Mindful Productivity Podcast

Making the Most of Your Planning Time to Facilitate Sustainable Action

February 28, 2022 Sarah Steckler Episode 183
Mindful Productivity Podcast
Making the Most of Your Planning Time to Facilitate Sustainable Action
Show Notes Transcript

Ever feel like your planning time wasn't as productive and useful as you'd like? In today's episode we'll be exploring ways to make the most out of your planning time within your business so that you can reduce your stress, increase your organization, and avoid endless decision fatigue.

I'll also be sharing some of the biggest planning lessons I've learned, common mistakes, and tangible steps you can take this week to improve your planning time!

Find the transcript to this week's episode on the blog here.

Grab a copy of the Daily Productivity & Brain Dump Book

Download your free Planner Publishing Guide.

Learn more about Pretty Productive Life and how you can use Notion to organize your life and business. 

Come say hi on Instagram @mindfulproductivityblog



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Find more resources over at SarahSteckler.com

Come say hi on Instagram @sarahsteckler

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Hey, welcome back to the podcast, friends. You are listening to episode 183 of the Mindful Productivity Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Steckler. And this week we're going to be talking about planning and specifically talking about ways to better utilize your planning time so that you're not getting stuck in a rut, maybe overplanning under planning or not really utilizing your planning time. And we'll talk about strategies you can use some of the lessons I've learned over the years and some really just tangible tips that will help you get the most out of however little or however much planning time you may have for your life and business. So let's go ahead and get into it. Welcome to the Mindful Productivity Podcast. I'm your host, Sarah Steckler. And this is the place to be to live a more mindful and productive life. If you're ready to turn daily chaos into calm and start your day with intention, then get ready to join me as we dive deep into mindful living and personal productivity. It's time to connect with your true self so you can live the life you want to live. And it all starts now. Hello, everyone. Here we are. Gearing up for another week ahead. Before we dive into all things planning in today's episode, I wanted to share a couple of things that have been going on behind the scenes here in my business. The first thing is that I discovered a YouTube video that has really been helping me focus. I have not had time to look into the scientific information around this specific noise. All I know is that when I started playing it, it immediately felt like some weird warm egg yolk was like pouring down over my brain and melting my brain and making me incredibly relaxed and able to focus. And what I'm talking about is Brown noise. So unlike white noise, Brown noise is actually, I believe, a lower frequency. So nothing too crazier out there. It's kind of like the noise that you hear when you're on a plane or it kind of reminds me of the ocean or even that low of a distant rainstorm or when you're in your childhood memories, like sitting in the car on a long drive home after a trip. I'm wondering here if I can play this and you can actually hear it. Can you hear that? So this is a YouTube video. I will link it in the show Notes. It's called Deep Layered Brown Noise. And this actually was put on YouTube here four years ago. I'm just now finding it. I'm always looking for let me pause one more minute so you can hear it. So it's a lot like the ocean. I'm always looking for playlists and sounds that can help me focus. And sometimes I'll listen to morning jazz or there's the seaside jazz playlist on YouTube. That can be really great when I'm doing more like menial kind of administrative tasks. But when I'm doing like deep thinking or deep work. This Brown noise, for whatever reason, is so helpful. It's not like the Brown noise, the frequency that's supposed to make you poop. This is not the same thing, but I really enjoyed it. So I'd be really curious to hear from you. If you want to reach out to me on Instagram, let me know if there's a specific sound that you listen to that helps you work. I'm super curious about all that stuff. The other thing is that I am knee deep right now in creating all the backend stuff and materials and pages and links for our upcoming Productivity and Planning week, which is happening in March of this year. I'm so, so excited we're going to be having this time around. This will be the second time we're doing it. We have 29 speakers, so we had 22 last year, 29 this time. I'm so excited. I can't wait to have you listen to all these speakers. This is a free event. You can find more information on productivityweek.com. But right now I'm building out everything from the Alive event page, all the individual speaker pages, recording ads on this podcast, which you've probably heard if it's productivity and planning week time that go in front of all these episodes automatically so that you can learn about it and register. And it's just been a lot of work. But one thing I want to share is that this go around. I'm giving myself a lot more time to get this kind of stuff done. So when it comes to even just like the most basic things and some of the more complicated things, like I'm switching a couple of URLs and redirecting them a couple of different places, and that can take sometimes up to a week. Normally that would freak me out, but I've given myself the time to do a lot of those things, and it feels really good. And it's just a reminder for me and maybe for you that taking time to plan out your focus projects in advance, not only what you need to do, but when you need to do them. And how much lead time you need to give yourself is so crucial for it not being stressful, because my goal this go around and in this year, moving forward is for all of my launches. I'm sure there's still going to be