092: Creating a Planning System | Tanya Dalton
October 16, 2018   |   Episode #:

092: Creating a Planning System

In This Episode:

Season 8 is all about planning for success. As we move towards the end of the year and into the next, this is the ideal time to lay down the groundwork and focus on how planning for success can help lead us into happier, more productive lives. Today, we are going to talk about creating a planning system that works for you. I’ll share how having a system in place enables us to focus on our goals every day, the importance of writing our goals down, and my 5 P’s for how to plan.

Show Transcript:

The Big Idea

Having a system for planning enables us to achieve our goals

Questions I Answer

  • What’s the best way to create a planning system that works for me?
  • How can I be more productive?
  • What’s the best way to plan your day?
  • How can I feel more productive every day?

Actions to Take

  • Watch the newest episode of TanyaTV on my YouTube channel: How to Prioritize Your To-Do List
  • Purge, process, prioritize, protect and propel. It’s not difficult, but when you take the time and space to actually implement a system like this, you really will start to see a difference in how you move towards your goals.

Key Topics in the Show

  • Simplifying our lives by creating a process for ourselves

  • Taking ownership of our goals by writing them down

  • The 5 P’s for how to make plans and achieve goals

Resources and Links

Show Transcript

Welcome to season eight of Productivity Paradox with Tanya Dalton. A  podcast focused on using productivity not just to do more, but to achieve what’s  most important to you. Join Tanya this season as she focuses on planning for  success using proven productivity strategies. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes  To Peak Productivity, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/podcast. To get her free checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to  inkWELLpress.com/podcast.  

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host, Tanya  Dalton and this is episode 92. Welcome to season eight of Productivity Paradox. It’s a  whole new season, which means a brand new intro done by my husband John, and a  brand new topic.  

This season is all about planning for success. As we move towards the end of  the year and into the next, this is the ideal time to lay down the groundwork and  focus on how planning for success can help lead us into happier, more productive  lives. We’ll be going deeper than just how to plan. We’ll be talking about distractions,  time blocking, all sorts of topics. And we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about  goal setting, and so, so much more.  

Good planning pushes us towards our goals on a daily basis. When we work on  goals daily, we’ll achieve them, and that is directly tied to solid planning. So today, I  wanna talk about having a system and how it is so important to our success. I really  want to talk about creating a planning system that works for you. Think about  systems that you already use in your daily lives, like a system for doing laundry. When  we do laundry, we don’t just take that heap of clothing and throw it into the washing  machine, well at least I hope you don’t. You may not think of laundry as a system, but  it is. Think about it. We first gather the items and then we sort them. Lights, darks,  towels, blankets and so on. Some articles have special circumstances, like delicates  which can be washed but need to be hung up. Other things aren’t washed at all, like  things that need to be dry cleaned. This is a system. Your system may look different  from what other people do, but it’s what works best for you.  

Having a system in place is crucial to our ultimate success, and not just on  laundry day. Think about your goals, those big goals that take time and energy. How  do we accomplish these goals? Well, when we plan, we’re actively working towards  our goals. But if we don’t have a system to make sure our planning is effective, it’s  really easy to understand how we get off track.  

Look at it this way, each day we wanna inch a little bit closer to our goals. If  you get one percent closer to your big goals, the huge goals, every single week,  within a year you’ll be 52% of the way there. Planning and having a system for  planning shows us how to get to our goals each and every day. Small battles lead to  big victories. One percent is minuscule really, and it’s likely actually that you can do  much, much more. Having a foundation and making progress towards those big goals  

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is the reason for having a planning system. Systems provide that structure we need to  achieve our goals.  

We talked about systems at length during season three. So, as you know,  systems are incredibly important for productivity and for your happiness. But, it’s  important to know that just because we have systems, it doesn’t mean that they are  set in stone. What works for us now, may not work for us in a few months or a few  years, maybe even in a few weeks. These systems are always evolving just like we are.  

