I. WHY CAN’T I BE PRODUCTIVE?
Most of us want to be productive and manage our time. Personally, I’ve tried dozens of guides in attempt to organize my week, following self-improvement philosophies tracking various domains from relationship to fitness, wealth or spirituality.
Starting a “new system”, arming ourselves with spreadsheets, time slots, and 100+ to do list can be motivating. Yet many of us veer off track and back into chaos, which leads to frustration, which leads to another system, which resets the cycle.
There are two reason why static organizational formats often fail:
1. Your life is not a template
2. Divided efforts = Diluted results
What we need is a system that molds to our ever changing schedule, its easily implement so we don’t tire, and has enough structure to stay together.
II. THE PHILOSOPHY
The best time management tool will systematize your objectives and focus your efforts, but it won’t tell you what to pursue. This is why long term goals are essential, be them monthly, bimonthly or yearly, giving you a bearing in which to align your weekly tasks.
Ask yourself: “What would make these months successful?” Remember these are often big projects which should be broken down into several objectives, taking days or weeks to complete.
For example, it helps to keep it simple and focus on two domains:
Business & Personal.
For business one might have:
a. Finish developing new company website.
b. Install and implement new tenant screening system.
c. Set aside $5,000.
Personal one might have:
a. Finish “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt”
b. Plan/Execute graduation party
c. Plan/Go on Royal Caribbean Cruise
Notice how all the goals are dependent on controllable actions. It doesn’t say “sell a house” or “have a viral website”, because those outcomes, unlike your actions, are beyond your power.
Instead, define success as doing everything in your control to achieve your goals. If you gave it all and didn’t get what you wanted, its a honorable failure, readjust and re-engage. Instead of writing: “Take Roseline out”, write: “Approach Roseline and ask her out”. You can’t control if she goes with you, but you can control your approach.
III. THE WEEKLY BATTLE PLAN
If templates and time schedules often fail, how can we make a consistent planning and accountability system?
You can try the Weekly Battle Plan, an adaptable and simple time management tool. Its not divided by hours or preset categories that spread you thin, its a blank canvass malleable to your life with the minimal amount of structure to keep it together. Its easy, affordable and incredibly powerful when properly implemented.
Its a journal designed to track your progress and goals towards your life objectives.
Here what you’ll need:
1. A composition journal
2. Pen or pencil
4. Printed calendar sheets
5. Highlighter (optional)
The Weekly Battle Plan consist of 6 sections:
1. “This Week”
2. Daily Tasks
4. “Mind Dump”
5. Project Planning
1. THIS WEEK
This is your operations manual for the next seven days. You can divide it into broad segments referring to general areas of your life, although I wouldn’t recommend more than three. “Business” and “Personal” are a good start.
List the different tasks that should to be done only that week, then identify those which must be completed. Ask yourself: “Which two to three items will make a successful week?”
Write those at the top, and highlight them with a marker or symbol. Then write the secondary objectives for the week. This will be your “task pool” from which you’ll populate the Daily Tasks Section.
2. DAILY TASKS
This is the heart of your journal, they’re the daily operations required to accomplish your weekly objectives, which constitute your long term goals.
Start on the page following “This Week” and write the day on top.
Begin with your wake up routine; I recommend Hal Elrod’s Miracle Morning for rolling out like a rocket!
With a line, separate the different locations throughout the day. For example my typical week day is divided into home, office, field, and gym. When chaos knocks (and it will), this will orient you when looking over your journal.
Notice the stars on various tasks. Just like planning your month or week, these are the priorities. After identifying them, write the support tasks which would be nice to get done, as long as you tackle the primaries.
Notice “Deep Work” written as the day begins; its a term and book title coined by Cal Newport’s paperback. It explains how immersive, uninterrupted focus from 30 minutes and beyond can make you work faster and produce exponentially higher quality.
Distraction is the nemesis of Deep Work. Mr. Newport explains the concept of residual attention which lingers from a previous task when switching to a new one, preventing you from fully enveloping yourself in the present. Its like taking a bite of desert while still chewing your chicken.
Undisturbed concentration unlocks abilities ubiquitous electronic distractions make impossible. Deep work is paramount in creating meaningful results; hence why we ought to reserve two sessions if possible. Silence your phone and email, lock your door and get at it.
The remaining housekeeping and routine/email related tasks are shallow work, which Newport characterizes as autonomous duties that don’t require high concentration. These are ideally done in “batch” format in 20-30 minute windows.
Go online and print a calendar for the next three months. Tape them to the back of your journal so each covers the entire page. Here you’ll write down looming deadlines, trips and appointments. This gives you a macro view of your month and helps you plan your weeks.
4. MIND DUMP
This is the escape valve preventing stress from rupturing your head.
On a blank sheet in your journal, jot down everything you think you need to do. This is a potent psychological break, releasing the ever expanding pressure in your mind. They’re all on paper now so you won’t forget. Now ask yourself which ones do you actually need to do? Which ones align with your long term goals? Upon deeper reflection you might be pleasantly surprised that most of the “urgent” tasks are not even necessary. The remaining ones that are, go in the “task pool” on the “This Week” section or the next.
Bored in a class? Got a brilliant business idea? Don’t jot it down a napkin bound to disappear! Put it on our Weekly Battle Plan and keep all your thoughts in one place.
The concept is simple, pick up a blank page (or twenty), title the top and write down your notes. This way they won’t get lost and it’ll be easier to review them in relation to your overall goals.
7. PROJECT PLANNING
Have a big test coming up? Or a an important presentation? These big projects take careful planning to ensure they are properly executed. The project planning guide allows you to break down exactly what you need to do in order to complete the project within the required time frame. You can assign those tasks across several days to ensure you are efficient. This then goes into your daily schedules. Always give yourself more days than you need.
IV. PERSONALIZE IT
Remember the purpose of this tool is to manage your time and systematize your tasks. Everyone’s situation is different. Adapt it to you and experiment with what works.