Planning, tracking and time allocation decisions are the key to achieve your professional (and personal) goals. Here is my method for my professional goals, it does not mean it’s a best practice, it just works for me.
Planning and tracking
As an employee, I get yearly goals. I list them on a spreadsheet with the 12 months divided in two columns per months.
- I set to achieve my goals at the nine month. I found out this gives a sense of urgency that you don’t have if you plan to have the full 12 months as things always get in the way in between.
- I divide my goals in sub-goals to achieve each quarter and I use a rolling 3 months more detailed goals.
Monthly rolling planning and tracking
- In the first quarter, I spread my first quarter goals across each month. Then I use a monthly rolling planning and tracking whereas at the end of each month I report my status and add the specific goal of the third rolling month and so on. I adjust priorities based on my status. Some projects may be behind, some ahead.
Weekly planning and tracking
- Each Friday at 4pm I do my next week planning looking at my next two months specific goals and prioritize main tasks for the week. I use the “big rocks” first, or “Eat the frog” time management technics and don’t over engineer it. It should be simple and practical.
- I print my weekly schedule and write the “big rocks” on the bottom of each week day as appropriate. This way I have a visible image of my weekly plan thus leveraging my visual memory.
Daily planning and tracking
- Each evening, I print my next day daily schedule and hand write my daily to do based on my weekly goals.
Time allocation decisions
Connected technologies have forced us to manage our time from a work life balance to a work life integration.
One of the most recurring problem of my mentees is the stress and lack of coping mechanisms due to the explosion of electronic communications, private and professional emails and calls, social network feeds, IM, text messaging and online meetings.
I was fortunate to have gone through four decades and a dozen of main methods of electronics communication technologies. I say fortunate because electronic communications changes is the new normal and experience is something you don’t acquire in books…
These dozen main methods are: Land line phones, Telex, Fax, email, Cell phones, Forums, SMS, Collaboration tools (OneNote, SharePoint), IM, On-line meetings (video, Audio, document sharing), video calls and social microblogging/feeds of all sort such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer.
To put these changes in perspectives, when I was working at Motorola Europe in 1977, I used to dictate my letters to my first assistant Alice Graff. She who would use a type writer to provide me with the letter to sign, sometime have to redo it 2 or 3 times and use carbon to get a copy (that where CC comes from, Carbon Copy J). Then to bring that carbon copy letter to the Telex operator that would re-type it in order to be sent to the recipient(s). Sometime the recipient’s assistant would retype the Telex to a letter… It would take few days in average to get a reply and act on it. Planning was paramount in those day. I recall that for my customer presentations, I had to have my slides ready a minimum of 3 weeks in advance since we had a professional graphics team that would design the slides that would be then produced on 35mm diapositives.
35 years later, we can modify our PowerPoint slides just few minutes before the presentation and our electronics conversation are moving toward social with tools such as yammer. Social communication is about being open. Adam Pisoni, yammer co-founder and CTO told me one day, why do you want to write something that is not worth being shared?With the accelerated pace of change for everything the half life of knowledge is decreasing so fast that there is more utility in having more people in your company known something, thus can benefit of what you write. With social electronic communications, Adam believes that we need to move from the “need to know” to the “need to not know” type of sharing that will become the norm, not the exception.
Social electronic communications is just one of these cultural and tool changes that we need to master if we want to remain competitive in the enterprise.
Therefore, time allocation decisions are critical to achieve goals and more than ever, planning and prioritization are the keys. I already mentioned the planning part, so let’s talk about the prioritization.
To develop a reflex of time allocation decision, I use a simple method of 3 priority buckets, these are:
1. Commitments – Activities that must take priorities, non-negotiable.
2. Contributions – Activities that are desired to be a team player but can’t be at the expense of delivering on your commitments
3. Involvements – Activities that you should consider taking as your personal added professional contribution to your company or community. One professional involvements I recommend is membership of local, national and world-wide Communities of Practice.
By asking yourself in which of the 3 bucket your activity falls into, you will develop a sense of reflex in your time allocation decision. Unfortunately, this is not enough, you need to make regular check points to get a factual view. For this I use two approaches. One is the planning and tracking described above and the second is time reporting from my outlook calendar since I use categories for all my meetings. I use a free tool from Microsoft called Calendar Analytics that can be downloaded from here. This way, can get a reports that tells me where I spend my time.
Over the years, I have developed many practices for the various electronics communication tools I use and that would be the subject of subsequent blogs.
March 22nd, 2013