Personal Time-Management System 2: How to Make a Plan (1/3)

By Elisi Studio

After you have a general idea of how your time was spent (refer to last week’s Elisi Inspiration post about recording), you can make a personal plan relevant to your own time-management ability and preference.

Since plans can’t always keep up with changes and it takes time to make the plan itself, some people may ask why we need a plan. Others recognize its importance, but their plans look “perfect” and are difficult to implement. Too many unplanned things just pop up.

Here we describe three misunderstandings and three benefits of making a plan to help you rationally understand the planning process.

Misunderstanding #1: Plans are not adjustable. Many of us think that once the plan is made, it must be strictly followed. A slight violation means that the plan fails. In fact, the plan is like an outline, giving us the goal and direction. In practice, we also need to constantly optimize and adjust our plans.

Misunderstanding #2: Making a plan is a waste of time. We specifically recorded the time spent planning over the past week: an average of less than 30 minutes per day. Compared to the time wasted on unplanned tasks, these 30 minutes are definitely a cost-effective investment.

Misunderstanding #3: Ignore the importance of execution. The goal of making a plan is to implement systems and complete tasks better, but many people are addicted to the improvement of the plan itself and forget to take action.

The benefits of making a plan can also be easily summarized into the following three points.

Benefit #1: Make the future predictable. Because of the plan, we have certain psychological preparation for what may happen in the future.

Benefit #2: Release anxiety. The more things we have to do and the more fragmented things are, the more likely we are to feel anxious. Write down a to-do list, acknowledge to yourself that you have listed all tasks, and then don’t worry about it. This list means you can review things you need to do and ease your anxiety.

Benefit #3: Your subconscious will supervise you to improve efficiency. Even if the same person does the same task on different days, the time consumed will be different. You can read a newspaper in 10 minutes, or stare at it the whole morning and kill your time. If we have a plan, the deadlines will urge us to complete tasks and thus improve our work efficiency.

Now that we have an idea of what plans can do for us, we can explore how to make a plan.

For most of us, the to-do list is the most basic method of planning: the plan for the next day is recorded the night before, and the next day is scheduled hour by hour.

The problem with to-do lists is that planning short-term tasks is relatively easy, but when it comes to planning tasks that take weeks or months to complete, the to-do list is too vague. So we use other tricks along with to-do lists for more efficient use of our time.

Trick #1: OKR, Google’s goal system

OKR is Google’s internal ranking system for employees’ objectives and results. OKR means Objectives and Key Results.

Simply speaking, every employee of Google sets one objective or a set of objectives for each quarter and then measures the key results. Each person’s OKR must be published on the company’s website and can be viewed by everyone. If anyone does not achieve their objective, it is clear at a glance.

At the end of the quarter, there is a target score for objective completion. The score is between 0 and 1—all completed is 1 and all unfinished is 0.

If you always have a score of 1, don’t rush to celebrate. Your execution may be effective, but it is probably because your objectives are too easy and not challenging. A reasonable score is between 0.7 and 0.8.

There are three essential lessons we can learn from OKR:

  1. Turn the goal attention into process attention.
  2. Create a monitoring mechanism.
  3. Develop a feedback mechanism.

In addition to OKR, are there any other easy ways to get started?

We will introduce SMART and the Four-Quadrant Working Method in Elisi Inspiration 3, and we will address how to deal with unplanned tasks.