Planners and Schedules

Planners and schedules are a great way of getting organised as they lay out all your tasks, activities and appointments in one easy to access location.

The best thing about using these tools is that you can program important, but not urgent, activities into your day-to-day plan – this way you’ll effortlessly work towards these important milestones without being in a mad rush at the end when they suddenly become urgent.

This is the key to achieving goal setting success – and any form of success requiring long-range planning, for that matter – as it integrates your day-to-day life with your action items for your goals.

You may already use a planner in the form of a diary – use the daily pages to plan your day-to-day activities and tasks. And you can also add notes on what you actually did that day for future reference.

And if your diary has an overview calendar for the year, with space to add events and milestones, this can be used as a schedule – a snapshot of major events and achievements throughout the year.

Of course, you can purpose make your own to suit what ever project you’re working on – and this is a particularly good approach for goal setting.

For Goal Setting

‘Planners’ are specifically for listing the action items or steps to achieve your goals, and ‘schedules’ are used to see how the action plan should pan out over the program and to identify any conflicts in resourcing.

Schedules will give you a visual representation of effort and Planners can be used to incorporate your goal setting actions and day-to-day activities into the one memory-jogging list. Use a scheduler that covers the duration of your goal (ie yearly, quarterly, etc) – you’ll find some planners in the ToolBOX under the Life Planning Workbook.

To use a scheduler, list the actions needed to achieve your goal [from your SMART goal sheet if you’ve done one], and draw a line on the schedule starting at the start date and finishing at the end date.

This is intended to be a summary of Action items, so you can wrap some of the steps up together if this is appropriate. Also add any other activities or events coming up that may affect the schedule – this is not a calendar of all events, just things that may affect your ability to take action on your goals, for example planned holiday, seasonal work shifts, etc.

How does it look? Too cluttered at the start and not much at the end. Any clusters of activity? This may be OK if the time, effort and level of resourcing to complete those tasks is manageable, but if they all require a lot of effort on your behalf you may be asking for trouble.

Now is the time to smooth out any spikes in activities and fill up any troughs of inactivity to give you a nice steady pace towards achieving your goal. Also make sure you work around any of those non-goal specific events that may otherwise divert your attention from your goal.

If you make any changes to the timing or deadlines of any Action Items, make sure you change this on your Action Plan or in the relevant section of the SMARTER goal template, otherwise there will be a conflict between these documents.

Once you’re happy with the spread of activity, you can use one or several of the planners to set daily, weekly or monthly tasks depending on your goal and its specific Action Plan. You may use the daily planner to really keep yourself disciplined in achieving your goals and maintaining organisation in your day-to-day activities, and also use a weekly or monthly planner to allow you look a bit further ahead at what’s coming up for you.

The important thing though, is that if you use say a daily one, sit down every week with your weekly and monthly versions to prepare your daily action plans for the following week. That way you’ll maintain control and still keep heading in the right direction by using the mid to longer-term plans as your guide to your end result.

Typically, you’ll prepare a schedule once at the start of your goal as a tool for identifying and managing activity spikes and troughs, although you may want to revisit the goal schedule from time to time as goal progress and your life situation changes.

Planners should be prepared at the start of the goal, and progressively throughout the goal to ensure full integration with your day-to-day activities and to reflect the dynamic nature of life itself – ie they need to be flexible, and current.

You can also use your own system if you like – you can get pads of To Do lists and daily diary’s from your local stationary supplier, or use the calendar/ to-do lists that come with most email servers (of course, these are only useful if you have your computer on all the time and use it regularly, otherwise you might forget to check items off the list).

Some tips for use:

  • Make sure you add the date to the top of the planner so you always know you are using the current plan. It also helps for future reference.
  • Use different colours to indicate your focus for particular blocks of time. Set your own colour scheme for each focus area (for example exercise, family time, time-out, etc) and use these colours throughout so you can pick out focus areas at a glance.
  • Include relevant details for the tasks – What? Where? When? Who? How? This will be most detailed for the daily plans, with decreasing level of detail as the planner outlook increases.
You’ll find a number of planners and schedules in the ToolBOX, under the FREE Life Planning Workbook section.