In a previous article we explained how planning helps improve performance — now we’ll discuss creating a planning framework which would provide you the best, most sustainable processes for good outcomes.
How do you improve your skills?
It depends on what kind of learning works best with you. There are people who learn best in a structured environment, and those who prefer real-live demonstrations instead of watching a video-course (and vice-versa.) There are people who do better studying on their own, and those who work better in a group learning session. It takes all kinds, but the key is being focused and consistent.
Systematic learning has a specific goal in mind: getting certification, being measurably better at a particular skill, updating your knowledge, learning more about a topic that will help add to your value, etc. Learning can also be recreational– for fun instead of work. When you hit that sweet spot, it can feel like both: you enjoy increasing your valuable knowledge.
Now, what do kids do to learn? They explore everything . Curiosity and energy combine to make them the perfect question-asking machines. As we get older though, we learn how to channel ourselves and our energies and interests at school. Oddly enough, the problem start once we leave school behind. For many people there’s an unspoken belief that once you graduate, you have all you need to know.
Leaning how to plan can be scoffed at as being so basic even a kid can do it, but now, more than ever, the stress and overwhelm people experience just proves that that isn’t so, because if it was we’d be doing our work with a lot less anxiety and stress.
We need to take the long term view, and take the big picture in mind when it comes to goal -planning. Some issues are made worse by short-sighted planning — we fail to think ahead. Big-picture planning and back-planning help take care of that.
There’s back-planning, where you begins with the end in mind, and work your way in a chain of linked results-action. What you may have stopped and missed is the Big Picture: what are the long-tern repercussions of your choices? How will this choice or that course of action affect you and your standing in the place where you work, where you live, and how it it affect the work itself?
We then need to take the daily snapshot when it comes to action and execution. You break down big goals into daily actions which make up your planned To-Do’s, but you can never predict what will happen today. Interruptions, hold-ups, accidents, emergencies and ‘urgencies’ can knock you off your stride, and you have to adjust. No need to lock yourself in with plans that you carve in stone — it can hard to break your way through if you need to.
When people talk of big picture planning you can use the jig-saw puzzle scenario.
- To complete the jigsaw you need all the pieces accounted for (resources).
- You need a way to classify the pieces of the jigsaw to give you an idea of how it slots together (allocation).
- You need a reference to show show how the whole thing should look like when it’s finished (plan).
But why keep harping on the big picture? It pulls you back on track when you get lost or stalled in the small details. When you teach yourself to stick to the plan, sometimes its easy to get so lost in details that you frustrate easily. This can lead to being unable to reach the goal– which is the point of the chosen course of action. To complete means to finish.
When you plan day by day, you think day by day — which is hard to adjust if something happens to interrupt the schedule.
- If you keep the bigger picture in mind, you can incorporate more detail that which you can break down into manageable chunks.
- Having a broader view of the goals that you want to accomplish helps you be more effective, and is more inspirational
Little by little you can keep grinding and be discouraged, but little by little over time can build into great results if you keep doing what you set out to do. Close up work loses sight of the long game, and getting lost in detail means getting stuck and distracted.
We are often inspired to go get the latest book or watch the newest training videos on productivity. There is no end to the service, app, or programs meant to help improve our productivity. In today’s environment, with the level of access granted by the internet, mobile technology, and our own fears of getting left behind or missing out, however, the gains keep getting smaller because everyone basically has the same access to the same resources. When we end up trying to outwork one another, nobody wins.
“Work hard,”used to be counted in terms of hours of production in the workplace, especially in the Industrial age when time-motion studies were perpetuated to improve the way workers did their jobs and to boost production. That was when “Work hard,” was joined by “Work smart.”
When you set the bar high and hit a personal best, it can be likely that you will be expected to keep it up afterwards, and if you don’t you could be seen as under-performing. Continuously pushing the envelope in this manner just results in exhausted people and increasingly smaller returns. Maybe the stars aligned on that day, and the circumstances were perfect for you to do so, but you can’t expect the stars to align like that everyday.
Doing “All the things !1!!” is not a good idea. It burns you out in the long run, and nobody really can make it with that kind of unsustainable practice. It’s better to find the sweet spot by testing and trying out ways to find how you can make yourself stand out and stand apart with the limited resources and assets you have. You don’t have to do all the things, just do as much of the important things as you can.
Building things and planning based on the bigger picture means being more strategic about deploying yourself and using your strengths with the resources and within the time you have.
Cal Newport, in his latest book, Deep Work”, has a very good argument on why concentrating on your particular strengths and focusing on ‘going deep’ can result in much more value-driven and valuable work.
- Resolve to Live a Deep Life
- The Book Facebook Doesn’t Want You to Read
- The Killer App of the Knowledge Economy
The Big Picture asks you to be particular about what you want, and the smaller details helps give you the focus points you need to make it on a sustainable level. It’s like having a yearly calendar: you get to see the broad over arc over time, and how it breaks down to smaller details in daily life. If you’re bogged down by one, take refuge in the other.
“Oh no it’s too much — I can do this for today.”
“Oh it’s so difficult! But bit by bit I’m getting there, just gotta get this done.”
Focus on leading with your strengths.
- This is easier on you because you are doing what you are good at, what comes naturally or effortlessly to you.
- Focusing on the areas where you are using your strengths to make significant value.
Strategize — identify your businesses areas of core competency, and your own core competencies.
Related article: Have You Heard Of The 20-80 Rule?
- Positioning — who will your product, service or business place itself to in relation to your market — will it be in costs, for example, or will it be product differentiation? What you focus on gets attention. What isn’t written down doesn’t get done.
- Identify the top key areas in which you will focus on and monitor and measure. Treat as an ongoing refining process — experiment and observe. Drop the things not related to your core strategies, you can delegate or outsource.
- Being all thing to everyone is a pipe dream — remove the small energy hogs and leaks to redirect that energy to your big concerns.
In the beginning this adjustment may cause some small issues, but over time you will see which ones aren’t worth the worry, and by removing them, you’ll bet a less obstructed view of what’s really important.
Practice your discipline muscles by putting the important big things first. You can leave the small stuff to resolve itself, and attend to the tiny things when you don’t need a lot of processing power or energy.
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