it’s strong enough to get you to where you want to go.  Do you have a solid foundation that will erect a steady structure, or will it all come tumbling down?  What are you building?

When Spring rolls around, most people think and talk about “Spring cleaning” which for a lot of people means cleaning from top to bottom.  You know how it is, you clean all of those things that you wouldn’t clean during your regular weekly cleaning routine.

Spring cleaning is a beautiful thing and paves the way into the season, but when you really think about it , it s down to more than just cleaning.  If you really want to pave the way into the season, you have to purge and establish or refine systems that you already have in place.   Over the course of a year our homes and office spaces can accumulate quite a bit of things and it’s important that we weed those things out on a regular basis so that we only end up with things that we like and things that serve a purpose, which is important when you consider that clutter changes the energy in a space, not to mention physically blocks space.  When the space is free and clear of clutter the energy shifts.

As you declutter your space, sort things into separate boxes: give away, sell, throw away and be sure to get rid of old things associated with negative experiences or emotions.  The energy from them slows down progress and makes the energy in the space heavy, which really doesn’t work especially if you leave it in a work space.  Once you’ve decluttered, be sure that everything has a designated space.  Additionally, be sure that you have a system in place that will keep your environment clutter free and create new habits that will support you.  Additionally, look at your calendar and to-do list.  Clutter can accumulate there as well, it just happens to be in the form of unnecessary appointments and tasks.  When you finish decluttering your space, get rid of the unnecessary things on your calendar and to-do list as well.  Doing so will help you spring forward into the season.

In the every day flow of things, structure and routine are quite necessary.  They get you through the days and the to-do items on your list.  When it comes to our children, we create structure and routine for them in our home environments as well as educational environments, and the structure and routines support them tremendously.  It works the same way for adults.

If you’re without that necessary structure, start by getting an appropriate tool to help you manage your time.  Choose one that’s appropriate for your time management personality.  Add to it the remaining elements of a solid time management system.

Create routines that support you daily, weekly, monthly and annually.  Look at what you do and determine the things that should become routine for you.  For instance, to keep your time management system flowing you’ll need to plan on a weekly basis and to give your calendar and to-do list a daily review either the night prior or in the morning before you start your day.

Determine the other things that you need to establish a routine for and set it in motion.  The routines become a part of your foundation and support you on a daily basis.

Today is the deadline for filing tax returns, and yes, there are many people who spent the weekend pulling it together and those who will work right up to the last minute to complete them.  Additionally, there are those who will file an extension because they haven’t started, or because they’re in the habit of doing so every year.

More and more is seems to me that waiting until the last minute to prepare and file tax returns is becoming the rule rather than the exception.  Why is that? Usually, people wait until the last minute because they can’t find receipts and other necessary documents since they have no system for maintaining records or a place to keep items for the current years’ tax preparation.

Most of those who prepare tax returns as a service to others help to perpetuate the destructive behavior by extending hours during the week before the filing deadline and even on the deadline day.  One thing that I absolutely love about my accountant is that she doesn’t work on tax day and she’s quite clear about letting her clients know.  She honors and respects her time and chooses to not deal with the last minute stress and hustle, since, of course, she makes herself available from the very beginning of the year.  The post office extends hours to as late as midnight to accommodate last minute filers and will even stand outside to collect them as people drive by.  Recently here in Michigan, the post office scaled back on the extended hours on the deadline day.

Looking at the situation from the outside, it seems to me that this is a pretty vicious circle.  One that continues to take place year after year since very few get out of the habit.  Are you stuck in the vicious cycle?  Are you ready to get out of it?  If so, make the commitment to do so right now, then set up the necessary support to get you through the process in a timely manner.  Create a system for filing the documents that you need to complete your return and add to it during the course of the year.  At the end of the year, everything that you need is already in one place, organized and ready for you.  If you’re preparing your return yourself, set time in your calendar to get it done.  If not, set a time to take the documents to your tax preparer to get the ball rolling.  By all means, don’t make it the end of March or first part of April.  Get the ball rolling right after the dust from the holiday season settles.

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