Want to Get into a Productive Cycle? Do this.

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Do you ever get to Friday wondering where the time went?

Do you sometimes feel frustrated that the thing you most wanted to get done - didn't (again)? Do you occasionally feel disapointed that procrastination got the best of you (again)? Do you sometimes close the week feeling discouraged that you didn't make the progress you wanted? 

Well, if this has ever been the story of your week, or if you simply want to end the week strong, energized by your accomplishments, then I have a technique for you. It's called front-loading.

"Front-load" means:

  1. To arrange or plan (a schedule, project, or process, for example) so that a large portion of the activity happens in an early period.
  2. To concentrate maximum effort (on an activity) at the outset. 

Front-loading is a super-simple method that can have you riding high by the time the weekend rolls around. Basically, it's deliberately loading the beginning of a time period (your day and your week) with high-impact work - the work that matters most. 

 

Front-load Your Week

Figure out what you most want to accomplish this week, then begin to work on it on Monday. (Yes, Monday).

What often happens is we have that important project or task that we want to get done and we chase it all week. We ease into the week and start thinking about it on Wednesday. Then, we get sidetracked by all interruptions and email and meetings... and... then it's Friday. Again. And, we haven't touched that thing we most wanted (or needed) to complete. 

But if you make some progress on Monday, you basically start out ahead of the game. 

 

Front-Load Your Day

But don't just front-load your week. Front-load your day. What do you most want to accomplish today? Spend the first hour of your day working on it. By 9:00 or 10:00 a.m., you'll be flying high. You'll have made progress on something that mattered. 

What do most people do with that first precious hour? Email. When you start with email, it's easy to get behind and find yourself pursuing that thing you most want to get done all day. And then, it's 6:00 p.m. and it's not done. So you stay late or "kick the can" to the next day. And so it goes. 

Front-loading your day makes sense from a cognitive perspective, too. That pre-frontal cortex -  that thinking, plotting, planning, conscious part of your brain - fatigues with use. That means as the day wears on, your thinking faculties wear down. Why not apply the strongest cognitive muscle to making progress on the things that matter? 

 

Front-loading is a simple technique that builds momentum and fuels motivation. 

When you make progress at the beginning of the day, and the beginning of your week, your motivation rises, setting up a productive cycle throughout the day and week.

These opening productive efforts have a compounding effect that spills into the rest of your day and week. Rather than chasing your goals all day and all week, you're keeping pace or maybe leading the pack. You're activating a productive cycle of progress. 


Front-loading also works well with things you are procrastinating on, or are dreading, or are just plain hard.

Front-load those "undesirables" and get them done. Then, it's smooth sailing all day and week. There is a famous quote by Mark Twain, "Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” The book Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy, is inspired from that sentiment - essentially, do the hard stuff first. Get it over with and everything else will be easy. 


How you start matters. Just ask a competitive runner or swimmer or jockey. How you are out of the gate will make a difference in your race. 

Front-load your day and your week with the things that matter, the things that are hard, the things you're procrastinating on and you no longer will be spinning your wheels. You'll be igniting a natural, productive cycle... and cleaning up!

 

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Hey, you! Are you a go-getter, do-gooder, mover, shaker,  or a candlestick maker? 

Then, by all means, come join Productivity Power, a private Facebook Group focused on the art of accomplishment, the craft of productive work, the technique of creating the life you want. Join your crowd over at the 


 

 

Are You Leading or Lagging? How to Take Productive Measures

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It's true: what you measure matters. 

For starters, measuring something means you're paying attention to it. That alone is a big deal when you consider the daily deluge of information coming your way. When you measure something, you're singling it out. You're focusing on it. You're elevating it above the rest. You're giving that bit of information prominence and priority. You're saying it matters more. 

So, it stands to reason that people should measure the results they most want.

Want to lose a few pounds? Measure your weight.

Want to increase revenue? Measure sales.

Want to save money? Measure expenditures.

Want to become a more prolific writer? Measure the number of words you write. Or chapters you finish. Or papers you publish.

Want to provide your customers with great service? Measure their satisfaction.

