How To Take Charge Of Your Life

Now that you discovered the truly important things (read the previous posts) in you life how do you plan them into your schedule?

Here is a story that will shed some light. It is worth reading even if you know it. It illustrates a very powerful principle.

At a class one day, a professor took out an empty jug from under the table and then proceeded to place rocks into it. Soon it was filled to capacity. He then asked the class whether the jar was full or not. The class answered that it was. But the professor was not done. He picked up a jar of gravel from under the table and emptied it into the jug. It soon filled the spaces between the rocks. “Now is it full” he asked. “Yes” said the class. The professor was still not done he pulled out a jar of sand and emptied it into the jug. It looked like nothing else could be added to the jar. But then he emptied a can of water into the jar.

Fill in the big things (the rocks) first and the little things can be added after. But add the little things first you will not have space for the big things in your life. The truly important things in life.

Principles of planning

The authors of ‘First Things First’ recommend the following principles.

- Don’t plan for a day without the context of a larger time period preferably a week. Focusing on a day to the exclusion of a larger time frame will lead to a loss of perspective. We end up working on urgent things versus the important.

- First schedule the Quadrant I and II activities for the week.

- Practice some kind of T Planning. On your daily sheet list the time sensitive activities on the left noting the time when you need them done. The remaining important activities could be done other times in the day. With this approach you get to provide some flexibility to your schedule.

The Mechanics of planning

The authors recommend two planning sheets. One for the week and one for the day. Important goals are first added to the weekly sheet and then the more detailed action plans could be added to the daily sheet.

I practice a variant of this. I add important goals to my weekly sheet but don’t bother creating the daily sheets. ┬áInstead I schedule them onto my Outlook calendar. I may be practicing the lite version but it still works far better than how I planned before without the ‘importance’ consciousness.

The weekly sheet is a spreadsheet made of two panes. The left pane contains roles and goals for each of them. The  right pane contains columns for week days and rows for hours. You can enter tasks in these cells that will help you achieve the goals.

To me this is still an overkill.

Remember we need to do this week in and week out. It is better a stripped version that is followed regularly than the one with all bells and whistles that becomes a hassle to follow once the ardor has cooled.

So I simplified it further.

I keep just one pane.

Simple and low tech but works great and gets you going.

Below you will find a link to download the simplified template that I created after experimenting with Steve Covey’s version.

Simplified Time Management Template

What Do Roles Mean

As I said before the beauty and the great thing of Steve Covey and co’s approach is the emphasis on a balanced approach to all things important.

They suggest a foundational role called ‘Sharpening The Saw’ with four sub sections to it one for each of our fundamental needs viz. mental, physical, social/emotional and spiritual.

Next they ask you to consider other significant roles in your life such as a father, son, project manager, volunteer etc. The number and nature of roles is entirely left to your discretion and could vary from week to week.

This is important because the emphasis on balance does not mean that you need to balance all your roles every week. Another nod to realism.

More important than what these activities do to your schedule it is what you become as a result of.

In just two weeks of performing these tasks I developed a far more acute discernment between the truly important and the urgent. Even when not working on activities planned into my weekly sheet I tended to gravitate towards performing what was truly important than what was merely urgent or indulgent.

 


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