Because unfortunately it’s time to stop eating Quality Streets under a blanket…
It’s the first Monday of the year and I am back for business. I consist mainly of orange and strawberry cream Quality Streets and Baileys, but I am back in Blighty and back at my desk and I am in the PLANNING mood. I’m sure this comes as no shock to you seeing as I wrote a book on the subject, but I do have a couple of planning tips up my sleeve thanks to the life organisation blitz I had at the end of last year just before we broke up for Christmas. I’ve detailed below what I did, although I also talked through it in last week’s vlog if you’d rather hear me ramble on about it, and I did discuss my top five life planning hacks in this morning’s newsletter too if you’d like to hear about the five ways that I made life a little easier for myself in 2019. But below I’ve outlined how to put yourself in tip top shape planning-wise for the year ahead, along with my advice for making a to-do list that you’ll actually do and some anti-procrasintation methods that might come in handy as the motivation fuelled by mostly advent calendar chocolate begins to dwindle. 2020 – let’s get s**t done…
1. LOOK AT YOUR YEAR. The first step is to zoom out and assess how your year is looking. I’d suggest printing out a 2020 calendar or creating your own spreadsheet of a 2020 calendar and going through highlighting either physically or digitally any standout dates for you; planned holidays, events, work trips, big deadlines, birthdays, weddings, parties, hen dos, stag dos, anniversaries, moving dates, other big life events – whatever. Having that bird’s eye view over your whole year will allow you to see the busy spells, the quiet periods and give you a chance to see where there might be time to slot in any additional things you might want to do next year.
2. PLAN OUT YOUR MONTHS. Next you want to take this information and log in a format so that you’ll actually remember it when you need to. So whether that’s writing everything down in your paper diary, or adding events to your digital calendar, you just want to block out these dates you’ve noted so that it can help to inform your monthly plans. I don’t tend to sit down and plan for each month per se, as I find that the first step sort of does that for me, but it does make me feel more on top of things if I can sit down at (or around) the first of month and see what’s on work-wise and socially too.
3. WEEKLY PLANNING. Of course this is step that will come into play 52 times during the next 12 months, but I do enjoy a weekly planning session. I sit down first thing on a Monday and plan out what I need to do that week. Firstly I look at my diary to take into account those events that I added in at the beginning of the year, and any meetings, deadlines or upload dates that have been added since and then I check my editorial calendar of what content I need to create that week. Merging those two things allows me to create a to-do list that should in theory keep me on top of everything. Here’s my quick to-do list break down:
Keep ’em short and snappy. I used to make my to-do lists around 30 points long, detailing every little tiny action that was ultimately part of a bigger task. These days I make them super small, trying to have no more than five action points per day. Instead of ‘film video’, and ‘edit video’ and ‘write the description box for the video’ – I just have ‘upload video’. It makes the whole thing feel way more manageable.
Leave errands out of it. To-do lists can start to feel super chunky once you incorporate them into your everyday task list, so I keep them separate. Either have an ongoing list on your phone or written down on a separate notepad that you can tick off as you do them, or just setting reminders at the start of the week to pop up at times of your day when you’ll have a chance to do them.
Struggling? Number it. When I’m really scraping the barrel for motivation I take my original daily to-do list and I rewrite it, numbering it in the order that I’d like to complete it in. Doing the meatier tasks first and then whittling it down to the shorter ones that are easier to complete. It’s such a simple step, but it really helps to just ‘start’ which is sometimes the hardest bit.
HOW TO GET IT *DONE*
THE POMODORO METHOD. It’s an easy one to remember. Work for 25 minutes, take a five minute break – that’s it. It’s such a good method to use when you really need to get your head down and power through a task but just can’t seem to settle. Set your timer at 25 minutes and do your thang with zero distractions and you’ll be amazed and how quickly time flies (and how much you can get done!).
USE PODCASTS. It’s a bit of an odd one, but podcasts became my anti-procrastination tool in 2019. Whenever I just can’t seem to remove myself from bed I put on a podcast. It keeps me company through my morning routine and usually by the time it’s over I’m ready and energised for the day ahead. It’s also a fun way to get through work tasks where it’s possible to listen to audio.
SET A DEADLINE. More often than not I need a rocket up my arse to do something that is no where near as bad in my head as I think it will be once I actually get round to doing it. Deadlines are sometimes grim, but often a necessity to keep everyone on track. I sometimes set myself a deadline before the actual deadline just so I can give myself time to comb over everything instead of being in one big rush. I put it in my diary and make a note of it in my to-do lists too so it’s there front and centre for me to see.
MAKE A PROGRESS TRACKER. There is absolutely NO WAY that I ever would have finished my book if I hadn’t set up an excel spreadsheet where I tracked how many words I’d written. It just wouldn’t have happened – SORRY PUBLISHERS. Sometimes a visual representation of work you’ve done is a great motivator to do more; keep it up to date and give yourself a little treat whenever you reach a milestone. My treat of choice? A Pret Mac & Cheese on Deliveroo.
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Photos by Mark Newton