 

Unfortunately, there's a sneaky flaw in this measurement method. It puts your attention on the wrong thing: the result. And there's nothing you can do about a result. It is what it is. It's a done deal.

Ironically, in an effort to make a result matter more by measuring it, you perpetuate powerlessness.

The measurement will make you either pleased or disappointed. Happy or sad. Proud or ashamed. Excited or frustrated. But this measurement will not position you, prime you, or empower you to achieve the result you're after.

Why? Because you're looking in the rear view mirror. Your eyes aren't on the road.

And while it's useful to see what happened, that kind of measurement is retrospective. It's a "lag measure." You're measuring something after the fact. Fait accompli. Que sera, sera.

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If you want what you measure to matter, then measure the action that's most likely to lead to the result you want, or what is known as a "lead measure." Lead measures put you back in the driver's seat. You're measuring the action that matters most in achieving the result you want. 

Consider productive habits, like exercise, or meditation, or flossing. These are lead measures. You've assessed that when you do that action repeatedly over time (habit), you have a high likelihood to achieve a particular outcome you want. 

I'm a member of a women's entrepreneur group called Women Who Wow, led by (awesome) business coach Michelle Pippin. She's a passionate and persistent advocate for "daily selling" - doing sales-related tasks each day. Why? Because it leads to an easy, inevitable flow of revenue. Daily selling is a lead measure. The more days that you engage in simple selling tasks, the greater likelihood in growing revenue. Make it a daily habit and watch your earnings rise.

While this may sound like common sense, it's often overlooked. It's easy to get fixated counting money going up or down. But you do this at a cost. You relinquish your agency to do something about it. 

It's easy to watch your weight going up or down. But that measure has no power over the scale. 

Yes, lag measures have their place. They are important. They help you determine if you're on track and making progress. Lag measures also help you verify the efficacy of the actions you're taking (i.e., are your lead measures really leading you there?)

Lag measures are easy to fall back on because they're obvious. Lead measures, on the other hand, take a little ingenuity. Basically, you're taking the result you want and re-engineering the path to get there. What action or actions, the more you do over time, increase the likelihood of achieving the result you want? The more I do x (action), the more likely I'll achieve y (result). 

To qualify as a lead measure, it must be predictive (likely to lead you to your goal) and something you have control over (i.e., you have control whether or not you do it). 

Let's put this into action... 

The Result (LAG MEASURE)

Start by identifying the result you're after, the goal you want to achieve. Ask yourself: What is one thing I want to accomplish, attain, maintain, improve, etc.?

This is your destination. This is your lag measure.

 

THE ActioN (LEAD MEASURE)

Once you identify the result you want, ask yourself: What action or actions that, the more I do consistently (e.g., daily, weekly), the more likely I am to achieve this result? 

This is how you will get to your destination. This is your lead measure.

(You may need to start by brainstorming a list and then selecting the action or actions that you determine have the greatest leverage and efficacy in getting you to your destination.)

For example,

Want to lose weight? Then, measure the number of days you stay within a specific calorie count. Or, measure the number of days you exercise for 30 minutes. 

Want to make progress on that strategic work you're not getting to? Measure the number of days you block out time on your schedule for that work - and then follow through. 

Want get a new job? Measure the number of resumes you send out each day. 

Want to have money for a down payment on a home? Measure the number of paychecks you set aside a percentage of your earnings. 

Want to be less stressed? Measure the number of days that you meditate, or exercise, or leave work on time.

Want to write a book? Measure the number of days you show up to write.

Want to run a marathon? Measure the number of days and the distance you run.

 

Apparently, comedian Jerry Seinfeld knows about the power of lead measures.

Years ago, when the sitcom Seinfeld had just started, software developer Brad Isaac met Jerry Seinfeld at a comedy club in New York. Isaac recounted his interaction with Seinfeld to Productivity Hacker.

He asked Seinfeld if he had any advice for a budding comedian. Seinfeld said that the way to be a better comedian is to write better jokes. And the way to write better jokes is to write every day. And then he gave Isaac his technique: He has a big wall calendar that includes the entire year. Every day that he writes he uses a red pen and marks a big "X" over the day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.... Don't break the chain."