some stress, but for all of my launches, any summit I'm going to be a part of or hosting for those things to be done ahead of time. So that when the event week actually happens in March, I can sit back and enjoy everything with all of you so really excited for all of that. And it's all coming together nicely, so I thought that would be kind of fun to share behind the scenes. I'm sharing a bit more on Instagram, too, if you want to share or follow along there. I'm at Mindful Productivity Blog, so let me navigate over to my podcast notes inside of Notion. As you know, I'm a big Notion nerd, and I've been having fun inside of our new program pretty productive life with all of our templates there. But I have a whole content management system, and that is where I map out all of my podcast episodes that I record here. So meta So today we're talking about making the most of your planning time to facilitate sustainable action. So the first thing I wanted to cover were some three common planning mistakes that I have done over the years and that I see a lot of other people making, too. And so I thought I'd cover those first. So one of the first ones is trying to make every possible decision for a project ahead of time. While I'm all for creating, like, really detailed focus projects, something I go into more detail about on episode 154. I think it's really important to outline what you can. But I also think it's important when you're planning to leave space to Pivot and make new decisions and change your mind. And here's why. Because chances are that any new project you're doing is not only going to be new to your business, but it's also going to be brand new to you in that space. Right. Which means you're only going to learn more about that project that you're working on and what you prefer and what your preferences are as you go along. So one thing that really gets me stopped up sometimes is I won't plan something out or execute something fully because I go, oh, well, that's something I might do next week or next month even. But I don't know what I would do when I get to point B or point Z or whatever. Right. And I think it's important to realize that you can trust yourself and you can make decisions along the way. In fact, a task, a target task that you can have in a project that you're planning can be make decision about XYZ. Right. Just like you watch HGTV. And you see these people planning out their design projects or whatever, they're not stopping the project because they don't know what color curtains the clients going to want in a couple of months. They're going, okay, at some point we're going to have to choose curtains with the clients. Right. And pick out which color scheme. And we'll make all those decisions once we have all of that information. So don't be afraid to plan things out. And it's okay if you have gaps in your project planning, right? It's okay if there's gaps or unknowns. You can highlight those and come back to those. And those Canva be something that you can cover if you're having a weekly meeting with yourself or your team. So don't get stuck there, because I think we can feel sometimes like this perfectionist pressure to perfectly plan out every detail of a plan, which even if you could know everything, I think can also be a fallacy in that it doesn't allow for you to shift and it also doesn't account for life happening or you getting sick or any of those other things. Right. Another common planning mistake that I see is thinking that you have to plan at the exact same time every single week or every single day. Or maybe you have to plan in the same way as someone that you look up to. Maybe that's like a favorite entrepreneur or a mentor or someone you've worked with. Whatever. Right. Planning is personal, so this means that you may do your best planning on a Friday morning for one week to plan the week ahead. Or you may work best actually only planning more in depth on a monthly basis. So it's also important to note that the scope of your projects and your workload is also going to determine how much planning you might need to be doing. So that's also something that I dive more into on episode 133 where we talk specifically about how much planning should you be doing. But just to kind of pause here and let you digest this piece is that your planning is also an experiment. So I think for a long time I used to really, really love planning on Sundays. I would carve out some time on Sunday to plan and kind of tap into what I had going on in my business for the next week. And then I really started becoming a little more protective of my weekends in that time, and I didn't want anything to happen on Sundays. So I actually started moving most of my planning into Fridays. And that also became a time where I was doing my weekly pulse point check in. And I'll have links to all these different episodes below as well. That one's 174. But my point here is that really making sure that your planning process feels good to you. So you get to decide and experiment with what the best time is for you to plan. The other common planning mistake that I see is not actually getting detailed enough in your planning. Like while I said before, you can't make every decision ahead of time, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't get details and a little bit more myopic with some of your target tasks. So how many times have you wrote down something like build out a sales page as a task only to realize that it's going to take you 8 hours to do something like that? Or you look back at a project and go, oh, that task I had was actually something that stayed on my task list for weeks and weeks. Right. That's actually a project that's not a task. Right. So breaking down those bigger target objectives into steps and tasks makes all the difference. And it's also going to make it a lot easier for you to take breaks and to know exactly where you left off within a given project, so don't be afraid to get detailed. This is also really helpful if you ever are in a place where your thinking capacity or decision fatigue is very real. And I definitely