Plan the day not just the work

Mindful dogs

In 2018 I wrote a few things about something I called mindful diary. I rather lost a grip on this in the later part of last year – not helped by an office move to Stratford and the fact that this has made quite a big impact on my commute. This post is me coming back to that as part of my annual clear out of cupboards and habits.

Going forward I am going to be doing a couple of days a week from home (hurrah) and I want to actively use the extra time that gives me back rather than just use it as a not-commute.

To get started here are some observations:

  • I spend rather more time planning my work than I do planning my life so I am going to try planning my whole day and not just my work.
  • If I want to have better balance in what I do I am going to have to design that in
  • Exercise can’t continue to be an also-ran (forgive the pun!!) – it needs to be planned for
  • 15 minutes is a useful amount of time – you just need to figure out some meaningful things that take that long. I’m going to use some of those slots for some slow cooking when I am at home
  • Rhe 500 words a day habit is important to me – I need to make sure I leave headspace for it and not just time
  • More note books is not a bad thing. Though exercising some restraint in that department isn’t bad either….

The current mindful diary looks like this:

  • Using the blogging to set my intent for the week. This works brilliantly but clearly depends on having time and the inclination to write.
  • Planning the week ahead as a close down to the week before — this is really a check of the diary for the week ahead to make sure I don’t need more than an hour to prep for anything plus making sure I start the week with a tidy todo list
  • Drop in times in the diary have been really successful for me as it gives me a buffer where I can make sure I see members of the team at short notice when the diary is packed — though in all good conscience I should advertise these more widely as at the moment they are working well as an overspill for other work
  • Co-locating with one of the programme teams that we are getting up and running is really great twice a week — even when you are not there much its a great way to make sure you stay in touch with a particular group
  • A day planner — a blow by blow list of meetings and why I am having them each day — this one I highly recommend

New hacks to this are:

  •  Reserving more time (6 hours a week) which I don’t schedule until the week before so that I have time to respond to things as they arise rather than ending up with a bit of a car crash when urgent things pop up
  •   We are creating more forums for collective decision making in both of the main teams I am part of — accepting that we know we will need to spend time discussing and deciding things even if we don’t know in advance what this will be. I am particularly pleased that this is not just about operational decision making — we’re making time for more strategic thinking as well.
  • I want to move from having shorter meetings to longer but less frequent deep dives with key groups of people with a focus on specific pieces of work. This builds on a change we have made with planning meetings (like sprint planning) where we review the backlog and work out where our focus needs to be. This seems to be working well.
  • I am also going to build in more (shorter) firebreaks into my time so that I can actually think about things rather than just reacting – and stop this sensation of always trying to catch up
  • I want to make sure that I am building in time to do some of my other hobby stuff (run down on some of that in my start of the year post here)

All of this sounds like a lot of work in its own right but reflecting on it I do actually like the sensation of planning – but I also want that to bring a pleasurable sense of anticipation. The point of bringing in planning the day not just the work is that I am also planning in the stuff that I know helps me to thrive.

And finally – I will never a manage a perfect plan or come up with a perfect system but there are two reasons for doing this; 1) having a plan increases the odds (though not the certainty) of getting the stuff done you think is important and 2) planning time is reflective time and thats important in its own right.

The picture of dogs at the top is entirely gratuitous – but what’s more mindful than snoozing hounds?? Happy planning

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