Don't break the chain. Seinfeld understands the power of lead measures. And what makes his lead measure work is that he makes it visible. He posts one simple lead measure - days writing - and this motivates him. 

In the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals, the authors speak of the importance of tracking lead measures, of keeping score:

People play differently when they are keeping score... They truly understand the connection between their performance and reaching their goal, and this changes the level at which they play.... They now want to win.

Years later, in an interview for NBC Nightly News, Seinfeld said:

If you’re more interested in what you have achieved or what your financial position enables you to do than that thing that got those things, then you’re screwed.

If you're serious about achieving your goals, then lead measures are no joking matter. 

What you measure matters. 

Process matters. Action matters. Consistency matters. Measure that - because that is where your unparalleled power is. 

Focus your attention on those efforts that will automatically deliver your goal to your door. Measure it. Then achieving your goals won't be hope or happenstance. You won't be measuring yourself against the unchangeable past. You'll be taking the lead and fashioning the future you want day by day. 

So, what do you want? And what will be your lead measure?


 
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Hey, you! Are you a go-getter, do-gooder, mover, shaker,  or a candlestick maker? 

Then, by all means, come join Productivity Power, a private Facebook Group focused on the art of accomplishment, the craft of productive work, the technique of creating the life you want. Join your crowd over at the Productivity Power Facebook Group. 

 

 

 

Do You Have a Spine? 15 Ways to Exercise the Posture of Productivity

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Ever think about your spine?

Well, whether you think about it or not, the spine sure is a nifty feat of engineering we rely on. For starters, it allows us to stand upright despite the forces of gravity. It supports the head (with that big brain inside) and that alone may be worth its weight in gold. With the head perched on top of the spine, we can see into the distance, which does come in handy, even though we’re mostly looking at our phones these days.

The spine makes it possible for us to move, navigate space, change direction, and reach for that low-hanging fruit or for the stars. And that’s just what meets the eye. 

Under the hood, the spine protects the spinal column, a kind of switching station for the nervous system – sending important (often life-saving) messages where needed.

In short, the spine supports agency, the capacity to act.

When people euphemistically refer to having a spine or backbone, they're speaking of this posture of self-agency, of impact.

 

It's easy to surrender to the sometimes crushing weight of demands, expectations, emails, meetings, commitments, obligations, interruptions, and distractions. We can end up ricocheting our way through another busy day, only to end up unsatisfied, or defeated, or wondering what we actually accomplished.

To be productive in today's world, there's no way around it: you must stand up to these daily forces. You have to have a strong spine to navigate the day. 

Here are 15 ways to keep your spine strong, and maintain the ready posture of productivity. 

 

 1| Know What You Want and Why 

Purpose is the clarifying engine of productivity. I'm not talking about life purpose or the big goals - those are important, though sometimes they stay too conceptual or pie-in-the-sky. 

I'm talking about purpose translated on the ground in your day-to-day work and life. Where purpose meets the road. Where purpose shows up in your actions and tells the truth.

Understanding your intent gives you a new center of gravity, so that you don't get pulled in a million directions, or confused or coerced by outside forces.

When you plan your day, get clear about what you want to achieve out of each task - and why that is important. I know this sounds basic, or understood - but it's so easy to leave this out of the daily equation.

For example, look at your meetings. Why are you attending? Seriously, why? What is something you want to gain or achieve from the meeting? Do you want to contribute an idea you've had? Do you want to clear up confusion?  Do you want to learn about a topic? Do you want to demonstrate your support? Specifying in advance exactly what you want to get out of the meeting - and why that is important to you - will amplify your attention and results.

Make it a habit to pause periodically for a split second to confirm "the why" behind what you're doing. This simple technique alone will help you move through your day productively, intentionally, upright. 

And if there are activities in your day that the reason you come up with is "because I have to," dig a little deeper. If you truly do "have to," how can you find something that would restore its value for you? What's a reason that would enable you to give your full consent to it? You may be surprised how this simple "head game" can re-up your motivation and impact.

Note: "Because I have to" is not the language of agency and is a red flag that you're headed into spineless territory.

 

 2| Believe something

What is your perspective? What matters to you? What do you care about? What do you stand for? What do you stand against? What do you believe? What is your opinion?