have times in my business where I've done something a thousand times, but I'm tired and I still need to get something done. And I'm like, okay, well, I'm just going to do these couple of extra steps and sometimes podcasting. I usually don't necessarily look at all of my SOPs for creating and recording a podcast. However, at the end of it, when I'm kind of I've used all of my creative and mental energy speaking to all of you, it can be so helpful to look back through those details and know, okay, did you do all these steps? Right. So I also want to touch on how it's really important to make a difference or point out differentiate rather between mental planning and action planning. And here's what I mean between those two things. So many times, it can be helpful for our mindset and mental health to do mental planning. These are things like gauging the full scope of a project, your energy drain, your availability. It can also be a great time to do more aesthetic style types of planning. Right where you're giving your brain a creative space to enjoy the process of planning. So I think sometimes there's a lot of pressure to plan in a very robotic way. It's like, what are the things you need to get done? Write them down so you can take action. But I actually like to slow down in this space and make the planning more enjoyable. So for me, sometimes this literally means stopping and putting stickers in my planner or using washi tape or highlighting or taking a little bit of extra time to do a doodle. And while that thing or those steps are not necessary and absolutely do slow me down, quote unquote, they also keep my brain engaged, and they also help me think about the project in a bigger way. Right? So while I'm doing a doodle or highlighting something or whatever, I'm also giving my brain time to think about the scope of the project and reconsider things. Or do you want to have this Quig of a deadline? Or would you like to give yourself more space? And it's really lovely. And I do the same thing in Notion. So, for example, I have a whole focus project for productivity and planning week that I'm working on, and I have all of my tasks broken down. I have checklists. I have links within that project to all of the different pages, the launch plan, all of my speakers and all of their information and their headshots. It's all in the one place with a notion. But I also took time to make a really cute banner image that's branded for the summit, and I uploaded an icon that has productivity and planning week on it. And I even made custom task icons for all of the tasks related to it as a template and notion so that when I see those tasks one off in my daily dashboard, I know that they're related to this project. Are those things necessary? No, absolutely not. I could totally get things done without doing that, but it brings a whole other level of enjoyment to the process. Right. So that's part of it. And then when I talk about action planning in regards to mental planning, what the difference is action planning is where you're really getting more granular and specific. Right? So you're coming down from this bigger picture view and you're going, okay, how can I actually take action on all these things? And what are those specific tasks that I'm taking? Essentially, here you're getting into the weeds and the details, and you're asking yourself, what day will I be doing these things? What order, how much time might a certain series of relatable tasks take? Where can I task batch or put things together? Right. And so that's where you're really creating those tasks that you can just kind of boom, boom, boom. I always say the quicker you can tick off a task or check off a task, the more streamlined that whole focus project is going to be because it's taking you less time to do each step. Right. It's a lot like why we have stairs that are so many. Whoever figured this out, right? There are so many inches apart on each step, so you can easily take one step at a time. Even though when I was a child, I would try to jump up three stairs at a time, and I would often fall down the stairs. But it's why we don't have steps that take us a ton of energy to go from one to the next. So break down your tasks. I also want to mention that it's super important to use planning hype to your advantage. And in a recent newsletter by one of my favorite authors and one of my favorite biz owners, Marissa Mohi, actually talked about new project energy and how exciting it is that she's getting started on a new project, a new writing project, and it reminded me of how new stuff is so exciting. And reading her newsletter really reminded me, too, of how easy it can be to overlook this simple joy. Right. And how doing something new, starting something new. We can really kind of take that and use that as momentum in getting things done. Now it can also be easy to get caught up in those exciting feelings of starting something new to the point where that's all you do and you never see things through. I'm really guilty of this. With craft projects, I cannot tell you how many things are in my closet that I'm like. I'm going to totally do that or I'll buy something from Michael's Or craft kit, and then I haven't started it yet. Right. But I think the key to planning effectively here is to insert checkpoints along the way within your project. So as you're planning to incorporate these checkpoints into your project scopes so that you can kind of reignite some of your excitement. And maybe that means you're giving yourself time in between less fun tasks and processes to look for prestock photos or play around with tweaking your design and Canva or experimenting with new software tools. Now that doesn't mean that you have to use all those things or jump into a brand new software. But taking those breaks and incorporating those into your work can also help improve your ideas and again, keep your brain engaged. So what are some of the quick and dirty best things that you can do to make the most of your planning time? Well, here are some of the best things that I've learned over the years, and I've