90 day planning

Mark Perry, productivity coach, is going to be this month's speaker at the Third Sector Cafe. He'll be talking about the 90 Day Action Plan programme he runs to help people get a step ahead of their 'to do' lists and get more of the important things done ... despite the ever-present nature of the urgent tasks we all face.

People working in the Third Sector often seem to juggle to do lists that can seem overwhelming. For the past 6 months or so I have been road testing Mark's suggestions, including since January, his 90 Day Action Planning Programme. Here's a bit about my experiences so far - and if you'd like to find out more, BOOK onto this month's cafe discussion on 15th March.

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I find it really hard to plan my working day. I work for myself and am involved in 3 different areas of work which means that at any one time I have multiple things I need to get done in each area of my working life. I also have 3 kids and, more recently, have acquired a very energetic dog. So, once I clock off from from the day job(s), I don't slow down or clock off, I just shift focus to the multiple things I need to get done at home.

In general, this is all usually manageable. I have strategies for getting by at home (eg no ironing, minimal cleaning, rotas to share cooking duties, lift share arrangements for kids  etc) and if all goes wrong, walking the dog is a God send at it allows me to tick a task off on my to do list AND escape for 20 mins peace and quiet. Result! 

BUT my strategies have their vulnerabilities (schools close for snow, sick child, no food for tea, husband unexpectedly in another city)... and working with Mark has highlighted that this is also true in my working life.

The 90 Day Action Planning approach asks some (deceptively) simple questions and my struggle to articulate clear answers demonstrates some of the holes in my habitual strategies for managing to get work things done. And I am quite a plan-y sort of person ... so I guess if I am struggling then lots of other people do as well. Mark confirms that people do find it challenging. Which is partly why the reason behind setting up quarterly workshops to give people in getting it done. 

So, what are the elements that make up a 90 Day Action Plan approach? And why do I think that they are useful for me?

First off, you get to spend a day working on your next 90 Day Plan. Luxury! A whole day 'out' away from your phone and with access to lots of tea and coffee and peace and quiet. Very seductive. 

However, you have to do some work on your plan in the day. They  try and make it appealing by equipping you with some lovely stationery - a BIG blank wall chart, lots of colour pens and a choice of sticky notes in myriad colours to use to set out your plan in detail. You are then asked to:

  1. set 3 work goals and 1 'me' type goal you want to achieve in the next 90 days 
  2. describe what you need to do in each of weeks 1 to 13 to achieve these goals
  3. then (in theory) you go home and work through the tasks each week to achieve the goals

Sounds simple. But it's oh so extremely difficult - if not to say almost impossible. At least I currently find it verging on the impossible side! People who have been coming for a while tell me it took them 3 or 4 attempts at their 90 Day plans to get the plan to look anything like the reality.  That is some comfort. So I think the real power for me may come in the steps involving some reflection on:

  1. what it was I said I was going to get done
  2. how much of that I really managed to get done 
  3. what else I  did 
  4. and why I didn't get on to the tasks I'd optimistically set out for myself

The encouraging thing about the workshops is listening to the other people who come regularly talk about their successes when they DO manage to focus on the tasks they had set themselves for the next 90 Days. They also talk about the reduction in stress that comes from knowing what you are doing - and I am definitely up for some of that. 

So my next attempt at 90 Day Planning is schedule for 19th March. Wish me luck!

Sophy Hallam