Understanding your values, point of view, and what is important to you will give you clarity to navigate the day. 

Here's a super-simple way to access greater conviction and clarity: Brainstorm a list of what matters to you in your professional and personal life. Revisit and revise. Keep it alive. It will help you make the small and large decisions.

People often assume they, of course, know what they believe, or their opinion. However, it's a noisy, loud world out there. It's easy to lose touch with your own voice when everyone else is speaking.

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Do you have a strong belief about the direction of a project? Stand up for it and see what happens. Your stand may draw new information or creative solutions from others. And maybe, you'll change your stand (remember, the spine is not rigid. It is incredibly flexible.) But the important thing is: you will be standing, moving, progressing.

Wishy washy is not the posture of productivity. 

 

 3| Follow a Method

Look to the highly accomplished in any field - whether athletes, artists, authors, academics, or entrepreneurs  - and you'll likely find they follow a method of some kind. They have a systematic way to approach their craft, their work. They don't wait on inspiration, perfect conditions, or feeling like it. They don't leave their efforts to chance.

Instead, they use the architecture of regular disciplines to construct and propel their day. Their method is their spine. It allows them to move forward, shift directions, bend, reach, and not succumb to the fickle fury of mood or that constant stream of email.

What disciplines do you have (or can you adopt) that will protect your focus, time, and efforts? Do you have an exercise routine? Do you go to sleep by a certain time? Do you have a method for defining and prioritizing your work? Do you have rules you follow related to email or to meetings? How do you determine what to do, when - for your best performance? How do you organize your week? 

With a clear method, you can move your way through the madness, and make daily progress.

You likely have a method - perhaps without realizing. Strengthen it by making it a deliberate way that you work. And then, test and tweak your method. Find the habits that make the most of your day and energy - and make them your method.

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4| Make Decisions

Decisions are the meter of progress. Want to move forward? Then, make a decision. Every day, you're confronted with so many decisions. Yet, it's easy to put them off for another day.

I've found that people often avoid making decisions for two main reasons: 1) They don't want to limit their options; or 2) They don't want to make a mistake.  

Here's the interesting thing about decisions. They almost always help you move forward, even if the decision is "wrong." It is far easier to redirect when you're moving than when you're standing still, paralyzed. 

Making decisions magnifies your sense of impact, which turns the biochemical dial of motivation. When you're stuck or apathetic, the hormonal chemistry of motivation drains - only compounding your inertia. 

How to get better at being decisive? Start small. Really small. Start in your inbox.

Don't read an email and then move on to the next. Decide your next move. Will you respond? Will you decline? Will you delete? Will you accept? Or agree? What do you need to do? If you aren't in a frame of mind or setting to make decisions, don't look at your email. Email should be about making a decisions and moving on.

If you do this with you inbox, you'll build your decisive muscle, which will give you the spine and support you need for those big decisions. You will be moving forward, pivoting when necessary, redirecting if needed - progressing all the while. 

 

5| Work with Your Mindset

Do you know where your mind is set?

Action follows thought. And so thoughts are powerful levers of action and performance. 

Thoughts direct how you see the world and, therefore, the options for action. Think differently and you can see new options.

Think something is impossible? Or that you'll never change? Or they'll never change? Or this is the only way to do something? Or this is the problem? Well, it might as well be true, because other realities will be hidden from you. You're confined to the field of your thinking. 

Understanding your own thinking and refining your mindset is a linchpin of productive performance. Being creative with the story you tell yourself about a situation, problem, or person, will help you move in the direction you desire.

I love the art of reframing - taking a situation that has all the indicators of being stuck one way - and considering how to frame it so that it features something else that opens up another perspective, another reality.

Let's be clear: reframing is not lying, nor is it glossing over or magical thinking. Reframing is rigorously questioning assumptions and considering what else may be true. As a result, It can set a new course, uncover new solutions, and prompt effective action. 

Here are some questions to uncover and adjust your mindset related to a situation or challenge:

What is the story I'm telling myself about this situation?

What is another story I could tell myself about this situation that would be more productive? 

How might someone else look at this situation productively? 

How might this situation be beneficial? 

