Overwhelmed by All Your Planner Projects? Here’s How to Manage Your Week.

Planners have multiple projects with multiple stakeholders, various tasks, too many meetings, and of course, they are all “high” priority. It’s challenging to manage so many tasks, meetings, people, and priorities.

Sometimes I get a headache of all the projects and things I need to do in the week, get overwhelmed, and then try to work on 5 different things at once. This leads to poor quality work, more of the public screaming at you (even though they may scream at you no matter what), and less learning from our own experiences. So, what can you do?

This is where Michael Hyatt’s pre-weekly planning comes in handy to reflect on the past week and prepare for the week ahead. I usually do this Monday mornings becuase I have the time in the early morning. Whatever day and time works best for you, do that. Here are the 6 steps I adapted from Michael Hyatt’s recent Lead to Win Podcast:

List Last Week’s Previous Accomplishments.

This step is crucial in our development to continue doing the things we’re doing well and celebrate your accomplishments. It puts you in a positive mindset, boosts your confidence, and is a reminder to continue doing what works.

You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.

Georgia O’Keeffe

Conduct an After-Action Review.

Review and reflect on your progress of your projects, tasks, and goals from the previous week. Did you make progress, or not?  Why? What are some factors that led you to making progress, or not? What can you do to adjust to get a different result? This step helps you think about what lessons you learned from your experience and then use that lesson to be successful in the future.

Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.

Peter Drucker

Complete a Data Dump of All your Previous Unfinished Tasks and Commitments.

Some of us may have multiple lists or notes that say “email Mark” after a networking event or send Susan the latest graphics for the transportation plan. Write all these commitments and promises to ensure you schedule to work on them during the week. If you keep them in your head, try your best to write out what commitments you have made and did not accomplish. Then, put all of them in one list or productivity app you use, whatever method works best for you. This is the transition step from moving from reflection from last week into action planning for the week ahead.

Write out Key Events and/or Meetings of the Week.

These are important meetings that require a bit more preparation for your participation. It could also be a coffee with an important local stakeholder for your neighborhood plan. Writing these down or reviewing them before the week starts helps to remember what’s going on during the week and prioritize. I like to use Google Calendar’s schedule view to see all my major meetings coming up. You can create different calendars to hide the regular, less important meetings like webinars, or staff meetings (don’t tell your boss!).

For great planning events across the nation, check out the events page!

Determine your Big 3 for the Week.

Your Big 3 are your important tasks and/or projects you must work on this week. I really like this strategy because sometimes I don’t feel like I accomplished much in a given day (even though I may have), but when I write out my big 3 and complete those, I immediately feel gratification and have peace of mind.

One challenge you may have is balancing the need for the difficulty of the task. The balance of realistic and challenge can be a tough line to find, and its different for everyone. I like to do this for the day as well. Sometimes emergencies happen during work and take priority, or even personal things are more important. Don’t beat yourself up for failing, its part of the process of learning and growing.

Plan out Self-Care.

This is where I think Michael Hyatt is different than other productivity influencers because he makes it a priority to take care of yourself. You must take care of yourself first, in order to help anyone else. He suggests five categories to consider for self-care: sleep, connection, recreation, diet, and relaxing. I’d also like to add fun.

You must take care of yourself first, in order to help anyone else.

Many of these actions may be new to you. What helped me get started was using Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner because it lists all these steps in your week and makes it very easy to organize your tasks and meetings/events. When I began using the planner, I sometimes didn’t know how to pick my big 3 or what events were important enough to list. Just doing it really helped get me started and I adjusted as I went along.

For more info, check out Michael Hyatt’s podcast that goes further into detail!

Jedi Mind Tricks for Urban Planning Leaders

This post is not about how to deceive others in getting your new transit line, road widening, or bike lane. This post is how to change YOUR OWN mindset to be more effective in accomplishing your goals and contributing to your community.

You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.

-Marcus Aurelius

Be curious, not furious. When you meet opposition from the public, elected officials, or engineers, be aware of the emotions that come up and switch your mindset from being upset, to genuinely curious about why that person is opposing your initiative, project, or idea. Sometimes you may just be misinterpreting what the other person is saying and clarification can help. You may even find out you both are saying the same thing, just using different language! Other times they may actually be opposing it and it’s critical you understanding why because it is an opportunity for your initiative, project, or plan to evolve and improve. This takes powerful listening skills and thoughtful questions in order to really understand the person’s perception and understanding.

They’re calling your baby ugly. It can be extremely challenging to take critical feedback of our own project, plan, idea, or initiative. As Urban planning leaders, we put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into our projects and see it as our baby. We may have created it, put in hours to develop it, refined it, and started all over again to make it “perfect”. We get emotionally tied to its success (or failure) because we know that emotion creates motivation and progress. So when someone gives us critical, yet honest feedback, we may perceive it as a threat to our own ability, lack of understanding, or just downright cruel. Since this project is like our baby, we must protect it at all costs, and defend. However, if you can’t receive feedback in a constructive manner, learn from it, and respond constructively, then you don’t grow and your idea, project, or plan doesn’t improve.

Focus on the message, not the delivery. One strategy to better receive feedback is to focus on the message of the provider rather than the technique they provide it. For example, I was completing a slide deck for a bridge rehabilitation project to be presented to elected officials and I asked my boss for tips on effectively delivering material to elected officials. Instead of giving me general tips (what I was looking for) he dove into the details of the presentation and began providing specific feedback on specific words and content. At first, I was frustrated because he didn’t answer my question in a delivery I wanted, such as “here are the 5 general tips when presenting to elected officials”. However, I remembered to focus on the message he was sending, rather than focus on how he was delivering it, and realized he did gave me a general tip. Remove technical jargon from the presentation! When someone may seem to be upset when providing you feedback, try to really listen to what they are saying, rather than how they are saying it.

Check out my post 5 Tips to Brief Elected Officials on your Project for more info!

Focus on what you can control. I was recently introduced to Stoicism, a philosophy dating back to the 3rd century BC that focuses on self-control and to accept the world around, even if its painful. As a planner, it is difficult to know what will come next, and therefore uncertainty provides a challenging environment to know where to put your resources and time. Therefore, focus on improving and growing yourself, since this is the one thing you can control.