Do you ever feel like all you do is run from one emergency to the next, constantly putting out fire after fire? And when you finally get a chance to breathe, the mountain of tasks and items to do seem overwhelming and getting bigger? So how does someone get a handle on being in control of their life, and become highly productive?
While there are a number of tactical things you can do to improve your productivity, keeping your life in control requires some special skills. One very important skill that business professionals must learn and become proficient at is planning. Think about those who are responsible for major projects like weddings, construction or even travel arrangements. It is their ability to see the big picture and handle the details, at the same time that enables them to be as effective as they are.
Be honest with yourself what is your internal voice saying to you right now about this whole subject? Are you resisting the topic or are you open-minded to developing this one skill set? This may be the solution to many of your problems that cause you major headaches and stress. But just the idea of learning to plan out your business and your life is resisted and out right rejected by a large number of people. Maybe you’ve had a bad experience trying to plan before. Maybe you get frustrated because of all the changes that are continually taking place in a planning process. That doesn’t mean that the skill of planning isn’t effective for controlling your life. It may mean you need to develop the skill a little better.
Remember the old adage, “failure to plan, is planning to fail”? I want you to make an honest assessment of your abilities to plan, and determine to improve that skill in your life. If you want a life that is in control, and is not fighting one emergency, one fire, one crisis after another then you need to improve your planning skills. The decision to work on developing this skill is the first step.
Here are a few basic components of good planning that if you work on them will enable you to develop this skill. Ask yourself these questions before and during your planning process.
1. What is your desired outcome for this event, project or task?
This question will help you to understand the nature of what you are trying to accomplish as well as the general scope. The clearer you can describe the goal or outcome the better that you will be able to plan the quality and quantity of the project. Knowing your desired outcome gives you guidance and helps you from starting off in the wrong direction. This will also help in the areas of motivation, value, expected return on investment, and knowing when you have completed the task. So start by crystallizing your outcomes before you get started. Or if you have already started, do it now!
2. What are the obvious constraints or obstacles that you expect to face and have to resolve in order to achieve the goal?
By identifying the things that are going to prevent you or hinder you from accomplishing your goal as early in the process as possible, will allow you to prepare to address those issues when they arise. When you don’t take into account obstacles or hindrances in a project, this is the perfect point where emergencies can surprise you. So identify them by writing them down, bringing them out into the open, discussing them with your team and find ways to resolve them before they become a crisis.
3. What resources do you have at your disposal that will help you to achieve your goal or project faster, better, and cheaper?
Many people make the mistake of believing that they “know” all their resources they have. What they often forget are those fringe resources such as the talents and assets of others, misplaced assets, and the assets they’re not even aware that are available to them. Getting a clear understanding of your resources, which you can apply to this project, can make a major difference in its outcome. Sometimes knowing what resources you need now, and may need to acquire in the future will help you to prevent a crisis. Make an assessment of resources you have and may need.
4. Where are you currently in relationship to accomplishing this goal?
In our day-to-day activities of trying to accomplish a goal we many times lose track of where we are. We tend to believe were making effective progress because we are doing something. Every once in a while you have to stop and reassess the situation. When you reorient yourself, you take stock of the amount of work that has to get done and the timeframe left to do it in. This enables you to prevent a crisis of falling short of your deadline by being able to apply additional resources, if necessary, to meet that deadline.
5. What specific tasks have to be done and in what order so that you can reach your goal by your deadline?
This question assumes you have asked and answered the previous four questions. This skill set recognizes that your brain should not have to carry the weight of all of the details that are necessary to accomplish a goal, but those details are written out to provide clarity and accuracy as the project progresses. Write down your plan as you continue to develop your planning skills.
This is just the start of being able to develop the skills that you need to have a life that is in control and is not plagued by one crisis after another. Make a conscious effort to observe those individuals that you know who seem to live in a crisis mode all the time and ask yourself if they have a real handle on understanding these five questions. You will see that they cannot answer these five questions and by having them at your fingertips, walking through them continually, you will find that your life, and your business is more productive and you are have a greater sense of control.