What assumptions do I have related to this situation? What if they are not true?

How might I see this situation as an opportunity?

What might I be missing in this situation?

 

6| Say No

If you only say yes, I'm going to take a wild guess that you may be overcommitted, overstretched, and possibly suffering from a weak spine. 

Confronted with so many daily decisions combined with the desire to participate, help, be seen as a team player or good friend, it's easy for the go-to response to get stuck on "Yes."

But here's the irony: "No" gives your "Yes" power. If you don't have a "No," you really don't have a "Yes." 

If you are yes-person, if the only response you're comfortable with is "Yes,"  eventually you will end up disappointing other people or yourself. When everything is a "Yes," at some point, you will not be able to keep up with all those yeses, all those commitments. Even if you show up and are counted - the toll may be felt in other corners - in your relationships, your health, your mood, your energy. 

If the thought of saying "No" makes you sick, nervous, or break out in hives, try this: Identify what your "No" is a "Yes" to. Every "No" is a "Yes" to something else. For example, maybe saying "No" to helping a colleague this time is a "Yes" to giving your full focus to a priority project.

When you have the capacity to say "No," and use it, you are able to stand confident in your "Yes." Your "Yes" actually means something.

 

7| Establish Boundaries

To stand tall in work and life requires boundaries. Boundaries direct and protect your attention, time, and energy. Without boundaries, you're vulnerable to a thousand whims and fancies.

What do you care about or need to protect?

Your attention? Shut down social media.

Your energy? Instate an end time to your work day.

Your relationships? Put the phone away during meals.

The quality of your work? Keep the distractions away.

Your positive outlook? Limit the time you spend with negative people. 

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Do you know Parkinson's Principle? The shorthand is: Work fills available time. With this in mind, if you install an end time to your work day, you are likely to get more done than if you leave it open-ended. You may think it's a sign of productivity that you work around the clock. But instead, you lack the limits (the boundaries) that intensify focus, efficiency, creativity, and innovation. 

 

8| Do hard things

The posture of the courageous is depicted as upright, strong, bold. The stance of the coward is, well, cowering - bent over, hiding, hovering, scampering, spineless. 

When you venture out of your comfort zone, courage ignites and you find yourself standing up a little taller. Courage takes vulnerability, but builds confidence. 

What have you been avoiding because it feels too hard? A conversation? A project? A fledgling skill? A creative expression? A declaration? Just do it. Do the hard thing and watch your energy and self-respect rise. Stand up to the hard stuff and things become easy.

 

9| Determine Your day

Determine your day or someone else will. Gird yourself with a plan. Know what is most essential to achieve and keep your eyes on that target through the day. Without this compass, this focal point, you're lost in the chaotic, alluring headwinds of email and meetings and interruptions. A plan keeps you on the ground, moving toward your destination. 

And sure, you can choose to change your plan. But that is different than simply showing up and being tossed around aimlessly. When you make conscious choices about each thing you do, you build the stature to navigate the day responsibly. 

 

10|ADmit Mistakes

Mistakes are not the worst thing that ever happened. In fact, they often are part of getting to the best thing that ever happened.

Mistakes happen. Don't make them worse by avoiding responsibility or, worse, blaming your mistakes on others, your dog, or the weather. Don't indulge in blaming yourself (which is different than taking responsibility). 

Use your beautiful mistakes to rise higher, become better. Own your mistakes. Otherwise, they'll own you.

Get curious about your mistakes. They may hold the secret to your future success. But if you are running away from them or so cautious that you never make them, you'll never know.

 

11|Communicate with Candor

Candor is defined as "the state or quality of being frank, open, honest, and sincere in speech or expression; freedom from bias; fairness; impartiality." It comes from the Latin word for "to shine."

Candor is refreshing, straightforward, clear, kind, true. Candor lacks pretense and hidden agendas. It promotes connection and responsibility. 

Sometimes it's easier to avoid that elephant in the room, but that usually only compounds the problem. Candor helps you name the elephant and forge a productive path. It keeps you honest and invested. 

 

12|Exercise

For me, the early twenties was just plain awkward. I was starting to work and figure stuff out. I was tentative and unsure. But something changed that: I joined a gym and started lifting weights. Strength in the body somehow translated into greater steadiness and confidence.