In my family we have many systems that we attribute to our success. We have  systems for making school lunches, for assigning chores and yes, for planning. Those  systems though have changed over time. I used to work on our weekly plans for both  home and work on Sunday afternoons. But, since started making a conscious effort to  really separate my home and my work life, I’ve moved to doing this on Sunday for  home and Monday work. I shared this process recently on a Tanya TV episode called,  How I Plan With Our Family’s Weekly Planning Routine. So, I want you to check that  out if you have any questions about how to plan with your family.  

But I wanna continue with this idea of sharing the ways that we can simplify  our lives by creating a process for ourselves. This is important because it’s more than  just a list, it’s a system. I thought we needed to really dive into this, because while we  recognize that planning is key, I found that a lot of people don’t really have the  structure for how to plan. But if we don’t know how to plan, it’s no wonder why we  feel so overwhelmed. We need to take the time to write things down. And I think  that’s a really important part of understanding what works best for you. Because we  often forget how important it is to take the time and the space to actually write.  Because when we write things down, it allows us to free up the brain space. And that  actually deepens the connection to that information, because it has a visual queue  and a reminder, which means that we’re much more likely to remember that  information later.  

This is actually called The Generation Effect. People are more likely to  remember what they’ve written than what they’ve read. Writing down plans then is  even more important than just thinking about them or typing them. Writing down our  goals is taking ownership of them and creating our own path to success. Research  has shown that we’re 42% more likely to achieve goals that are written down than  those that aren’t. Part of this is due to the Endowment Effect, which indicates that we  are more successful if we feel like an idea or a task actually belongs to us. Writing  down our goals is taking ownership of them. This is why it’s key to understand and to  own our day. We set those rhythms when we decide what’s most important. Without  this sense of ownership, we can begin to feel like we’re at the mercy of everyone  else’s demands. And that’s not a very good feeling. I think we can all agree.  

It’s crucial for us to create an environment that enables us to be successful.  Environment is so important. We often connect the environment to the situation that  we’re in. Think popcorn at the movies, you might not even want popcorn when you  go to the movies, but you automatically associate popcorn with the theater. It’s the  same thing with the environment you create for planning. Maybe for you that means  sitting in a comfortable chair or playing quiet music in the background. Selecting a  

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space to work on your planning and your goals is really one of the big keys to giving  them focus and attention they deserve.  

You need to use that dopamine we’ve talked about in the past, you need to use  that to your advantage. Dopamine is that chemical that helps control the brain’s  reward center. It’s released when we get something that we want. It makes us feel  good that we’ve achieved our goals, even the small ones. And this makes us more  likely to continue doing the task that cause that feel good reaction. So, when we’re  planning and taking action, use that dopamine to your advantage. We’ve talked in the  past about how dopamine has good parts and bad parts to it, this is one of the ways  we can really use it for good.  

So, I really wanted to explore this idea of how to plan, because I think it’s so  important. I’ve developed a system called the Five P’s that I think will help. The Five  P’s are: purge, process, prioritize, protect and propel. I wanna go quickly into what  each one of these means.  

So, the first one is purge. When we purge, we’re moving information out of our  brain and onto the page. The act of writing down is so important because it frees up  your brain space, so that you could really focus. We experience this all the time. Think  of an instance when you’ve been working on a task and an idea pops into your brain.  What do you do? Most of us write it down so we can get back to focusing on the  task, right?  

According to Scott Schaffer, Associate Dean and Professor or Management at  Wake Forest University School of Business says, “Many, if not most people, carry  around a lot of stuff in their heads that they’re trying to keep track of and remember,  including appointments, meetings, project deadlines and to-do’s. Doing this causes  brain fatigue.” It’s very similar to decision fatigue, which we discussed in several  episodes. He goes on to remind us that mental lists distract us from the more  productive uses of our brain. So, doing a brain dump really does help.  

In my Five P’s system, I call this a purge. To purge, we list all the tasks that we  need the complete. Get them out of your brain because our brains need to release  this information, so designate a time and a space for this to happen. It can be done  on your own or with other members of your team. I mentioned earlier that I now do  my weekly purge on Sundays for home and on Mondays for work. I use the Weekly  Kickstart to help me organize this list. Now you could use a sheet of notebook paper  or a blank sheet in your planner, it’s really up to you. But to purge, you jot down  everything that needs to be accomplished for that week. This is so important for  getting things out of your head and onto that page. Purging can also jumpstart our  creativity. Remember, this is just the first step, but it’s not the only step.  

