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Roadmap Adjustment

Roadmap adjustment gathers the techniques to make and review plans in order to define the optimal path in terms of efficacy and efficiency.

Roadmap adjustment can be categorized by the next approaches:

Roadmap adjustment thoughts

Before you dive in here are some warnings

Build your own proceses

Each of the adjustments defined below describe my curated process developed over the years, you can use them as a starting point to define what works for you or to get some ideas. Each of us is different and want to spend on this a different amount of time.

Keep them simple

It's important for the proceses to be light enough that you want to actually do them, so you see it as a help instead of a burden. It's always better to do a small and quick ones rather than nothing at all. At the start of the process analyze yourself to assess how much energy and time do you have and decide which steps of the guides below you want to follow.

Alive proceses

These adjustments have to reflect ourselves and our environment. As we change continuously, so will our adjustment proceses.

I've gone for full blown adjustments of locking myself up for a week to not doing any for months. And that is just fine, these tools are there to help us only if we want to use them.

Heavily orgmode oriented

This article heavily uses orgmode, my currently chosen action tool, but that doesn't mean that the concepts can be applicable to other tools.

Roadmap adjustment types

There are three types of roadmap adjustment if we split them by process type:

  • Refinements: Clean up your system to represent the reality
  • Reviews: Gather insights about your environment and yourself
  • Plannings: Update your roadmap given the changes in your life


The real trick to ensuring the trustworthiness of the whole time management system lies in regularly refreshing your thinking and your system from a more elevated perspective. That's impossible to do if your lists fall too far behind your reality. A good way to update the system is through periodic refinements.

At some point you may feel the need to clarify the larger outcomes, the long-term goals, the visions and principles that ultimately drive your decisions. I'd advice against taking this step until you can keep your everyday world under control, otherwise you may undermine your motivation and energy rather than enhance them. Once you feel that you have an abstraction level under control jump to the next. Keep in mind that abstraction conquests are not permanent, life may break havoc and make you loose control of the lower levels, it's good then to step down and tidy things up even if it means disregarding higher abstractions.

Sometimes refinements can be empowering, but they always are time and energy consuming, that's why we need to define well their purpose so that we can get the sweet spot of benefits against efforts invested.

We need a process to review each level of abstraction:


Reviews are proceses to stop your daily life and do introspections to gather insights about your environment and yourself to better build an efficient and effective roadmap.

Reviews can be done at different levels of purpose, each level gives you different benefits.

Reviews guidelines

Review approaches

In the past I used the life logging tools to analyze the past in order to understand what I achieved and take it as a base to learn from my mistakes. It was useful when I needed the endorphines boost of seeing all the progress done. Once I assumed that progress speed and understood that we always do the best we can given how we are, I started to feel that the review process was too cumbersome and that it was holding me into the past.

Nowadays I try not to look back but forward, analyze the present: how I feel, how's the environment around me, and how can I tweak both to fulfill my life goals. This approach leads to less reviewing of achievements and logs and more introspection, thinking and imagining. Which although may be slower to correct mistakes of the past, will surely make you live closer to the utopy.

The reviews below then follow that second approach.

Reviews as deadlines

Reviews can also be used as deadlines. Sometimes deadlines helps us get motivation and energy to achieve what we want if we feel low. But remember not to push yourself too hard. If deadlines do you more wrong than right, don't use them. All these tools are meant to help us, not to bring us down.


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:

Roadmap adjustments by abstraction level


Step refinement

The purpose is to make sure that the step description meets the next criteria:

  • It still represents what needs to be done. Sometimes it's something that is already done, or that the circumstances have changed in a way that we need to rephrase the step.
  • It's clear up to the point that you don't need to think anything to start working on it.

It can be done:

  • When you create a new step.
  • Each time you read a step and feel that it doesn't meet the criteria.


Action refinement

It fulfills these purposes:

  • Define the steps required to finish a action.
  • Make sure that the action still reflects a real need.
  • Make sure that there is always a refined next step to finish the action.
  • Clean up all the done elements than don't add value.
  • Ease the overwhelm feeling when faced with a daunting action.

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.

It can be done differently at different moments:

  • When you create a new action:
  • Decide what do you want to achieve when the action is finished.
  • Create a descriptive action title.
  • Analyze the possible ways to arrive to that outcome. Try to assess different solutions before choosing one.
  • Create a list of refined steps for each of them.
  • Optionally add context tags

  • When you finish a step, don't know how to go on so you need to look at the step lists and the next one is not refined enough:

  • Mark the done steps as done.
  • Do the step refinement of the immediate next one.