Take a walk, do yoga, run, stretch. The body, mind, and emotions are a package deal. When you build lung capacity, physical strength and flexibility, you experience your own sense of agency and confidence. You literally - and figuratively -  improve your posture.

 

13|Cultivate Competence 

Many people tell me that they want more confidence. There's one way to get that: cultivate competence. Learn, explore, refine, and practice, practice, practice. 

If you want to stay in the game, then work on your skills. Identify the weak parts, and work those. Often people rely on their strength, which, in turn, they overdevelop, while ignoring their weaknesses, which may sabotage their strength.

A masterful musician doesn't just practice the part she has down. She practices the hard part, the place she struggles or stumbles. The frustrating passage. Over and over and over again. She diligently earns her way to the performance she seeks. 

What skill do you want to cultivate? What do you want to learn?

 

14|Abstain from People pleasing

The cold hard truth is: not everyone will like you or what you do all the time. Darn. People-pleasing is a trap that has ensnared many, but never turns out well in the end. It weakens your spine, abdicates responsibility (your power), undermines confidence, and is just plain exhausting. 

What to do instead? Any of the other 14 tactics in this article. 

 

15|Give and Get Help 

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The posture of generosity and receptivity creates the equilibrium needed for a productive posture. 

Give too much and you may lose your own footing. Give too little and you may shrink into self-absorption.

Get help all the time and you may become dependent. Never ask for help and you may limit your capacity. 

When giving and getting help - ebb and flow in dynamic balance, you are buoyant. You rise to the occasion and accomplish your goals. 

 

 

15 ways to exercise the posture of productivity. Experiment with one and see what happens. You may find yourself standing a bit taller, with a strong center of gravity, and a clear vision for how you want to navigate the day and what you want to reach for.

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How Will You Make the Most of This Year?

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The confetti is cleaned up, the holiday decorations are put away, the resolutions are made. The celebrations are over, and now it’s getting real. The festive pause and optimism of the holiday season gives way to the cold truth that time waits for no one.  

So the existential question we face once again as we look toward a new year is: how will I make the most of my time?

The answer is simple: Get a plan. Without a plan, you may meander your way to achievement. But it will be unintentional, and most likely, not nearly as satisfying or impactful.

Creating a plan is the first step to harnessing the clarity, focus, and aspiration you need to create something out of nothing, to make your own "dent in the universe" as that dreamer and doer Steve Jobs called it.

Creating a plan is the first step to harnessing the clarity, focus, and aspiration you need to create something out of nothing, to make your own “dent in the universe” as that dreamer and doer Steve Jobs called it.

 

A plan is power. It is fuel. A true plan is not a perfunctory, bureaucratic exercise.  Rather, it is a living map for progress and accomplishment. What do you want to achieve by end of of the year? Your plan sets this vital, creative conversation in motion.

A plan in your mind is just a nice idea. Write it down. Give it form. Writing down your goals increases the likelihood of achieving them by 42%, according to a 2015 study conducted at the University of Dominican in California. It seems foolish not to take advantage of that kind of leverage.  We all know that the days can easily fill up with a million things to do. It stands to reason that having a written plan increases your focus day to day to stay on your course.

I recommend that you build a plan in the following time blocks:

YEAR: What do you want to achieve by December 31st?

SEASON: What do you want to accomplish in 90 days?

SPRINT: What do you want to accomplish in 2 weeks?

 

The Year: The Blueprint

The year timeframe establishes the destination and a rough blueprint to get there. Below is a sequence of steps to identify your blueprint for the year. You can brainstorm answers and then refine.

 

Step 1- Vision: See it

  • It is December 31 of this year.  Write (without censoring) what you have achieved in:
    • Your professional work.
    • Your personal life.

 

STEP 2 - Focus: Structure it

  •  List the areas in your professional work that you will focus on this year.
  • List the areas in your personal life that you will focus on this year.

 

STEP 3 - Goals: Define it

  • For each area, come up with 1 to 3 goals/results for the year. Be specific. Use numbers as applicable.
  • For each goal, identify why the goal is important. This will help validate whether the goal is worth your effort and connect to it’s purpose in the larger scheme of things.

