Planning Your New Year (1 week in, lessons learned)

Last week, I wrote a blog post compiling my thoughts on planning my year. Specifically, planning the first quarter, or first 90 days of the year.

Well, I did just that and am exactly 1 week in with the new plan. I’ve learned some lessons, and I thought I’d write them down.

This was the biggest issue for me. I was a tad too aggressive with time. I feel like I was running 100mph the whole week. I wasn’t really sure how much time I could allocate for projects without me feeling overwhelmed. It turns out I overshot it a bit.  🙂

I found that for me, I need more time after-work. I also found that I was carving out a little too much study time on the weekend. For me personally, I think about 20 hours outside of my day job is the sweet spot. That’s sustainable.

What I mean is, I can accomplish a TON of things in an organized, additional 20 hours in the week. However, I also wouldn’t feel like I’m burning out. I still feel free; I still feel like I’m free to have fun – and I still have a good amount of guilt-free downtime.

What is a workaholic?
No, it’s not someone that’s addicted to workahol. To me, a workaholic is someone who is driven, and has very poor time management skills. I have no desire to be a workaholic, nor to work around the clock. I simply WANT to accomplish some specific goals outside of my traditional work day.

I believe that your time should be split between: work, your “projects”, and your downtime. For some people, their projects are their kids. For others, it’s restoring an old car. For me, it’s my hobby and professional/retirement goals.

I bring this up because in conversations with people, that seems to a common reaction. People don’t want to schedule their time because they feel this would make them a workaholic. I schedule my time so that I DON’T become a workaholic!

“Organization will set you free!” –Alton Brown

What makes up the schedule:
Another mistake I made was making a list of things I wanted to do, but didn’t take into account how they might interact with my other plans.

For example, I had Pluralsight on the schedule – assuming that I’d need that for 3 of the other projects I had scheduled. Well, it seems like I should simply schedule the 3 projects – and if I happen to use that time for Pluralsight, that’s OK. That simplifies the schedule a lot.

Put another way, what I realized is that the schedule should really be based on “deliverables”. At the end of the first quarter, what actual, tangible things do I want to have done? For example x number of blog posts, n number of YouTube videos, version 1.0 of Application X, version 2.3 of Application Z, etc.

Using this approached simplified the list too – and also made it much more concise. On April 1st, 2015 – what do I want to say I completed, specifically?

What worked!
During this week, I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. The two things above where the two things that didn’t work well. However, a few things DID work very well:

  • Use my phone to set an alarm :05 minutes before study time starts. That gets to me to my work area and ready to start 30/30.
  • Take the time (ahead of time) to go into 30/30 and lay out the work for each day. I have a 30/30 list for each workday, and one for my DuoLingo sessions. So, when it’s time to work, and AT that start time – I select the 30/30 list and start. Now, I have an ongoing timer for everything I need to do that day. (See this blog post for how I use 30/30 at my workstation)
  • Take the time to come up with a music playlist of music that is: interesting enough to keep your brain slightly occupied, but not so fun and engaging that you are singing along. Instrumental music is best – start with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and expand out from there. it can be any kind of music – but it can’t be too boring, nor too engaging.
  • When it’s study time, kick off 30/30, and kick off your music playlist – and start working.

I found that I got a TREMENDOUS amount done this week. So, even a week where I stumbled a little and messed up a few times, was still far, far, far more productive than a regular week for me.

Plus, all of my downtime was guilt-free and relaxing! No more “I should be working on x right now” – because I shouldn’t be, I should be relaxing right now.

Bottom Line:
I took a few hours this morning to see what worked and what didn’t. I cut back the hours I’m going to do things outside of my day job to 20. I re-worked “goals” so that I am actively working on deliverables. A time slot to work on each deliverable is what gets scheduled.

Without going into detail about what my personal projects are – here is what my new week looks like, at a high-level:


Based-off of how this week went, I’m pretty confident/hopeful that this should be pretty sustainable going forward.

The great part is, if some part of this doesn’t work – then I can re-work the schedule again, next Saturday – until I get it right. Anyhow, after talking to a few people about this, and I knew a few others who are working on something similar – I thought I’d share what I learned.

Posted in General, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized

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