Monday, January 16, 2006

5 steps to planning your next 12 months

I’m on the train heading back from the new offices in Northampton. We have spent the last two days putting together our plan for the next year (maybe longer). It’s very exciting to put our lists of things we want to do down on paper and work out how we are going to attack the fifty or so projects we identified.

It’s brilliant catharsis.

Amazingly, due to the lengthy discussions on most things, this took over 17 hours to complete, but now it’s done we have a direction and a plan down on paper and it feels great. Who would have thought a clubbing website needs so much attention?

I highly recommend that you buy Getting Things Done by David Allen if you ever want to go through a similar process. But if you are a cheapskate (like I was for a few months before Meza bought it for me), here are my tips to a successful planning session:
  1. Have a braindump. This is similar to brainstorming in that you get every idea you can out of your brain and down on paper. Write each idea on a separate bit of paper (we used 3x5” cards because they are easy to move around).
  2. Sort the cards into rough areas. We knew this wasn’t true GTD but it helped us feel better. We moved the cards around into urgent and non-urgent.
  3. Get amongst it. We started on the urgent pile, picked up each card, and worked out whether we wanted to do it or it on our wish list (Allen calls the Someday/Maybe list) to look at another time.
  4. Defer it. If we wanted to do it we would discuss ideas then come up with a few actions that need to be taken. Allen calls these “next actions” and some projects had several actions because of their size, some just had one, some had no next action (because they were either done or not worth doing) and so were binned. Now we had a “to do” list in the traditional sense.
  5. Put it into a system. We entered all the relevant urgent projects into Outlook and used the task system as next actions. If you want to use Outlook in the GTD system then see Managing GTD Projects in Outlook for advice on how to set it up in the right way. There are loads of other systems from all singing software to pen and paper.
As a side note, because of the large nature of this planning session we decided to stick to the 14 most urgent projects and put the rest away for a few weeks to give us a chance to get some urgent things done. If your planning is smaller, then you would not need to stagger it like we have.

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