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There are plenty of times when you should just say no, refusing to be pressured into telling people what they want to here. That doesn't mean you don't ever want to commit to anything. You want to avoid being a Jasager, not to avoid being effective.

Planning helps make you effective. I've said it many times - I like to spend a few minutes each evening planning what I'll do the next day. I may get in trouble when I'm in Windows because I've yet to port my time-boxing routine over there, but for the most part, it really helps: I always have a specific direction, and I get to think about it in my dreams.

"Say it, Do it, Show it" - That's the advice this week from Chad Fowler in My Job Went To India. This chapter came at a perfect time for me - my planning is slipping, things to do are piling up, too many people want too many things from me, and I can't seem to decide what to do because there's too much to choose from. (Let me whine some more.)

War Plans

Chad offers a lot of good advice in this chapter. The first illustrates why planning is so effective:
As you complete each item on the list, mark it DONE. Use capital letters. Say the word, done. At the end of the day look at your list of DONE stuff and feel like you've accomplished something...

It's a stimulating process. It's rhythmic. It allows you to divide your days and weeks into a series of small victories, each one propelling you to the next. You'll find that not only does it give you visibility into what you're accomplishing but you'll actually get more done than if you weren't watching things so closely.
(Link and emphasis are mine.)

Even though my daily plans help me stay focused and get things done, they are only tactical in nature - which means that although I consistently have a direction, there is no coherent strategy to it. That's why coming across this chapter again was so fortunate: once you've "established a rhythm of plan and attack," you should start working on a more strategic level of weeks and months. It's something I've not done: I may have an item on my to-do list that doesn't need to be completed until 90 days from now, but that doesn't add up to coherence.

I've recently been trying some organization practices from GTD (without having read the book), so we'll see if that also helps.

Other than planning and executing, there is a third practice that Chad identifies as useful at work: telling your manager.
You should start communicating your plans to management. The best time to start communicating the plans is after you have gotten through at least one cycle of the plan through execution. And -- this is an important point -- start doing it before they ask you to do it. No manage in his or her right mind would be unhappy to receive a succinct e-mail from an employee stating what was accomplished in the past week and what they plan to do in the next.
I'll think I'll try that.

To summarize the last two weeks, I'd say that the ability to say no and the ability to commit (and execute), while opposites, are still both required skills. However, you should commit only to the right sorts of tasks for the right reasons, and refuse to give in to pressure to candy-coat your answers in the affirmative when you really think the opposite.

Anyway, I'm interested in what you have to say. Got any planning tips, or stories (good or bad)?

Hey! Why don't you make your life easier and subscribe to the full post or short blurb RSS feed? I'm so confident you'll love my smelly pasta plate wisdom that I'm offering a no-strings-attached, lifetime money back guarantee!


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