UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once told his team, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” He was right. Taking on an important assignment or even showing up at your desk for an ordinary day without a plan in place leaves you vulnerable to all sorts of distractions and interruptions. Meanwhile, having a plan gives you several advantages.
Take Charge of Your Time
Have you ever noticed how, if you don’t take charge of your schedule, someone else is always glad to do it for you? Working without a plan – without purpose – means that you’re more likely to get stuck doing the jobs no one else wants to do.
It also means that you may get trapped for hours by a talkative colleague or a client. If you know you have to be somewhere or do something at a specific time, it’s much easier to say, “Well, I’ve certainly enjoyed our conversation, but I have an appointment in five minutes.” You don’t have to mention that the appointment is with yourself.
A Plan Gives You Success Experiences
If you arrive at work knowing exactly what you want to accomplish, getting that task done will give you a good feeling, a non-chemical high, that you don’t get when you’re working aimlessly. For instance, if your goal is to make ten cold calls in the morning, you’ll feel great once you’ve made that tenth call. If you don’t have a goal, you don’t know when you’ve “won,” so you don’t get the same satisfied feeling.
Map for Your Day
No plan will work perfectly all the time. If the boss wants a minute of your time, for instance, you obviously can’t blow him or her off. Once the interruption is over, though, you can look at the activities you have mapped out for the day and get right back on track.
Being in the flow means being in a state where you’re doing your best work and loving every minute of it. Finishing a task can interrupt the flow if you have to stop and wonder about what you should take on next. If you have your day planned, though, you know exactly what comes next. You don’t have to break your concentration to think about it. You just pick up the next item on your agenda and get started.
When you’re planning your day, be sure to leave time for breaks and for lunch. The human body wasn’t meant to sit still for eight hours a day; the human brain wasn’t meant to focus on the same job for eight hours a day. Taking some time away from your desk to stretch, take a walk, or eat a nutritious meal will enhance your productivity for the rest of the day.
If you wander into work and just let the day happen, you’re likely to leave feeling unfulfilled and weary. If you know exactly what you want to accomplish, though, and set aside time to make it happen, you’ll leave proud, energized, and ready to come up with a plan for the next day as well.