In recent workplace history, with the 24-hour customer expectations, many of us spend most of our time reacting to the crisis of the hour rather than being proactive. To be at our productive best and maintain our sanity, this needs to change. The first step to accomplish that is by taking a few minutes each day to plan your day and not let it plan you. We can always find a reason not to. It needs to become a habit, and committing to stick to it will help it become one. Keep your daily focus easily attainable, especially at first. Make sure you include everything you are going to do as well. Plan for those daily interruptions that inevitably come. The panicked email for a peer, the new assignment that comes out of the blue, or in our COVID-19 world, the kids need help with school. It might help you to get started by creating a record of what you do next week, and then plan the following week using what you learned.
When we get in a rhythm of daily planning, we can begin to look toward a whole work week, and the momentum grows from there. Being proactive is first a choice, then a habit. Managing expectations is always a part of the process. Your Managers, your teams, your customers, and most importantly, yours. That means a high levels of communication and honesty about what you can do and what you should do is paramount to success.
Many of us have long had a super aggressive annual work plan that we cannot possibly live up to. I admit to being entirely guilty on this one. The focus of the yearly work plan must become sustainability and quality. We need to ask what can we get completed at a steady high pace. We must stop asking ourselves what needs to be done and prioritizing all as a number one priority. Throwing it all on this list and frantically checking things off does not create a world-class product. It also does not make for much job pleasure. The fast-paced, reactive work has led many of us to great disappointment at the end of the year, even though the list is unattainable from the beginning.
We have much more job satisfaction and can focus on a better work-life balance if we have realistic and aspirational work plans. The daily effort of planning creates peace of mind. You are worth it; your mission is worth it. I encourage everyone to try it for the next week and let me know how you do.