Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

When is the FIRST time I need to think about this?

It’s 9:30 pm, and I’m working in my office, thankful that I have a really tight daily and monthly planning system to keep me on track. I’m one of those people who plans well. In turn, my system takes good care of me. Even during times like this week, when I have a high volume of work on my plate, I have a handle on what’s done, and what needs to be done. I may feel stress because there’s so much to do, but I’m still feeling in control, instead of my workload spinning inside my head.

Here’s one quick and powerful planning tool I use, that you can use immediately! Keep in mind I said “planning” tool. So it’s used when you have some time to plan ahead. Seriously, nothing saves time and increases effectiveness like good planning. So here’s the tool. Simply ask yourself: When is the FIRST time I need to think about this? Then make a note in your system to prompt you to act when the time comes.

Some preparation is brief and simple. For example, you may need to attend a meeting, with no to little preparation needed. So, when’s the first time you need to think about it? Probably the day before the meeting, just to offer yourself a heads up or to gather your materials.

Other meetings, events, presentations, or travel may require a great deal of preparation. When you ask yourself, “When’s the first time I need to think about this,” the answer could be one week, two weeks, or even a month or several months before an event. For complex preparations or projects, you may even break down your project plan and begin asking yourself this planning question for each specific project component in order to best manage or implement the project.

Most likely, when you come across the note in your planning system or calendar for the first time, you may not be in a position to take action immediately. So whenever possible, answer the question with time to spare. Never set yourself up to discover an urgent note or task in your system without any flexibility to deliver.

To recap this quick tool, as you plan your month— look at each event, meeting or deadline, and ask yourself: When is the first time I need to think about this? Place a note/reminder in your system on that day. Then relax. Let go of it. Your system will remind you with time to spare.


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