  • When you're working on the action and feel that it needs an update: It can be because:

  • You've been working for a while on steps of a action that are not defined in the plan and feel that you've passed several bifurcations that you want to investigate and are afraid to forget them. For example imagine that your action plan looks like this:

    - [ ] Do A
    - [ ] Do B

    But while working on A you've actually done:

    - [ ] Do A
      - [x] Do A.1
      - [ ] Do A.2
        - [x] Do A.2.1
        - [ ] Do A.2.2
        - [ ] Investigate A.2.3
      - [ ] Investigate A.3
    - [ ] Do B

    If you find yourself doing 'Do A.2.2' but are afraid of loosing 'Investigate A.2.3' and 'Investigate A.3', go back to the action plan and update it to meet the current state. There is no need to fill in the things that you've done. Only the ones that you still want to do.

  • When you realize that the circumstances have changed enough that you need to update the action step list or title.

  • When you need to switch context to another action: this is specially necessary when you are going to stop working on the action. You never know when you're going to be able to work again on it, so it's crucial to at least refine the next step. It's also a good moment to do some action cleaning.

  • When you read the title and need to take a look at the steps list to understand what is it about. Once you grasped the idea clarify the title.

  • When the action step list has so many done items that you need to search for the next actionable step requires some cleaning.

  • When the action step list gets too complex: TBC

The refinement precision needs to be incremental. It doesn't make sense to have a perfect plan because you often don't have all the information required to make it well, and you'll surely need to adapt it. All time spent refining steps that are going to be discarded in plan adaptations, is wasted time.

Action cleaning

Marking steps as done make help you get an idea of the evolution of the action. It can also be useful if you want to do some kind of reporting. On the other hand, having a long list of done steps (specially if you have many levels of step indentation may make the finding of the next actionable step difficult. It's a good idea then to often clean up all done items.

If you don't care about the traceability of what you've done simply delete the done lines. If you do, until there is a more automated way:

  • For non recurring actions use the LOGBOOK to move the done steps. for example:
    ** DOING Do X 
       - [x] Done step 1
       - [-] Doing step 2
         - [x] Done substep 1
       - [-] Doing step 2
         - [ ] substep 2

This way the LOGBOOK will be automatically folded so you won't see the progress but it's at hand in case you need it.

  • For recurring actions:
  • Mark the steps as done
  • Archive the todo element.
  • Undo the archive.
  • Clean up the done items.

This way you have a snapshot of the state of the action in your archive.


Project refinement

The purpose is to ensure that given the current circumstances:

  • The project description represents the reality and is clear enough.
  • The project roadmap defined by the action plan is the optimal path to reach the project outcome.

We can do it in two ways:

Rabbit hole project refinement

This kind of refinement allows you to dig deeper in whichever path you're heading to. It's mechanical and require a limit level of creativity. It's then perfect to apply when you just finished doing a project's action.

  • Read the action titles to make sure that they still make sense following the next guidelines:
  • If the action title doesn't give you enough information, read the action steps and then tweak the action title to make it clearer.
  • Mark done actions as done and archive them.
  • If you need create new actions with the minimal refinement to register your idea.
  • Change the order of the actions to meet current priorities.
  • Do a action refinement for the most imminent one.
  • Optionally add context tags
Think outside the box project refinement

Rabbit hole project refinement is the best way to reach the destination you're heading to. It may not be the optimal one though. As you have you're head deep into the rabbit hole it's easy to miss better alternative paths to reach the project objective.

It could be interesting to use techniques that help you discover these paths for example in a weekly planning.

Project cleaning

Similar to action cleaning we want to keep the state clean. If there are not that many actions under the project we can leave the done elements as DONE, once they start to get clobbered up we can create a Closed section.

For recurring projects:

  • Mark the actions as done
  • Archive the project element.
  • Undo the archive.
  • Clean up the done items.


Area refinement

Area planning

The purpose is to ensure that the area roadmap is the optimal way to reach the area goal given the current circumstances. We do it by following the next steps:

  • Check the goals of the area
  • Think or write down what are the best ways to reach the goals without looking at the area's project or road map
  • Adjust the previous ideas after reviewing the current road map and the future area projects
  • Take the decision of what is the optimal way
  • Adjust the roadmap (at project level) accordingly.

