One of the concerns I typically hear when it comes to planning the work and working the plan is that it feels too restrictive. The pushback I get usually sounds something like, “My workday is already planned down to the minute. Why must I plan for my vision as well?” I’ve often paraphrased Harvey MacKay when I say: A goal is a dream with a plan. If you don’t plan and actively work toward your vision, it’s highly unlikely that it will come to be.

That said, I don’t believe that the purpose of planning is to ensure that you are busy every minute of every day. I believe that productivity is based not only on how much is done but on how well it is done. In fact, studies such as this one shows that sustained performance is improved by taking breaks.

A common mistake that individuals make when beginning to plan toward their vision is to try to take on too much too quickly. In part, this is driven by the desire to achieve the compelling vision they have pictured for themselves. I liken this to the New Year’s Resolution effect. While dated, this study is typically cited for explaining the phenomenon that nearly 23% of resolution makers abandon their resolution within the first week and less than 20% have maintained their resolution 2 years after having made it. The simple example of this is the person who vows to get in shape. They go to the gym 3 times that first week, pushing themselves in each workout. By the end of the week, they are sore (if not hurt) and their enthusiasm has waned.

Here are a few tips to help you maintain your excitement and build momentum:

  • Start with a 90-day sprint. A 90-day sprint is just like it sounds. It has you focus on the progress you would like to make toward your vision in the coming 3 months. I like 90-day sprints because the timeframe is close enough that you are able to have a fairly good handle on what you’ve already committed to and how much capacity you might have.
  • As you look at your commitments for the next 90 days, are there any things that can be delayed, delegated, or deleted (this is language from the Eisenhower Matrix)? If so, take care of addressing them (e.g. scheduling them, assigning them to someone else, etc).
  • Again, the idea here is not to backfill all of the time you have just freed up with more work. As you reflect on your vision, what could you do — or schedule to get done — that would see you beginning to make progress toward those goals? Start small and build momentum. For example, let’s say that you were able to free up an hour of time this week. Perhaps you take 15, or 30 minutes, of that time to do something that moves you in the direction of your dreams. The question then becomes, what could you do in 15 or 30 minutes?
  • Lastly, I’ll remind you of the importance of taking breaks, of building in play, to increasing productivity and satisfaction.

A friend of mine has a saying, “Plan well. Hang loose.” This is a great blend of having a well thought out plan, working that plan, but not being so locked in that you aren’t able to flex as circumstances change.