In part 1, I wrote about how you should plan your life in 3-month stretches to be more effective at setting and crushing goals. When you’re done with that exercise, you will have a quarterly plan that looks something like this:
If you’ve done that already, congratulations! You have set forth a plan that will significantly improve your life in the next 3 months. But how does this plan go from idea to action?
First things first: you need a planner
If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend getting a planner. Any planner will do—this is the first one I got and it gets the job done. Consistency is the key to achieving your goals and it is very difficult to be consistent without having a daily list of tasks to look at.
I didn’t have a planner less than a year ago but a good friend of mine sent me one after venting to him about how unstructured my life was (thanks Ryan). Before having a planner, the idea that I would have one and plan everyday of my life sounded so. fucking. boring… I was also worried that it would strip my life of any serendipity. Instead, it has just made me much more effective at getting back on the wagon when life happens and I inevitably fall off. I am no longer a planner skeptic and believe it is a crucial tool in your pursuit of a successful life. You need a planner.
Quarterly plan to monthly plan
Now that you have both your 3-month plan and a planner, you’re ready to start transferring some of your goals into your planner. Some of the goals in your plan should already have milestone dates associated with them and can be transferred into the monthly view for the first month of your plan.
In the monthly view of the planner, I also like to cross off any days I am not working my day job and include any known social occasions for the month. The reasoning for this is two-fold: it gives me something to look forward to throughout the month and also indicates any days I need to work my goals around. For example, if I planned to have dinner with a friend on a Friday when I’m supposed to be writing this blog, I will know that I should plan to write on a different day for that week—preferably earlier in the week so that I’m not falling behind.
Once I’m finished updating the monthly view of the planner, I go through the weekly views for the entire month and write in any milestones at the top of the expected delivery date. This gives me better visibility when planning each week of what’s important to get done on a certain day.
You should only plan the first month for now. Revisit your 3-month plan at the end of each month to plan the next one. This gives you an opportunity to reflect on your progress throughout the quarter and make adjustments if necessary to certain habits that you may or may not be developing in order to achieve your goals. By only planning one month at a time, you also have flexibility in adjusting milestone dates if something comes up.
Monthly plan to weekly plan
After you have planned your first month of the quarter, it’s time to get more granular and plan the first week. This is what one week looks like for me:
I like to break down each weekday into morning, afternoon, and evening tasks. Very often tasks will get done outside of their specified time slot but it is helpful to add some structure to the day.
A lot of tasks are repeated as well. Practically everyday I am checking email, journaling, doing some form of meditation, doing some type of physical exercise, and working on a creative project—lately that has been development for String Theory or writing this blog on Fridays.
Additionally, there are some chores that I write down such as groceries, laundry, and grooming myself—yes, I even make grooming myself a task in my planner. You don’t need to remind yourself to groom? Good for you, Patrick Bateman, but if I don’t write it down, I’ll end up looking like this:
You will ultimately have different tasks than me depending on your goals but the one thing that should be the same is you should set aside one day per week to create your plan for the following week. For me, I plan the following weeks on Fridays.
That’s it! This is how I break down my 3-month plan into a monthly plan and further into daily tasks on a weekly basis. All you need to do now is execute it—which is much easier said than done.
However, the great thing about having a plan is that you don’t ever have to waste mental capacity thinking about what you should be doing on any given day. You have already done the work of writing everything down that you should be doing. Eventually, many of these repetitive daily tasks will become automatic for you and achieving your goals will seem to require less effort.
I’ll leave you with one last tip for tackling your daily tasks: commit to 30 minutes or less. In order for you to cross off any given task on your daily list you only have to do it for 30 minutes. You can set the bar even lower to 15 or 20 minutes if 30 minutes seems like too much. But quite often, you will find getting over the hurdle of starting will result in you wanting to put more time into working on certain tasks.
There will a be third and final follow-up to this topic. The last process I need to discuss is what the retrospective looks like after your 3-month plan has been executed. And if I’m being honest, a “Plan your life in 3’s” series without 3 parts might drive me crazy.
I will follow up at the end of the summer when I am doing my retrospective for this quarter but you should now have all the tools you need to create and execute your own plan of 3’s. Good luck!