Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Power of Planning

I have always heard the difference between a resolution and a goal is a plan to make it happen. There's something to that.

I don't know what causes it, but checking a box on a to do list gives you a tiny little burst of excitement, a little dopamine rush that says, "Hey, you did something good today, keep it up!" In case you don't recognize it, that's your body telling you it appreciates accomplishment.

What I have found, though, is by making organized versions of those lists, and setting specific tasks outlined to achieve those goals, I am more likely to hit that target. I have to write it down, though. Whether you use pen and paper or something like Evernote or even Microsoft Project, having a document, an artifact, that describes your plan makes it real. Until you can articulate it on paper (or the digital equivalent, because I am a low-paper guy), every project is generally a jumbled pile of idea in your head.

Not only do you need to write it down to add structure instead of spaghetti to the plan, you also need to select the right level of task. For each person, it may differ, but you need to take some time to go through your plan and do what I call "decomposing" your tasks. Anything that seems huge or challenging or insurmountable towards your goal needs to be broken down into constituent parts, which, when all totaled and completed, should accomplish the higher goal. If, after decomposing the task, you find yourself with items that may take weeks to complete, decompose further into sub-tasks and sub-sub-tasks, until you have an accurate list of targetable chunks.

Nowadays, I try to plan as much as I can around work and other items. The downside to that would be less flexibility, unless you build appropriate slack and gaps into your own work. Plan for change and you won't be surprised when it comes. And it will come.

What are you planning?