Alex Jeffreys is a big proponent of the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail”, which deep down I know is right but having tried his method and many others to plan my tasks, they all irritated and hindered rather than helped.
The problem of course is finding a system that feels natural to you, when it feels right then you are more likely to stick with it.
The first task is to breakdown your life into projects and tasks, for this I looked at many software options and after many trial accounts, I have decided to use Mindmanager by Mindjet, this actually solves 2 issues I have been having.
Firstly, I love Xmind but they will not commit to resolving the focus issue, where all maps open at 100%, a minor irritation perhaps but when you are working with over 30 maps it soon becomes a major time and focus issue. Thankfully Mindmanager solves this issue but for over $200 it was not that much of an issue!
Secondly, Mindmanager has an inbuilt project scheduler, thus I no longer need to make another investment in software to do this.
That clinched the deal
The software was purchased however Xmind is not being discarded, as it still has one feature that all other mind mapping software lacks. Rich Schefren recommends that you invest in Smartdraw to create your process maps which I am sure it does very well but once again at over $200 is that really a smart investment. Xmind has a map layout called spreadsheet which allows you to create process maps quickly and easily alongside your mind maps.
Thus at this stage, I now have Mindmanager to organise my business and plan out projects down to their phase and task level whilst calculating time estimates. You should only start a project once you have the first phase broken down to its task level, of course many of these tasks may already be contained within your process library.
The flip side of this is that you need to organise your daily schedule, once again I went for the overly complicated route first and got massively confused until I drew back and noticed that the solution had been staring at me all along, Ok I admit I had discounted it at first as Google and me are not exactly bosom buddies but the beauty of their solution was worth swallowing my pride for and taking a look.
Google Calendar allows you to schedule your total life. You and I have tasks we need to do each week and the projects we desire to do need to fit around these, otherwise you will lose the momentum you have been busy creating in your business. When you have the financial resources many of these tasks and project elements can be outsourced to others but that time has not yet come for me.
The beauty of using this calendar, is that it will send a reminder to your phone 10 mins before the next event is due, thus you are able to stay on track without having to keep looking at the calendar.
Today I have a time block for writing this post and then its onto writing my newsletter, I know from experience how long both of these takes but at first you will have to track your time to ensure you can schedule your tasks realistically.
This of course means that finally you accept that you can only get so much done in a day, there is no need to feel guilty about this because with this clarity you can ensure you are only planning in the most beneficial tasks for you and your business.
Sunday is the day I do the weekly review and planning for the forthcoming week, it is also the day I schedule the weeks Twitter posts for my main account. During that task I received a call from my good friend Paul Chilvers-Grierson, he was in town and did I want to head to the pub for a chat, ok so the schedule was now in tatters as I headed for the door!
We spent several hours just chilling, eating and chatting about our plans and history, by the time we parted the shops had all closed.
Thanks to this schedule, I could pick it up where I left off, unfortunately some tasks were very time dependant, in particular food shopping which would now have to be re-scheduled, and I would have to go hungry. Apart from that small error, all the tasks were done eventually.
You will notice that there is now a gap on yesterdays schedule and a green insert into todays, that is the food shopping, I am not going to miss that one again. The other point is that because I work a rotating shift pattern, this week being backshift. I have to schedule my tasks realistically around my work, sleep and eating pattern that last one being something I all to often forget to do.
Thus the beauty of planning and scheduling is that you can quickly build a plan that suits your passion, your style of working and most importantly is realistic in the time allocated between your business and your leisure time.
How do you manage your time, or are you still ‘winging’ it?