This can't be done on the frenzy of everyday as you're prone to fall into any rabbit hole you're headed to. This is the first refinement that needs it's own time and reflection. As projects don't change very often, it makes sense to do it as part of the monthly planning.

Roadmap adjustments by purpose

Given the level of control of your life you can do the next adjustments:

As you master a purpose level you will have more experience and tools to manage more efficiently your life at the same time that you have less stress and mental load due to the reduction of uncertainty. This new state in theory (if life lets you) will eventually give you the energy to jump to the next purpose levels.

Survive the day

At this level you're with your eyes closed and only react when life throws stuff at you. You'll surely be surprised of what and how hard it hits you, so probably you won't be able to address them the best way. You just want it to stop. This adjustment level aims to let you handle those hits without missing the stuff you need to do.

This adjustment is split in the next parts:

Get used to work with simple actions

We'll start building a system that helps us not to die in agony at life aggressions with the spare energy left.

One way to do it is to choose the tools to manage your life. Start small, only trying to manage the step and action roadmap adjustments. The simplest action manager is a good start.

Make a day plan

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

It's interesting to make your plan at the start of the day.

I follow the next steps:

  • Clarify the state of the world
  • Get an idea of what you need to do by checking and cleaning:
    • Calendar events.
    • Your org agenda of the day
    • For each element decide if it needs to be in the agenda and refile it to the chosen destination.
    • The last day's plan.
    • The month objectives if you have them.
  • How much uninterrupted time you have between calendar events.
  • Your mental and physical state.
  • Check if you can transition the WAITING actions to DOING or TODO.
  • Write the objectives of the day

To make it easy to follow I use a bash script that asks me to follow these steps.

Follow the day plan

There are two tools that will help to follow the day plan:

  • The calendar event notification system to avoid spending mental load tracking when the next appointment starts and to reduce the chances of missing it.
  • Periodic checks of the day plan: If you use the pomodoro technique, after each iteration check your day objectives and assess whether you're going to finish what you proposed yourself or if you need to tweak the action steps to do so.

Control your inbox

The Inbox is a nasty daemon that loves to get out of control. You need to develop your inbox cleaning skills and proceses up to the point that you're sure that the important stuff tracked where it should be tracked. So far aiming to have a element inbox is unrealistic though, at least for me.

Survive the week

At this level you're able to open your myopic eyes, so you start to guess what life throws at you. This may be enough to be able to gracefully handle some of the small stuff. The fast ones will still hit you though as you still don't have too much time or definition to react.

This adjustment is whatever you need to do to get your head empty again and get oriented for the next 9 days. It's split in the next phases:

Week plan

No matter how good our intentions or system may be, you're going to take in more opportunities than you can handle. The more efficient you become, the more ground you'll try to grasp. You're going to have to learn to say no faster, and to more things, in order to stay afloat and comfortable. Having some dedicated time in the week to at least get up to the project level of thinking goes a long way towards making that easier.

The plan defines at a 9 day time scale which projects are you going to work on. It's the next roadmap level to address a group of actions. 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, action and day plans, and want to start deciding where you're heading to.

Make your plan at meaningful days both to make it more effective and to make it more difficult to skip it. Maybe you can do it at the start of the week. I personally do it on Thursdays because it's when I have more information about the weekend events and I have some free time.

I follow the next steps:

  • Clean your agenda 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.

  • If you're already at the ride the month adjustment:

  • Refine your month objective plans. For each objective decide the actions/projects to be worked on and refactor them in the roadmap section of the

When doing the plan try to minimize the number of actions and calendar appointments so as not to get overwhelmed. It's better to eventually fall short on actions, than never reaching your goal.

To make it easy to follow I use a bash script that asks me to follow these steps.

Ride the month

At this level you not only had time to polish your roadmap adjustment skills, but also had the chance the buy some glasses for your myopic eyes! The increase in definition and time to react to what life throws at you lets to now get almost no hits \\ ٩( ᐛ )و //.

Now that you have stopped worrying for your integrity, you start to hear a little voice from within yourself that gives you reports from your body and brain about what worries you, what makes you happy, what makes you mad, ... Has it been yelling all this time? (¬º-°)¬.

At this adjustment level we'll start using the next abstraction level, the [objectives] is whatever you need to do to get your head empty again and get oriented for the next 9 days. It's split in the next phases:

Personal integrity review

The objectives of the personal integrity review are:

  • Identify how you feel and what worries you.
  • Identify strong and weak points on your systems.
  • Identify deadlines.

