When yearly planning goes too far

What do you plot, plan, and possibly scheme?

What do you plot, plan, and possibly scheme?

Every year I have this bizarre ritual of making my own calendar pages for my day planner, planning out a year in course detail, and leaving large chunks of time blank. Think, adding birthdays and dates I have to remember, then jotting down a note like “Q1 goal: get systems organised”, then not actually breaking it down into steps with solid goals, like “Jan: Make sure client intake is flawless & revamp blogging system”. In my mind, I figure I’ll look at what is necessary when the time comes, and I’ll put those goals first.

It wasn’t always that way. A glance at some of my old college notebooks reminds me of how anal retentive I was, but it does nothing to remind me of how little I actually accomplished. Sure, I had to-do lists, deadlines, and everything organised into categories and prioritised. I had neat lists for school work, less neat lists for what I needed to do for work. And when you glance at the home column, you’d think I’d lost my mind: who the hell needs to organise their damned garage on “dead week” when 5 projects are due?

You can guess how well that went.

Somehow I only got marginally smarter in grad school. And by that, I mean I stopped obsessing about my apartment and really just focused on school and the future that would be Insanitek. I learnt to whittle a list down to the essentials, but my mind hadn’t quite grasped what essential was. In other words, typically I over complicated things.

Rube Goldberg machines are classic examples of simple things made complex.

Rube Goldberg machines are classic examples of simple things made complex.

It took a while to get it through my stubborn head that simple is the way to go. In business, it is essential to keep it bare and simple with only a single goal in mind. This could be something like “get first three clients” or as complicated as “lose 50 lbs by the end of the year”. Trust me, the break down is insane, and you’ll find you can over complicate even the most simplest of tasks.

But, you know, in grad school I thought I had to do it all. In business, you retain control over your life, your day, your goals, and your path. Simple is better.

One year I got lazy, depressed, and I felt ill all the time. I started my normal notebook full of lists, but I only had the desire to write down a small handful of things. I didn’t extend myself beyond what I had to do for school and put the rest off to the side until I felt better. In fact, I didn’t even think about it.

It was freakin’ magical.

For the first time in years, I crossed of everything on my list. Every class project was completed, all 700+ pages were read, all math homework problems were struggled through. And I still had a little time free to do whatever I wanted to do for me.

Now, the caveat to that would be that while my dishes and laundry were done and the loo was clean, I’d never have invited the Queen of England to my flat for tea with the dingy floor, the rabid dust bunnies lurking in corners and the table dangerously full of papers and books. It took me a while to live with the mess (and frankly I still don’t do that well), but I’m learning to put some things higher on the priority list than others.

Even with that, there is still room for improvement.

To cake or not to cake?

Systems can mean less stress? Sign me up!

Let’s face it, no matter how organised we think we are, we always feel like there is something else that could be done better. I hear all the time, even from the most “together” people I know, that they wish they had more time. The only exception to this rule I’ve found is one of my business mentor’s, Natasha Vorompiova. Her secret is not more things in a day, but fitting the day to the rhythms of life and creating a system to work with it.

After taking her course, I can say it works better than I imagined. Natasha prepared us for the fact that we wouldn’t have all our systems magically in place right away, but rather it was a work in progress. She told us it always will be as we refine our services, our life rhythms, and we discover new tools to help make things easier. I’ve worked my way diligently through Systematic Success 2.0 two times now, and each time I learn something new that tweaks my systems and makes achieving those lofty dreams easier.

Note: I am not an affiliate for Natasha, I just really appreciated her course for the independence, the openness, and the approach. It is a lifetime membership, so I can review the materials any time I need to take a fresh approach to systems. Of all the business classes I’ve taken, this is one I can proudly recommend for systems.

Systems, it would appear, are the key. 

Once I started to use systems, not plans, life became a lot easier. And a lot more flexible. They went from insane planning to insanely easy. Now I say, “The goal is to add 50 new teaching materials to Knowledge Conduit this year”, and then come up with a system to make it happen. Yes, there are subtasks, but we now have a system that works to ensure the big goal happens in a much less painful way.

And daily life? That’s a piece of cake in comparison.

What do you do to keep your sanity and plans on track?