Effective Personal and Work-related Planning – Part 1

Whilst all of us would agree that we never plan to fail, many of us nevertheless fail to plan.
I was once a member of a large team of management trainers, working in the residential training headquarters of a Government department in the UK.

Many of our in-house jokes contained more than a small grain of truth! On a typical Monday morning, before our new groups of students arrived from all over Britain to attend training courses in supervisory and management skills, you would hear such comments as…

  • “I’ve been invited to attend a decision-making course, but I just can’t make up my mind whether to go or not.”
  • “I was going to go on a problem-solving course, but we had so many difficulties in our office I had to put it off.”
  • “I was going to attend a time management course, but I was just too busy to find the time.”
  • “Every time I’m invited to attend a seminar on motivational leadership skills, I simply can’t be bothered.”
  • “I missed out on a planning skills course because I forgot to put the dates in my diary!”
  • “I’d sort of like to go on an assertiveness course, please, that is if nobody minds!”

On first reading, these quotes can seem very amusing. However, they do demonstrate the tendency of many of us to assume that the only, or even the best way forward is to be immersed in a constant state of reaction and fevered activity, always seen to be firing on all four cylinders, ready to tackle any and every situation that arises in the course of a day immediately, confidently and swiftly.

Don’t confuse Speed with Efficiency!

So often, we confuse speed with efficiency, frenetic activity with effectiveness, and swift decision making (to achieve rapid, ‘quick fix’ outcomes) as being the virtue of decisiveness.

At the end of our working day, we often leave work feeling exhausted, “bloodied but unbowed”, feeling that we have made no real or meaningful progress but that, at least, we have weathered the storms of today: have given the outward appearance of being strong, organized and able to hack it, and hoping that tomorrow, perhaps, will prove to be less of an ordeal to be survived at all costs.

I put it to you, that in your work and in your personal world, the failure to plan how you will use your precious resources of time and energy, day by day, will usually result in you having very little of either under your personal control.

Almost regardless of whether you are at the very top of your organisational tree or at the sharp end of what your organisation delivers in the way of products or services: if you do not regularly seek to exercise a measure of control over how your time and energy are spent, you’re likely to experience daily life as consisting of an unending series of demands, crises, problems, worries, dramas, irritations and the overriding tyranny of the routine vs. the important: of the pressing vs. the truly urgent.

I will, in the next part of this article, share with you what I believe to be a simple, quick to apply, yet highly effective approach to everyday personal planning, be that in the workplace or at home.

The confusion of speed with efficiency is, in our view, at the very core of many of the unhelpful and profoundly wasteful business practices and personal attitudes (mental sets) prevailing in the technologically advanced and materially prosperous parts of our world as we move further into the ‘tweenies’.

I sometimes joke to mostly unreceptive ears that it’s as if we are shouting at each other, “We may not be getting anywhere but just look at how fast we are doing it!”

It’s often, however, those who regularly deal with extremely urgent and life critical situations who are best at adopting a planned and measured approach. My favourite example of the truth of this is the true story of the surgeon in charge of an accident and emergency department of the city hospital when a young casualty arrived in his operating theatre, having been multiply injured in a road traffic accident.

“He turned to his team of surgeons and nurses and said, “Let us not hurry for there is no time to waste.”

…..to be continued …..

by Ian Flemming and Peter Collett ©2013 Dynamiq Consultants

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