The objectives aren't to:

  • Assess the progress in your objectives and decisions.

Doing this adjustment once per month is a good frequency given the speed of life change and the efforts required to do it.

It's interesting to do these reviews on meaningful days such as the last day 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.

As it's a process we're going to do very often, we need it to be relatively quick and easy so as not to invest too much time or energies on it. Keep in mind that this should be an analysis at month level in terms of abstraction, here is not the place to ask yourself if you're fulfilling your life goals. As such, you don't need that much time either, just identifying the top things that pop out of your mind are more than enough.

Personal integrity review tools

With a new level of abstraction we need tools:

  • The Review box: It's the place you leave notes for yourself when you do the review, it can be for example a physical folder or a computer text file. I use a file called It's filled after the refile of review elements captured in the rest of my inboxes.

  • The Month checks: It's a list of elements you want to periodically check its evolution throughout time. It's useful to analyze the validity of theories or new processes. I use the heading Month checks in a file called

  • The Objective list: It's a list of elements you want to focus your energies on. It should be easy to consult. I started with a list per month in a file called and then migrated to the life path document.

Personal integrity review phases

We'll divide the review process in these phases:

To record the results of the review create the file references/reviews/, where the month is the one that is ending with the following template:

* Discover
* Analyze
* Decide
Personal integrity review prepare

It's important that you prepare your environment for the review. 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 action 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. I found it meaningful to select the best new music I've discovered this month.
    • Get all the things you may need for the review:
      • The checklist that defines the process of your review (this document in my case).
      • Somewhere to write down the insights.
      • Your Review box.
      • Your life path document.
    • Remove from your environment everything else that may distract you
      • Close all windows in your laptop that you're not going to use
Personal integrity review discover

Try not to, but if you think of decisions you want to make that address the elements you're discovering, write them down in the Decide section of your review document.

There are different paths to discover actionable items:

  • Analyze what is in your mind: Take 10 minutes to answer to the next questions (you don't need to answer them all):

  • What did you enjoy most this last month?

  • What do you want right now?
  • What worries you right now?
  • Where is your mind these days?
  • What did drain your energy or brought you down emotionally this last month?
  • What did help you most this last month?

Notice that we do not need to review our life logging tools (diary, action manager, ...) to answer these questions. This means that we're doing an analysis of what is in our minds right now, not throughout the month. It's flawed but as we do this analysis often, it's probably fine. We add more importance to the latest events in our life anyway.

  • Empty the elements you added to the review box.

  • Process your Month checks. For each of them:

  • Think of whether you've met the check.
  • If you need, add action elements in the Discover section of the review.

  • Process your Month objectives. For each of them:

  • Think of whether you've met the objective.
  • If you need, add action elements in the Discover section of the review.
  • If you won't need the objective in the next month, archive it.
Personal integrity review analyze

Of all the identified elements we need to understand them better to be able to choose the right path to address them. These elements are usually representations of a state of our lives that we want to change.

  • For each of them if you can think of an immediate solution to address the element add it to the Decide section otherwise add them to the Analyze.
  • Order the elements in Analyze in order of priority

Then allocate 20 minutes to think about them. Go from top to bottom transitioning once you feel it's analyzed enough. You may not have time to analyze all of them. That's fine. Answering the next questions may help you:

  • What defines the state we want to change?
  • What are the underlying forces in your life that made you reach that state?
  • To what state you want to transition to?
  • What is the easiest way to reach that destination?

For the last question you can resort to:

  • Habits change
  • Projects change: start or stop doing a series of actions.
  • Roadmap change

Once you have analyzed an element copy all the decisions you've made in the Decide section of your review document.

Personal integrity review decide

Once you have a clear definition of the current state, the new and how to reach it you need to process each of the decisions you've identified through the review process so that they are represented in your life management system, otherwise you won't arrive the desired state. To do so analyze what is the best way to process each of the elements you have written in the Decide section. It can be one or many of the following:

  • Identify hard deadlines: Add a warning days before the deadline to make sure you're reminded until it's done.
  • Create or tweak a habit
  • Tweak your project and actions definitions
  • Create checks to make sure that they are not overseen.
  • Create objectives that will be checked in the next reviews (weekly and monthly).
  • Create Anki cards to keep the idea in your mind.


  • Check the last month checks and complete this month ones.
  • Pat yourself in the shoulder as you've finished the review ^^.