A vital part of the Five P’s is step number two, which is processing. Many  people move from listing straight to doing, without taking the steps necessary to  make sense of what needs to be done. So, we don’t wanna skip over step two. Step  two is process. When we process, we look at each day individually, rather than  planning out the entire week. This gives us some flexibility to make changes. We  don’t know what’s gonna come up from day to day, so it really allows us that  flexibility that happens because, you know, life, right?  

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Using the Weekly Kickstart as a guidepost empowers you to use the beginning  of each day to set up those tasks. Spend the first 10 minutes of your morning setting  up your day. Being adaptable and moving things around is so necessary. And, I want  you to ask yourself during this time, “What can I get done today and today only?”  What this does, is it allows us to set up our days to be achievable. And that’s really  important. We wanna set ourselves up for success, by setting up our days to be  achievable. Each day is a new opportunity. Each day also brings its own set of  challenges. So, planning each day as it comes, allows us to give ourselves some grace  for the less than ideal days. We all have them. But it also allows us to soar even higher  on those really good days.  

When we do this, when we take this time to process, we develop a healthy  belief that we have the ability to handle the challenges. And let’s be honest, we do  have that ability. We just sometimes forget. In this way, we don’t let the challenges of  the day derail us. Sometimes the day before can be really difficult, and if we allow  that to bleed into our morning, that sets our day up for not feeling so good. So, just  look at that day and what you wanna get done. We don’t wanna start the day feeling  defeated by the things that were left undone the day before. As you know, it all starts  with momentum. Small steps are better than no steps.  

Processing is a habit and it’s a skill. When we set aside time for this, we begin  to show value for it. And then we become more realistic about the expectations that  we can set for ourselves, and we can start to see the impact of overloading our list  and what that’s doing to our lives. This is what allows us to set ourselves up for  success. And ultimately, it moves us forward to the next step of the Five P system.  

Prioritizing. When we prioritize, we identify the importance of the task and the  urgency. What I found is that most people focus on the urgency of the task rather  than the importance. And that’s how we end up with these really, really long to-do  lists. For a long time I really resisted creating a daily planner, because I felt doing so  would encourage these impossibly long to-do lists. But, using a priority list allows us  to designate which tasks are immediate, which ones are important, and which ones  are insignificant. And that’s why I set up our daily planner that way, because I really  want you to focus in and prioritize on where each task needs to fall. That empowers  us to prioritize those items that must be addressed first.  

I don’t wanna spend too long talking about priority lists, because we’ve talked  about them in several episodes. We’ve talked about them in episode 33, we also  discussed how to prioritize in episode 62. So, to use our time more effectively, you  can revisit one of those episodes if you’d like more information on the priority list, or  I’m gonna do a new episode of Tanya TV this week called, How To Prioritize Your To do List, where I’ll walk through this process step by step.  

But here’s what I want us to take away, too often we get caught up in doing  those tasks that feel most urgent rather than the ones that are most important. And  really, it’s the ones that are most important that are going to move us closer to our  goals. Urgent tasks, are just that, they’re urgent. They must be done because of the  deadline, but they’re not necessarily the most important. This is why a priority list is  key. It’s both evaluating the value of what we must do and putting a level on each  

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task, so it’s apparent to us where we want to focus first. Being productive is about  prioritizing and making the best use of our 1440 minutes we have every single day.  

And that brings us to our fourth P, which is protect. When we protect our time,  we fill our calendar. That’s right, we fill our calendar in. When you’re doing your  morning process time, I want you to put in your most important tasks first. That  empowers us to identity our priorities and give them the most time. Schedule batch  time for checking email and doing other similar tasks. Block your time. I’m going to  actually be talking more about time blocking in an episode in just a few weeks. So, if  you want more on that, I’ll be covering it, don’t worry. But I want you to protect your  time by thinking about who you are and how you work best.  