tried to break them down into some more succinct, concise chunks. The first one is to get clear about what you're sitting down to plan. I think it's really easy to be like, I'm going to plan today. It's a planning day. I definitely have planning theme days in my weeks, so that's a day where I'm really looking at a big scope, but get even more meta than that. So what is the plan for planning? Are you actually sitting down to plan out your planning so meta but worth doing, right? Is it a project plan that you're planning for, or is it a plan for content creation? A plan for curriculum development? Are you planning for standard operating procedure improvements or administrative tasks? Get clear about what you're actually going to be planning for and what the objectives, what the outcome is for your plan. Because if your goal is just to simply have a planning hour or a planning day, or maybe you're getting together with some other entrepreneurs on Zoom or at a retreat and you're like, we're going to plan like, Yay, we're going to plan our year, get clear on what that actually means, or you'll find yourself very, very overwhelmed. So creating a planning plan can also be helpful. I did an episode while back where we talked about creating a planning plan for your planners, and I actually mapped out all the different planners that I'm going to be using this year and how I'm going to be using them. And that was really fun, right? So don't be afraid to get a little bit more specific around what your planning time is going to be for specifically. The second tip here is to give yourself a time frame and a time limit for planning. Just like how I learned in a creative writing class I took in high school, giving yourself boundaries and boxes to work within can actually be incredibly helpful. I wrote some of my best creative little story work that way. Even though I was very frustrated, I was like, how am I supposed to write something that can only be 500 words where the character has to have these characteristics and has to be working through this specific situation? And then I found not only was it possible and did everyone in our class come up with something completely different, but it actually allowed me to be even more creative within those restraints. So I thought that was interesting. But it's also why I give myself no more than ten minutes to do a brain dump in my brain dump book each morning. So giving myself that structured time limit actually allows me to be a little more focused. Because if I know I only have ten minutes to a brain dump, guess what? I'm going to keep my phone in the other room. I'm not going to be distracted. I'm going to put on some music. I know it's really going to help me focus. The same thing happens when you give yourself a boundary around your planning time. The third tip is to make a must do list, and then it would be nice to get done list. So how often do you make a to do list or a brand dump or whatever? And it's a mile long? And you think, yeah, I can totally get all these things done this week. Totally. And then, like, all of a sudden it's Thursday and you're like, oh, my God, there's no way. What is wrong with me? I can't get enough done. Really get clear again. And coming back to your focus project, whatever you're focusing on, what are the things you absolutely have to get done? What are the priorities? What are those things that maybe you can tackle at the beginning of the day? If you only had an hour today or tomorrow, what would those things be that you get done and then make a would be nice. This would be nice, right? And what I find is when I do my tasks in that order, I end up doing a lot of the would be nice tasks. And guess what? It is nice. And then I also don't feel pressured to do them. So since they're labeled that way, if I'm kind of tired or if all of a sudden the sun comes out after it's been raining for hours and hours and I go, I'd like to take Bella out to the park. I can do that because my would be nice tasks don't have to get done, so that kind of helps you make those decisions in those moments, too. The fourth tip here is to actually create SOPs so standard operating procedures for your planning time. Effective planning means focused thinking time, and it can be extremely helpful to write down common questions that you like to ask yourself when you are in a planning time zone or phase. This is something I do during my weekly pulse point check ins that I do on Fridays, but other SOPs for planning could be things like checking in on specific business metrics, sales data or whatever to forecast and help you make those decisions. And the tip number five I have here is to plan in a place that makes sense for your brain, whether that's the coffee shop, the park or a local library or maybe your home office with a specific playlist going on in the background. Make sure that you're carving out time to plan in the place that works best for you. Don't try to force it somewhere that won't. And the last tip I have for you today is don't be afraid to repeat yourself. Some of my most effective planning starts with pen and paper. And once those ideas are fleshed out, then I move into my projects area in notion. So going over your planning plan multiple times also helps you solidify ideas decisions and see things that you might have overlooked. Right? That can prevent giant future hangups. Oh, my goodness. So don't be afraid to duplicate the process or repeat yourself. Sometimes writing things down all the time. Writing things down helps my brain so much. And then I move important details into my digital planning system. I know it might not feel as efficient, but I actually find it very, very helpful. So let me know. Was this week's episode helpful for you? If you want to view the full transcript, you can always head on over to mindfulproductivityblog.com and look out for episode 183 and you'll find it there. I'm so, so excited about all these things coming up this spring. Really excited that you're here and as always, it's and find more resources over mindful productivity Podcast I'll see you here next week.