Monday, January 30, 2012
Getting from plans to reality
Here's the problem with making changes in doing just about anything: It's the difference between a plan and action. It's easy to make plans. It's tougher to take the action to make the plans into reality. Often, too little attention is given to the ways to keep the actions for projects foremost in your mind. The to-do list is about the simplest technique there is. But the standard to-do list is insufficient for the collection of projects that most of us have going at any particular time.
Here's a way of approaching the problem of keeping your portfolio of projects moving forward.
- Everything is a project.
- Every project consists of steps.
- The most important step is the next step. It's this next small task that needs to be done to move the project forward.
- The daily planning ritual. The daily planning ritual is a review of next steps for your current projects. The output of the daily planning ritual is a decision of what are the most important things to do today. In other words, not only must you list the actions for the day, but prioritize them.
- Longer term planning rituals help you accomplish bigger goals. Weekly, monthly quarterly and annual planning rituals can each be useful, depending upon your goals. The trick is to make planning automatic. Schedule your planning for specific dates and times.
- Begin each action step with a verb. It's a reminder that the step is after all action.
- Keep in mind that not all actions are actions that you yourself have to take. Some are actions that you delegate to someone else. The action for you for delegated work is to follow-up...ensure that it happens.
- Anticipate distractions. Two common distractions that crop up in projects are 1) additional projects to do, and 2) additional features that would be great to add to the current project. Although these may be wonderful ideas, they can make actually completing the project next to impossible. I recommend starting a file for version two of the project as soon as implementation for version one begins. That way you can collect all the great ideas but not be distracted from completing the current version.
- Control your off-task activity. These are your self-created distrations. Every teacher knows that one of the keys to making progress in the classroom is to keep the students on-task for a greater portion of the time in the classroom. The same applies to yourself. If you get distracted by frequently checking your e-mail, being interrupted by text messages, playing an occasional computer game, checking stock prices , checking the news, checking on the latest celebrity activities, you're not going to get your work done. Discipline your day. If necessary, create an explicit limited schedule for when off-task activities are allowed.
- Get distractions out of sight. Don't have pop-up reminders of incoming text messages or other distractors going on. It's far easier to ignore the distractions if you can't see them and aren't being reminded that they are there.
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