The importance of a plan

coffee-plan

As project manager, we know the importance of the planning phase, and having a written plan for our projects.  I think we should also apply this concept to our personal life.  Things that are written and intentional tend to have better chance to happen.  Yes, Things will happen in our life.  And, no, we will not be able to control it all.  It would not be wise to think that a perfect plan could be developed.

Yet, it is much better to be intentional with our life and have our own plan.  It is rare that someone will just drift to an extraordinary life.

Here’s an interesting observation.  In the past years, my wife and I did some lists of things we wanted to do, or to buy, or to accomplish.  Often, we would do the list and even forget about it.  Later, when we found the list, we noted something strange.  Almost all items on these lists were accomplished.  It is strange because often we did the list and then became too busy with work, life, kids, etc.  Yet, it seems that just the exercise of planning and writing goals was sufficient to put something in motion.

The life mindmap

A bit more than two years ago, I decided to reflect on my life, and give it more direction.  I completed a mind-map with MindMeister of all the dimensions I wanted alive in my life.

I also made some hard decision to abandon some categories.  I am a passionate person, and tend to be interested in many things, or to be honest, too many things.  At some point, it is not good.  Without some intentional focus, the result of too many interests is almost the same as having none.  You can barely accomplish anything significant in any area.

The time cleanup

The life mind map gave me a compass to optimize my use of time.  I clean up as much as possible my calendar.  I removed activities that were not aligned with my life plan.

If you want to do more of one thing in your life, you have to do less of other things.

This was a core lesson, that I say often to others.  However, I think only a few understand the deep and unavoidable truth of this one.  It is what it is.  We all have 24 hours.  Time is precious, life is precious.  Don’t waste it.

The email cleanup

Email cleanup is another important task that I completed.  I was subscribed to way too many things.  I could never read all the email I was receiving.  So I did a huge email cleanup.  I unsubscribe to many sources of email

  • I unsubscribe to all email not directly related to the dimensions I kept on my life mind map
  • I also unsubscribe to any email I could not read in my schedule, even if related to one of the desired dimension on my life mind map.

Otherwise, it is like being addicted to information.  The digital world let us do stuff we couldn’t do with physical goods.  What would be the point of going to the library or bookstore and bringing home 300 books and pretending you could read them soon?

Getting-In-Book-Stack-of-Books

Setting objectives

After creating the life vision, removing the weight of the too many dimensions, cleaning up my use of time, and email inbox, I started to set some objectives for each dimensions.  And August is the time of the year that I use to do that.  Many like to set goal in December for the new year.  I don’t do that in December, I do it in August.  I guess I am stuck in the student lifestyle from my past, and am still using the academic year as my annual cycle.  Maybe it is also because I have kids.  I also like to take my vacation in the summer.  I love the hot days of summer.  It is never too hot for me.

Annual Life Plan: September to August

It seems the annual cycle of September to August is very natural for me.

I use the academic year as my planning cycle.  I also tend to break the year not in quarters, but in 3 period of 4 months.

  • Period 1 – September to December, with a natural break at Christmas
  • Period 2 – January to April, with spring providing a break (remember, I am in Canada, and Spring is a natural relief of a sometimes harsh winter)
  • Period 3 – May to August, with my annual family vacation at the end of this period.

So we are August 23.  I am now back from vacation.  I am even about to start next Monday a new job.  I am very excited about that and love this new opportunity.  Last year, I set some very bold goals for myself.  I pretty much accomplished them all.  Among others, I can name:

  • Successful completing of some key projects, some of which in emergency mode.
  • Obtained my PMP certification.
  • Obtained 2 other professional certifications relating to my accounting designation, as I am also a CPA

On Project-Aria, I changed the theme to a responsive theme.  I got 2 authors to contribute on the site, and started to write a book.

It is one of my key goal to complete this book on project management by August 31, 2015.  I hope earlier than that, but I definitely want to complete this by the end of this year.  As I said, my planning cycle is Sept to August.

I invite you to do the same

  • Develop a mind map of your life
  • Set objectives for all dimensions
  • Optimize your use of time
  • Optimize your inbox
  • Take actions, bold actions

I also invite you to consider using the academic year, September to August, as your planning cycle.  If you are a parent, it will feel very natural.  You can also use the 4-month period to manage shorter cycle in the year.  I find that it works better than using 4 quarters.

  • Period 1 – September to December
  • Period 2 – January to April
  • Period 3 – May to August

Or you any other annual period.  It doesn’t have to be January to December.  Choose yours.  Take actions, and have an extraordinary year.