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Life planning

Life planning can be done at different levels. All of them help you in different ways to reduce the mental load, each also gives you extra benefits that can't be gained by the others. Going from lowest to highest abstraction level we have:

  • Task plan.
  • Pomodoro.
  • Day plan.
  • Week plan.
  • Fortnight plan.
  • Month plan.
  • Trimester plan.
  • Year plan.

If you're starting your task management career, start with the first level. Once you're comfortable, move one step up until you reach the sweet spot between time invested in management and the profit it returns.

Each of the plans defined below describe the most complete process, use them as a starting point to define the plan that works for you depending on your needs and how much time you want to invest at that particular moment. Even I don't follow them strictly. As they change over time, it's useful to find a way to be able to follow them without thinking too much on what are the specific steps, for example having a checklist or a script.

Task plan

The task plan defines the steps required to finish a task. It's your most basic roadmap to address a task, and a good starting point if you feel overwhelmed when faced with an assignment.

When done well, you'll better understand what you need to do, it will prevent you from wasting time at dead ends as you'll think before acting, and you'll develop the invaluable skill of breaking big problems into smaller ones.

To define a task plan, follow the next steps:

  • Decide what do you want to achieve when the task is finished.
  • Analyze the possible ways to arrive to that goal. Try to assess different solutions before choosing one.
  • Once you have it, split it into steps small enough to be comfortable following them without further analysis.

Some people define the task plan whenever they add the task to their task manager. Others prefer to save some time each month to refine the plans of the tasks to be done the next one.

The plan is an alive document that changes each Pomodoro cycle and that you'll need to check often. It has to be accessible and it should be easy for you to edit. If you don't know where to start, use the simplest task manager.

Try not to overplan though, if at the middle of a task you realize that the rest of the steps don't make sense, all the time invested in their definition will be lost. That's why it's a good idea to have a great detail for the first steps and gradually move to rougher definitions on later ones.

Pomodoro

Pomodoro is a technique used to ensure that for short periods of time, you invest all your mental resources in doing the work needed to finish a task. It's your main unit of work and a good starting point if you have concentration issues.

When done well, you'll start moving faster on your tasks, because uninterrupted work is the most efficient. You'll also begin to know if you're drifting from your day's plan, and will have space to adapt it or the task plan to time constrains or unexpected events.

!!! note "" If you don't yet have a task plan or day plan, don't worry! Ignore the steps that involve them until you do.

The next steps define a Pomodoro cycle:

  • Select the cycle time span. Either 20 minutes or until the next interruption, whichever is shortest.
  • Decide what are you going to do.
  • Analyze yourself to see if you're state of mind is ready to only do that for the chosen time span. If it's not, maybe you need to take a "Pomodoro break", take 20 minutes off doing something that replenish your willpower or the personal attribute that is preventing you to be able to work.
  • Start the timer.
  • Work uninterruptedly on what you've decided until the timer goes off.
  • Take 20s to look away from the screen (this is good for your ejes).
  • Update your task and day plans:
  • Tick off the done task steps.
  • Refine the task steps that can be addressed in the next cycle.
  • Check if you can still meet the day's plan.
  • Check the interruption channels that need to be checked each 20 minutes.

At the fourth Pomodoro cycle, you'll have finished a Pomodoro iteration. At the end of the iteration:

  • Check if you're going to meet the day plan, if you're not, change change it or the task plan to make the time constrain.
  • Get a small rest, you've earned it! Get off the chair, stretch or give a small walk. What's important is that you take your mind off the task at hand and let your body rest. Remember, this is a marathon, you need to take care of yourself.
  • Start a new Pomodoro iteration.

If you're super focused at the end of a Pomodoro cycle, you can skip the task plan update until the end of the iteration.

To make it easy to follow the pomodoro plan I use a script that:

  • Uses timer to show the countdown.
  • Uses safeeyes to track the eye rests.
  • Asks me to follow the list of steps I've previously defined.

Day plan

This plan defines at day level which tasks are you going to work on and schedules when are you going to address them. It's the most basic roadmap to address a group of tasks. The goal is to survive the day. It's a good starting point if you forget to do tasks that need to be done in the day or if you miss appointments.

It's also the next step of advance awareness, if you have a day plan, on each Pomodoro iteration you'll get the feeling whether you're going to finish what you proposed yourself.

You can make your plan at the start of the day, start by getting an idea of:

  • What do you need to do by checking:
  • The last day's plan.
  • Calendar events.
  • The week's plan if you have it, or the prioritized list of tasks to do.
  • How much uninterrupted time you have between calendar events.
  • Your state of mind.

