One Simple Planning Method That Will Help You Finish Your Projects Every Time
When I was about ten years old my absolutely most favorite thing in the world was coloring. I loved drawing, shading and creating all kinds of pretty patterns within the lines.
The sweet memory of all those happy afternoons I spent doodling away my summer vacations came rushing back when I discovered the bullet journal method.
Four years ago, I saw a video of Boho Berry drawing in a dotted turquoise Leuchtturm notebook with smooth creamy paper and I was hooked.
I got mine, I picked half a dozen of Tombow ink markers and I started planning my life and bullet journaling (yes, there’s a verb, too).
It was magic.
There was just one (huge) problem. I was mistaking scrap-booking, drawing and having fun with pen and paper with business planning.
And that did cost me clients, money and time. It was a mess.
A magical mess you might say. :)
Because when you spend hours of your day updating your calendar, transferring tasks to a new page, making intricately illustrated weekly spreads, and looking for a way to make sense of the information jumble on your bullet journal pages, you don’t have time to do essential business tasks like, I don’t know, writing blog posts, or having coffee dates with the women who need your help.
Maybe I was doing it wrong, but to me, bullet journaling has much more to do with blissfully drawing in a summer afternoon haze with cold mint tea and birds chirping in the garden and almost nothing to do with dynamic business planning.
After two years of accumulating paper and dragging thick pouches of pens around, I threw in the towel, came to my senses and moved everything to digital planning.
It took me a while but I developed a system that’s simple, flexible and intuitive to use. I’d like to share it with you starting today with the one simple planning method that will help you finish your projects every time.
Throw away your procrastination ticket also known as your to-do list
We all have our lists and as you might know, a paper planner is all about making lists. Lists of meals to prepare, of dreams you have and pens you own, to name just a few. I’m not sure why we make them, though. Sure, putting words on paper clears the mind, but making lists and forgetting all about them doesn’t seem very effective when it comes to achieving your goals.
In my book, the biggest offender is the to-do list. I know it’s made with the best intentions at heart but to me, a to-do list is just a procrastination ticket. It gives you permission to write a dream, a goal, a task down and continue your life with the safety that you won’t forget to do it because it’s written down.
But this is not how starting and finishing a project works. And if your list looks something like this you don’t have a to-do list, you have a hodgepodge of tasks and projects you can’t really work with.
Design my logo
Find images for website
Write back to April
This is just an example but here’s a shocking statement for you:
Stop making to-do lists!
Wait, what? You crazy?!
Nope. Well, yes, just a little, but I’m not wrong.
But what to do instead?
I’m glad you asked.
Here’s how to make your to-do list obsolete and double your productivity
Open your calendar app of choice. I use Google Docs for monthly planning and Asana for daily and weekly plans.
Take a look of your to-do list. Do you have tasks you could do in 5 minutes or less? Create a new task in Asana or event in Google Calendar and schedule an hour or two to get those small tasks done first. From the example above, that will be the “Write back to April” task.
Some people like to start with the most grueling and hard task first, but I like to stretch my plan following muscles and then dive into the more serious stuff.
Back to your to-do list. Do you have actual tasks, like “Find images for website?” Schedule them and make them as specific as you can. Our example will then look like this: “Find 5 images for my homepage on Unsplash.com”
And then you have a whole project, something you can’t do in an hour or even in a day. These are the things that usually make our to-do list impossible to follow. When you sit down to work on your business and see something like “Design my logo” written together with all your tasks, your mind can’t imagine just one thing, it’s too much, you get overwhelmed and nothing gets done.
So, to change that, open any text editor you like and list all the tasks a project will require you to do from start to finish. Start with “Choose a designer” or “Open a Canva account” if you’re doing it yourself and write down all the steps you think it’ll take to get the job done. Don’t worry if you don’t know all the steps, it’s important to get started and you can always add more later.
Now this is a project to-do list. And what do we do with to-do lists?
That’s right, we schedule them!
Transfer all the tasks to your calendar and get to work. If you need to add a step, shift the other tasks to make time and add the new step directly into your calendar.
But what if I don’t know when you want to start something?
Good question! Here’s an example:
I’d like to start a vegan blog but right now it’s not my first priority and I don’t have time for it.
So I’ll pick a date in a couple of months time and schedule a task called “Plan vegan blog”
Every three months I plan the projects for the next three. So, when the time comes and I need to make plans for the next 3 months, I’ll see the task, create a project in Asana and schedule all the tasks from this project.
It works every time.
And this is it! When you’re done, your to-do list should be empty and your calendar should be filled with tasks you can manage in the chunks of time you’ve dedicated to your business.
Do you have a never-ending to-do list?
How do you plan your work? Is your to-do list out of control? If you’ve tried the “no to-do list” method of planning, what did you like best and least about it? Let me know in the comments below.