 

Step 4 - Projects/Deliverables: Map it

  • For each goal, identify the key project(s) you will initiate to achieve it.
  • Assign each project to a 90-day season(s). When will you work on this project? (e.g., January through March; April through June; July through September; October through December) This is a guestimate so that you begin to see the sequencing of activity throughout the year.

 

Step 5 - Verify: Refine it

  • Review your plan and refine it. Consider:
    • Is it ambitious enough? If not, up the ante.
    • Is it too ambitious? If yes, simplify.
    • Are you missing something? If yes, add.
    • Are you satisfied with how it addresses the parameters and expectations of your stakeholders (e.g. organization, bosses, team, clients, family, friends, etc.). If not, adjust.
    • Is the general timing right? If not, adjust.

 

Remember, your plan does not need to be perfect. It needs to be the right mix of aspirational and reasonable. Throughout the year, you will make adjustments or perhaps completely revamp it as new information and circumstances come your way. Your plan sets a broad framework for an ongoing “conversation” about your direction, progress, and tactics.

Have fun with the planning process and make it work for you. Are you a digital type? Then use Evernote, Trello, Asana or other online tools to help you create your plan. Or create a document, spreadsheet, or slides. Are you an analogue type? Then get out the stickies and markers and white board and have at it. Are you ambidextrous? Then create with stickies and white boards and document with your digital tools. 

 

The Season: 90-Day Focus

When it comes to day-to-day activity, yearly plans and goals can begin to feel abstract and irrelevant. This is why many espouse the value of 90-day goals and plans. Achievement in a 90-day window suddenly gets real. It’s imaginable. It’s in your face.

The 90-day timeframe supports you to zero in on achieving the key the results that help you progress to your goals for the year. The 90-day segments, or seasons, provide a timeframe that is long enough for tangible achievement, while short enough to generate focus and momentum.

You can divide your year into four 90-day seasons. For example:

Season 1: January through March

Season 2: April through June

Season 3: July through September

Season 4: October through December

 

Step 1 -  90-Day Goals

  • Keeping in mind the goals and projects you identified for the year, identify the key results or goals you want to achieve by the end of 90 days (the end of the season). Be specific and use numbers (quantify) when possible.

 

Step 2 - 90-Day Projects+Key Tasks

  • Identify the projects that are part of achieving those goals.
  • Identify the key tasks for each project.

 

Consider using the 90-day season to narrow your focus to make significant progress on one or a few of your goals for the year, rather than trying to make incremental progress on all of your goals. 

Your plan for the upcoming season may result in your adjusting your annual plan – as the timeframe will help you get real about what is possible and what is important. As a result, you may adjust, expand, or simplify your overall plan for the year as you work within seasons.

In your yearly plan, you approximated the season for your projects. However, you do not need to create the plan for each season at the start of the year – just the upcoming one (or the one you are in!).  What happens and what you learn in this season will impact how you plan for the next. Keep the focus on the next 90 days.

 

The Sprint: 2-Week Focus

When it gets down to day-to-day work, consider focusing in 2-week sprints. This timeframe intensifies the focus of the 90-days even further. With this immediate timeframe, you translate your goals/projects for the 90-days into concrete, day-to-day action.

 

Step 1 - 2-Week Goals + Steps

  • At the start of each sprint, identify what you want to achieve within the next two weeks to advance you toward your 90-day goal(s).
  • Identify the steps you will take and, press go! 

 

 

A plan is art and science.

The art part happens in the creative, intuitive thought that goes into projecting into the future, seeing what does not yet exist, and mixing the ingredients of time, energy, resources, skills, and environment.

The science part happens as you see each project, sprint, and season as an ongoing experiment and apply the lessons you learn from the data of day-to-day action. As you progress through the sprints, seasons, and year, you will fine-tune your plan for meaningful achievement in a real world. 

But mostly, a plan is conversation. It is an ongoing dialogue with the future. And the only reason to talk to the future is to change the present. Happy planning!

But mostly, a plan is conversation. It is an ongoing dialogue with the future. And the only reason to talk to the future is to change the present.