Then create the day schedule:

  • Add the calendar events.
  • Add the interruption events.
  • Setup an alert for the closest calendar event.

And the day tasks plan:

  • Decide the tasks to be worked on and think when you want to do them.

To follow it throughout the day and when it's coming to an end:

  • Update your week or/and task plans to meet the time constrains.
  • Optionally sketch the next day's plan.

When doing the plan keep in mind to minimize the number of tasks and calendar events so as not to get overwhelmed, and not to schedule a new task before you finish what you've already started. It's better to eventually fall short on tasks, than never reaching your goal.

To make it easy to follow I use a script that:

  • Asks me to check the weather forecast.
  • Uses timer to show the countdown.
  • Uses safeeyes to track the eye rests.
  • Asks me to follow the list of steps I've previously defined.

Week plan

The plan defines at week level which tasks are you going to work on. It's the next roadmap level to address a group of tasks. The goal changes from surviving the day to start planning your life. It's a good starting point if you are comfortable working with the pomodoro, task and day plans, and want to start deciding where you're heading to.

It's also the next step of advance awareness, if you have a week plan, each day you'll get the feeling whether you're going to finish what you proposed yourself.

You can make your plan at the start of the week. First you need to clarify your state at week level by:

  • Cleaning your calendar for the next 9 days: Refiling or rescheduling items as you need. If you are using your calendar well you shouldn't need to do any change, just load in your mind the things you are meant to do.
  • Clean your inbox: Refile each item until it's empty
  • Refine your month objective plans: For each objective:

To make it easy to follow I use a script that asks me to follow the list of steps I've previously defined.

Month plan

The objectives of the month plan are:

  • Define the month objectives according to the trimester plan and the insights gathered in the past month review.
  • Make your backlog and todo list match the month objectives
  • Define the philosophical topics to address
  • Define the topics to learn
  • Define the habits to incorporate
  • Define the checks you want to do at the end of the month.
  • Plan when is it going to be the next review.

It's interesting to do the plannings on meaningful days such as the first one of the month. Usually we don't have enough flexibility in our life to do it exactly that day, so schedule it the closest you can to that date. It's a good idea to do both the review and the planning on the same day.

We'll divide the planning process in these phases:

  • Prepare
  • Clarify your state
  • Decide the month objectives

Prepare

It's important that you prepare your environment for the planning. You need to be present and fully focused on the process itself. To do so you can:

  • Make sure you don't get interrupted:
    • Check your task manager tools to make sure that you don't have anything urgent to address in the next hour.
    • Disable all notifications
  • Set your analysis environment:
    • Put on the music that helps you get in the zone.
    • Get all the things you may need for the review:
      • The checklist that defines the process of your planning (this document in my case).
      • Somewhere to write down the insights.
      • Your task manager system
      • Your habit manager system
      • Your Objective list.
      • Your Thinking list.
      • Your Reading list.
    • Remove from your environment everything else that may distract you

Clarify your state

To be able to make a good decision on your month's path you need to sort out which is your current state. To do so:

  • Clean your inbox: If it's feasible in a short period of time refile each item until it's empty otherwise quickly overview it to see if there is any thing that needs to be addressed this month.
  • Clean your todo: Review each todo element by deciding if they should still be in the todo. If they do and they belong to a month objective, add it. If they don't need to be in the todo, refile it.

Decide the month objectives

Create the month objectives in your roadmap file after addressing each element of:

  • Your last month review document.
  • The trimester objectives of your roadmap.

Once they are ready, copy them to the description of your todo.org file. That way you'll see it every day.

Decide the next steps

For each of your month objectives:

  • Decide whether it makes sense to address it this month. If not, archive it
  • Create a clear plan of action for this month on that objective
  • Define the todo of each device (mobile, tablet, laptop)
  • Tweak your things to think about list.
  • Tweak your investigations list.
  • Tweak your reading list.
  • Tweak your week distribution (what to do in each day) in your roadmap document
  • If you selected maintenance week days tweak the priorities on your maintenance list.
  • If you selected improvement week days tweak the priorities on your improvements list.
  • Tweak your habit manager system.

Trimester plan

The objectives of the trimester plan are:

  • Define the objectives of the trimester according to the year plan and the past trimester review.
  • Define the philosophical topics to address
  • Define the topics to learn
  • Define the are of habits to incorporate?

References