Stop Planning and Start Doing!

DarrylBrooks by airfocus on Unsplash

Remember that job interview question, where they ask where you see yourself in five years? I always tried to prepare an answer just in case they asked it. The reason is, I never thought that far ahead.

Most days, I can hardly plan past lunch.

But almost every productivity guru stresses that your first step should be planning your life goals. And since it’s so popular and pervasive, I have to assume it’s important.

It’s just not important to me.

I used to have a coworker that was a planner. She could plan anything to the nth degree. Flowcharts and Gantt charts and spreadsheets, oh my. She would spend days, weeks even, planning the simplest project.

I never once knew her to complete one.

So that’s what I want to talk to you about today. Not about planning, but doing. Don’t get me wrong. You need to have a plan. A roadmap is essential to get anywhere. And every roadmap, whether a fold-up paper map from the Sinclair station or Waze on your mobile device has two components; a destination and a route.

You need both to succeed. But you can get bogged down in the planning. I use Google Maps. And anytime I want to go somewhere and I’m not sure how to get there or what the best route is, I bring up the app and plug in the destination. Then it will show me three or four ways to get there. I used to analyze each route and trying to decide which one to take.

Until I realized I had spent more time planning than the two to three-minute difference, each route entailed.

Eventually, you just need to hop in the car and go.

So, a plan is important, and I think it is important to use some sort of system to keep track of your plans, projects, and tasks. You need a system to break plans into projects and projects into tasks and prioritizing tasks. I’ve written about that before.

But once I’ve filled all of that in, I stop planning. I have one view in my task management app that I use all the time. That view is Today. Today is all I need to look at because it’s all I can deal with. I don’t have a view called tomorrow. Why?

Because I don’t need one. If I wait 24 hours, tomorrow will be today, and that’s when I need to deal with it.

But I take it further. Every to-do app has some sort of priority sorting. As I explained in another article, my approach is sort of a mashup of other methods, including GTD. My main takeaway from GTD is what’s next. Not only do I not worry about what I need to do tomorrow, but I also don’t worry about what I need to do later today.

I worry about what’s next.

Most task management apps only have three of four priorities. That’s not enough for me. Unless I only had three or four things to do today, which isn’t likely. So, I usually end up with some sort of workaround. Back when I was using Outlook, I changed the percent complete field to be a priority. 100 levels of priority; now we’re talking. I didn’t really need that many, but it allowed me the flexibility to put everything in exact order. Finish a task; check it off, and what’s next pops up.

My current productivity crush, ClickUp only has four levels, but they have custom fields you can use any way you want. So I have a numeric field called Priority. I don’t know how many levels I have in there, but it’s enough. At the end of each day, I prioritize the next day. Everything in order. To me, it’s not good to know I have six urgent items. I can’t do six of them at a time. I only want to know one thing.

What’s next.

Despite my warning about spending too much time planning, this level of detail takes a bit more time. But my day is much less stressful and much more productive. How much time do you spend worrying about the fifty things you have to do today? How much better would it be if you only worried about one?

That’s what I do. You do you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I can check off writing the first draft of this article.

I need to find out what’s next.

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I am a writer with over 16 years of experience and hundreds of articles. I write about photography, productivity, life skills, money management and much more.

Alpharetta, GA

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