Remember those ultradian rhythms we are always talking about? We all have  these natural rhythms, an ebb and a flow to our energy levels. Having an awareness of  this allows us to better protect the most productive times of our day. Some of us do  this by waking up early, so we have the energy and the space to work on things that  are most important to us. Reading, writing, exercising. Some people have a quick  burst of energy midday. Other people it’s late at night. You really have to make time  for your priorities and protect the time that you wanna spend on them. And that’s  different for everybody.  

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who’s a mother of five children, she sets aside  regular mandatory no-work time. She prioritizes eating dinner and spending time  with her family, so she doesn’t work from 6:00 to 9:00 PM. In fact, she actually turns  her phone off during that time. And then, she’s open to working after that time or  working up until that 6:00 PM time. So, she’s very protective of the time that’s  important to her.  

But it’s not just at home that we can protect our time. At work, you can create  themes for more effective time management. In fact, many offices choose to have a  day and a time set aside for meetings and to limit the amount of time spent on those  meetings. Some places have even taken this a step further, with a technique called  Silent Start. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos began this style of meetings several years ago.  All attendees read and think while studying memos that contain important  information. That’s all prepared ahead of time by the meeting facilitator. Now there  are several benefits to this, the undivided attention to the material, the generation of  ideas, the focused participation, everyone is literally on the same page. So, I want to  encourage you to make sure you’re protecting your time.  

The fifth P is propel and this is my favorite of all the Five P’s. Because to me,  this is really what boosts your productivity the most, but it’s the one that many  people forget about. When we propel, we use the momentum from the day before to  move forward towards our goals. You often hear me talk about the water in the well, I  use that term a lot here on Productivity Paradox, because it’s so important. So, in  many households, this momentum might look like putting items in a designated  space. Backpacks by the back door, work items on your desk, like I’ll put my planner  on my desk or all the lunch items together where they’re easily found. You find that  by doing this, you’re more calm in the morning as you gather your belongings and  head out the door.  

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By planning ahead the night before, and using that time before bed to debrief  and prepare, you set yourself up for success. These intentional steps propel us  forward the next morning and provide the momentum we need to get started on our  daily tasks.  

The Five P’s is really pretty simple to do, and that’s why I made everything  start with the same letter, so it’s easy to remember. Purge, process, prioritize, protect  and propel. It’s not difficult, but when you take the time and space to actually  implement a system like this, you really will start to see a difference in how you move  towards your goals. And that’s what’s really important here. Each day, we’re making  steps to getting closer and closer to our big goals and dreams.  

David Niven, from 100 Simple Secrets Of Successful People says, “Life  satisfaction is 22% more likely for those with a steady stream of minor  accomplishments than those who express interest in only major accomplishments.”  So in other words, making these small steps really leads to a happier, more fulfilling  life.  

Researchers who focus on happiness, have consistently found that pursuing  goals is a trait that happier people have in common. So, when we think about our  best life, we focus on how to get there rather than the reasons why we can’t, or we  won’t ever get there. It’s embracing optimism and pursuing the attainment of these  goals that makes them possible. And that, that’s what makes our best life a reality.  And that’s what I want for you. So, I am absolutely thrilled that this is the episode to  kick off this entire season on planning.  

As a matter of fact, next week we’ll be talking about the power of paper, how  journaling can change your life. And then don’t forget I do have a Tanya TV episode I  talked about earlier, about how to prioritize using that priority list system, where I’ll  go through step by step, that priority list system that we’ve talked about before. But  what’s great about Tanya TV episodes, is because they’re videos, I can really show  you how it all works. So, you can find that at inkWELLpress.com/YouTube.  

Now, this season, we’re going to be talking all about planning. So, if you do  have any questions about planning or how to plan, be sure to submit them, because I  will have an Ask Tanya episode as part of this season. Simply go to  inkWELLpress.com/question, you can fill out a little survey with your question there  and I’ll choose a couple of my favorites to share on a future episode. And I’ll probably  do one on a Tanya TV episode as well.  

All right. We have a big season coming up and I cannot wait. So, until next  time, have a beautiful and productive week.  

Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox. To get free access to Tanya’s  valuable checklist, Five Minutes To Peak Productivity, simply go to  inkWELLpress.com/podcast.  

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