Quarter 1 – 100 Pushups and Daily Planning
Despite being one month into this quarter of 2019, I'm still writing about my goals and plans. And, as predicted, I've made a few changes. If you remember my Year of Change post, I committed to do 100 pushups in one go by the end of the quarter and to journal every day. Well, personal and professional goals and focuses have shifted since I wrote that post, so I've made a small update to this quarter's goals. I'll still be striving to do 100 pushups by the end of the quarter, but I've decided to shift my focus from journalling every day to planning my time more effectively.
Let me explain why I made the change. In my day job, I have days that feel so unstructured that it feels like I get nothing done. Sometimes this lack of structure is a blessing that allows me to explore my passions, learn new things, and tinker. Other days, it feels like a pit of despair that is sucking away my life and work. At home, things feel the same. There seems to constantly be a list of things that I want to accomplish or need to get done, but that rarely get worked on. For example, it's taken me several weeks to finally write this blog post. My newly created non-fiction podcast has been sitting stagnant for a couple of months, and I still haven't organized our new reading room. In short, my time is unscheduled and turbulent. I don't have an anchor or a plan or a direction, so I get tossed about by the whims of outside forces. I want to change that.
While I am currently a slave to disorganization and chaos, I don't want to become a slave to my calendar and to-do list. I do, however, want to plan and use my time more effectively and accomplish more with my limited time.
Before I get into my goals and plans to use my time effectively, let me tell you how I plan to reach my goal of 100 pushups by the end of March.
When I started a few weeks ago, I did 12 pushups before my arms gave up and refused to push anymore. Yup, just 12.
This past week I did 2 sets of 20 pushups in a row, which is a pretty big deal for me. Here's my plan:
- Saturday: Max out
- Sunday: Rest/stretch day
- Monday – Friday: Do about 10-20% fewer per set than my last max (e.g., if my max on Saturday was 20 pushups, I would try to do 15-18 pushups per set). I'm trying to alternate 1-2 sets one day and 2-4 sets the next day so I don't get too sore or tired.
- Occasionally do some cardio, like the 7-minute workout, to boost endurance.
And that's it. It's not rocket science. It's probably not the best plan and it's definitely not perfect. I'll tweak it throughout the next two months, but that's my plan so far. Hopefully it works!
Now, on to my planning plan.
I want to keep this whole daily planning thing as simple as possible. I basically have 2 things to plan for: home life and work life.
I want to plan them in the same place, but I'd like to keep some of the planning process separate. Here's my plan:
- Monthly: The last day or two of the month, I will plan my entire month, mostly including recurring items (work days/hours, family dinners, grocery shopping, date nights, bills, paydays, etc.) and big events (birthdays, travel, vacation, holidays, etc.). These things are easy to plan because they typically happen at the same time every month/week/day.
- My wife and I will also plan meals for the entire month and plan 2-4 grocery trips during the month for those meals (2-4 because some produce just doesn't last that long)
- Weekly: On Sunday, I will plan out the next week Monday – Sunday. Verify plans from monthly planning and make necessary changes. Finalize weekly things like meal plans, grocery shopping, and work schedules. Plan time for things like blogging, podcasting, R&R, cleaning, house projects, etc. I'll also write out a list of items I need to accomplish during the week and schedule tentative times and days to accomplish them (things like “Call the bank” or “Return library books” or “Get rock chip repaired”). I'll also create any reminders in my phone for things that don't require an event, such as “Bring camera to work” or “Request time off work”.
- Daily: Each night I will review plans, events, and reminders from weekly and monthly planning. I'll make plans to accomplish tasks that need to be done the next day (for example, if we have a birthday party this weekend, I would make plans to pick up a gift and a card at the store after work, which might look like “5:45pm – buy gift and card for Joe”. I will fill remaining time with things I want to or need to do. I won't fill every available hour with an activity or I will leave open time for fun, relaxing things (watching a movie, browsing YouTube, playing with my daughter, going for a bike ride, etc.). The idea is, by the time I reach daily planning, most of my time should be scheduled, so I'll need to either confirm plans or fill in any remaining gaps.
I don't expect any of these planning sessions to take up too much time, but I do want to have specific, scheduled time set aside for planning. I think that weekly planning will be shorter and easier because I've already done monthly planning and daily planning will be even shorter and easier because I've already done monthly and weekly planning.
That takes care of most of my home life, so work life will require a little extra effort. I'm on the computer all day at work, so almost all of my planning will be done in Google Calendar. I work for an ed-tech company on a small team, so things change and evolve from time to time. Because of this, I won't be doing in-depth monthly planning.
At work, my plan is to review major events for the coming month at the end of each month. These include scheduled meetings, team events, major releases and milestones, etc.
Each Friday, I will spend the last 30 minutes or so of my day planning out the next week. I don't always know what projects I'll be working on, but I typically can plan a general sense of what my days will look like. I'll plan any meetings, schedule tasks that I haven't completed yet or that are coming up, write down reminders, and tentatively plan out my time with known projects (for example, I might plan a 3 hour block to respond to user comments on Monday afternoon).
Every morning I will spend 10-15 minutes planning my day. I'll confirm the weekly plans I've made, move things around, add new things that have come up, and schedule all my time, including time for professional development.
Then, every evening, I'll spend another 10-15 minutes before I go home reflecting on the day. I'll ask myself what went well, what I accomplished, what didn't go as well, where I got off track, and what adjustments need to be made. I don't expect to ever stick to a schedule 100% of the time, but I'd like to reflect and find out what worked and what didn't. Then I'll write down any tasks or reminders for the next day or later in the week or month. I also want to briefly plan out the next day. I think spending 10-15 minutes at the beginning and end of my work days to plan and reflect will help me be more mindful of the work I'm doing and where I'm spending my time.
And that's it. That was kind of a long explanation for something that I hope won't be too overly complicated. The idea is to simplify my life by planning and structuring my time. I hope to not only be more productive and efficient, but to find time to enjoy more in life and not feel worried or stressed about what I have going on in my life.