Find Time for Planning and Goal Setting

Powerful timesavers in any undertaking are planning and goal setting. Without them, no amount of activity or hard work ever produces meaningful results or increases your personal productivity. But with them, your efforts propel you toward the progressive realization of your worthwhile, predetermined goals!

The basic challenge in planning and goal setting is finding blocks of uninterrupted time. Interruptions like meetings, day-to-day routine, and the necessity of dealing with all sorts of major and minor crises take up time or break it into such small segments that the connected thought essential for effective planning is difficult or even impossible. Remember, most time is wasted, not in hours, but in minutes. A bucket with a small hole in the bottom gets just as empty as a bucket that is deliberately kicked over. So, consider all blocks of time – small and large.

With determination, you can find the time you need for planning. Improving your personal productivity depends on it! At the beginning of each week block out specific times to reserve for planning. Mark these on your calendar. Give instructions about how callers are to be handled and what constitutes an emergency worth an interruption. Then follow your plan. An occasional true emergency or unanticipated meeting may alter your schedule. But unless you reserve it and protect it, the time you need for planning will never automatically become available. You do not find time; you schedule it.

As difficult as it sometimes appears to schedule time for planning, a more serious, underlying problem is overcoming the attitudes that frequently stand in the way of reserving time for planning. We are prone to feel uncomfortable unless we are physically “doing” something. We may fear that we are somehow lazy or ineffective unless we are shuffling papers, manipulating objects, or talking about work with other people. We are concerned that someone will catch us sitting apparently idle and conclude that we are “not getting anything done” and have nothing productive to offer the organization. These attitudes are difficult to overcome because they are ingrained by many years of conditioning. But attitudes are merely habits resulting from making repeated choices. You can establish new attitudes and acquire new habits of thought and action by deliberately making new choices, developing a plan for acting upon those choices, and taking action on that plan — enthusiastically and persistently.

If you experience repeated interruptions in the middle of the time you reserve for planning and goal setting, it will help to consider the time cost of interruptions. An interruption would not be too detrimental if the only cost attached to the interruption were the cost of the actual time required to answer the question or provide the instruction or information requested. But this amount of time is actually a very small portion of the time consumed by the interruption. In addition to the social exchange at both beginning and end of the interruption, you are faced with the necessity for refocusing concentration on the work you were performing when interrupted. Do whatever it takes to diplomatically reduce the number of interruptions threatening your planning and goal-setting time.

Tracking and Feedback

High performance businesses are characterized by continuous improvement. Peak performers in a business are also characterized by continuous improvement. A common denominator of continuous improvement of businesses and individuals is tracking and feedback. Businesses and individual peak performers always use tracking and feedback to improve productivity.

Tracking progress toward the achievement of a predetermined goal provides valuable feedback which enables you to evaluate progress and to make any changes required to reach your goals. Precise, systematic measurement of progress helps you to achieve yet more progress.

Devising a measuring system also forces you to clarify your goals. Measuring progress may reveal that you need to modify your goals or even that you are working on the wrong goals. Remember, if a goal is worthwhile and is also the right one for you, then there are appropriate ways to measure progress toward it.

Tracking progress is the only way to know when you need to take steps to get back on course. Tracking is also the only way to know when you have reached your goal. Establish a practical method for tracking progress and using feedback to improve productivity. 

Leadership Management Institute
Reprinted with permission

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