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Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan

My father has been telling me this since I was a girl. I didn’t know what it meant when I was five years old, but I appreciate it now.

As I mentioned in my last article, when it comes to project management, planning should take as long as execution, if not longer. Whether you are working on a project, calculating your quarterly HST remittance, or working on your next social media campaign, it all takes time that we should plan for.

When it comes to planning your work, a common approach many folks use is breaking down large tasks into smaller, more manageable components. In project management terms, we call this decomposition. In everyday terms, you may refer to it as your to-do list.

How do you maximize your to-do list? Have you prioritized the tasks on your list? Have you allocated enough time and resources to complete them? Prioritizing your tasks helps you focus your efforts.

When you are scheduling your work, ensure you build in contingency for unplanned events, which inevitably occur. A good plan accounts for 80 percent of your time, giving you the flexibility to respond to unexpected demands. Another tip is to front-load your day or week. This will allow you to shift tasks as needed while still meeting your deadlines. Make it a good habit to review your week on Fridays and plan for the upcoming week.

Parkinson’s Law is the concept that work expands to fill the time allotted. In other words, if you have a six-month project, it will be completed in six months. If you have only a few hours, you will meet that deadline. With good planning, you will find yourself in control, with less time spent scrambling and making difficult choices when deadlines are approaching.

When you are working your plan, always check status and progress. Status is where you are at any given point, and progress is how far you have come in your plan. Monitoring means asking: Where should you be? Where are you? Is there any difference?

An interesting concept in managing our tasks is to “eat your veggies first.” Did your parents make you eat your vegetables even when you didn’t like them? When it comes to work, veggies are the tasks we put off because they are complex, we don’t like doing them, or they require more discipline and focus. While they are often the most important tasks, we procrastinate and start with other easier, likeable, and less important jobs. You will feel an incredible sense of accomplishment when you eat your veggies first.

One last thing to consider as you work your plan is your natural energy cycles. Are you a night owl or a morning person? A former colleague once told our team, “Don’t talk to Carole until at least 11:00 am.” We all laughed, but there was some truth to that. I am not much of a morning person, so I don’t normally tackle my veggies until late morning.

When I plan my work and work my plan well, I eat my veggies first, during my peak energy times. As a result, I am never faced with a plate of green beans to eat. My last taste is mashed potatoes and gravy.


Carole Spicer

Strong relationships are one of the core values of Carole R. Spicer. Carole is the owner and founder of Spicer Facilitation & Learning. A certified master trainer and facilitator, Carole uses her experience to help her clients achieve desired outcomes. She has worked in both private and public sectors and prides herself on the ability to customize solutions to meet the unique needs of the people she works with. A natural storyteller with a passion for her heritage, Carole often says she is in her dream job as she gets to talk for a living. She currently resides in Pasadena, NL, with her husband and their two cats. When not volunteering she can be found snowshoeing, kayaking, reading, or watching her beloved Toronto Maple Leafs.

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