Before I get into some practical planning, a word on those who always “miss” their deadline to plan out their future time:
One of the things I find peculiarly strange about goal setting and time management is that, when people set an intention to plan for their day, their week, their month… if for whatever reason they don’t get to do it prior to the time that’s set to be planned out, for some reason…
“It suddenly becomes too late now.”
Why is that?
You can plan for however long or little into the future at any time. It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1st of the month or the 10th, the 1st day of the week or the 3rd, the 1st hour of the day or mid-afternoon…
So long as there’s a clear ROI to planning out your time, then it doesn’t matter when you get to do it. If investing 5 minutes now makes the following 50 minutes all the more valuable, then do it!
Applying this kind of mindset toward longer-term planning, there should be nothing stopping you from planning ahead, given reasonable time is given to do so for the time being prospected out.
And in this article, I’ll cover what you should reasonably expect to need in terms of time to plan.
Let’s start with setting goals. I like to use Google’s OKR method.
Here’s What I Propose
First, you’re going to learn how to create an OKR
(i.e. read this article: 10 minutes of study)
Second, you’re going to create at least 3 OKRs.
(I invite you to take just 5 minutes for each, but you may want more)
Third, you’re going to map out at least 1 OKR into your actual calendar
(Again take 5 minutes — plan only a month out from whenever now is)
Finally, you’re going to review this whole process.
(Another 5 minute reflection and you’re at 30 minutes)
Let’s jump right in.
OKRs stands for Objectives and Key Results. The OKR system is designed to take your goals (also known as Objectives) and guide you towards writing out the measurable outcomes that matter toward achieving your goals (also known as Key Results).
And so the first step with writing an OKR is to start with the Objective or goal. For example:
I want to get physically stronger. Classic exercise goal am I right?
Now onto the next step, the Key Results. What exactly defines that I’m getting stronger? Well…
- I must be lifting 10 more lbs on each gym exercise (I have a set which I do each time)
- I must be able to climb at least one V4–5 tier rock climbing route (tier I’m currently facing)
- I must be able to run for 1 mile in less than 10 minutes (not a runner so don’t judge.)
These key results all point to me becoming physically stronger, but more importantly, they have a real definition. There’s a quantitative element to them, even if it’s as simple as “I can/I can’t”.
From those Key Results, we can now make a list of actions that need to be accomplished in order to drive those results. These actions, also called initiatives, are what will actually go into your schedule, but before we account for them in your time, let’s actually write one out.
Here’s my initiative for my gym exercises key result:
In order to lift more weight at the gym, I’ll need to set a schedule wherein I am progressively getting to my current weight per set + 10lbs… hmm. I’ll go twice a week, with the intent of repping my current max weight for up to 2 minutes… I’ll rep on a 5/5 cadence, meaning I’ll slowly perform each rep and then return back to the starting position, taking 5 seconds each way… I’ll then take 3 minutes of rest before moving onto the next exercise.
That is a very clear initiative. I stated what I was going to do, when, for how long, all with complete consideration for the total action necessary to call 1 exercise set complete.*
From here, I can chalk up how much time it’ll take me to run this initiative for every set I want to perform (# of sets x 5 minutes), and then that becomes the schedule block of time I need to put into my calendar. Before I go ahead and move onto actually setting this time into my calendar…
Want another example? Normally I’m not this structured in my rock climbing sessions, but given I have a clear intention to reach the next level, this may very well be my motivation:
With respect to my already dedicated gym time of 2x/week, I’m already on schedule to go rock climbing about 3x/week. During this sessions, after some level warming up, I want to specifically target one of 3 V4–5 bouldering problems — upon each attempt, I’m going to make a mental note of where I fail and why I fail, and with that, I’m going to isolate that point of failure and train it… I’d like to make at least 3 solid attempts at each V4–5 I try, allowing myself at least 3 minutes rest between each attempt.
Again, clarity is key. For the sake of writing these initiatives down into a spreadsheet or notebook, you are of course free to condense the wording down — long as you know what you intend to do, that’s what matters. Don’t be lazy though and forgo making it clear to yourself your plan, because in time, you’ll want to review your approach in detail. That way, if/when the need arises, you can better understand how you approached your goals, and whether you should be thinking about those approaches better.
If I could quickly plan out my running for the sake of, let’s just say:
I’d like to give myself at least one day of no exercise during the week, so on one of the two days that I’m not climbing or lifting, I want to go for a run. With the result that I run at least 1 mile in less than 10 minutes, I think I’ll make use of the Strava App to autonomously capture my distance and speed.
Okay so first off, I’m glad I didn’t leave out this example. For one, I want to set the example that even the most simple of initiatives can be improved by writing them out thoughtfully. Second, in this example, I address the use of tools that can help with my performance, either via tracking it or by acting as equipment to support me/operate under part of my expectation for how I’m to perform (in rock climbing, I would be silly to not account for how useful my chalk is to my hands, and in lifting, I’d say the same with my lifting gloves… while not necessary, these tools let me focus on my actual performance. They are nonetheless not going to hold me back should I forget to bring them with me.)
Scheduling The OKR
Okay, let’s finish. Now that I’ve set the objective, I know my key results, my initiatives are all written out (along with what is a clearly thought out strategy built on knowledge, experience, and mindfulness), I’m now going to take these items into my calendar.
Here’s my approach to calendaring:
- There’s time for the actions themselves (i.e. for my gym exercises, I need to block out 5 minutes for each set (I’ve got 6, so 30 minutes).
- There’s time to get ready/travel to the place where my actions must take place (i.e. if it takes 15 minutes to put on gym clothes, close whatever I was doing, and physically go to the gym, then that’s going in my calendar)
- There’s time to review how things actually went. (Once all is said and done, I want to take some time to track whatever wasn’t tracked if I really want to — if I learned something that’s going to help improve my approach, this is the time to note it down and optimize the OKR)
Does this make sense to you? I like to break this out into my calendar like so, rather than just create one big block of time meant to encompass everything.
I do this simply because it brings me more clarity towards my intentions. Is that wasteful? I don’t think so — I don’t want to give myself more active working time (in this case gym time), because my value add is accordingly optimized at 30 minutes of actual lifting, in that particular example.
By noting my travel, I can become more mindful of what must be organized prior to my departure, thus improving my orderliness over time, again at least for this example, but I bet you see how this process of organizing can start to impact other objectives you intend to perform.
I attribute all of this practical thinking of giving myself time to review. If it weren’t for this time, I might not ever pay mind or consideration to how I spend my time optimally toward the activities that matter most to me. After all, this OKR was for just one category of my life: Exercise.
I have 8 more categories! Here is the full list, which I organize into 3 broader scopes:
This one OKR took me 5 minutes to plan out, and it is scoped out for the rest of the month of August. It’s never too late to set goals or start plans as ‘time’ is only relative and is bound by the definitions and parameters we assign to it.
As long as there’s a clear ROI to planning out your time, then it doesn’t matter when you get to it. If investing 5 minutes now makes the following 50 minutes all the more valuable, then do it!
Want me to write an example for an OKR outside of exercise? Feel free as always to reach out if you have any questions about what I covered in this article or about time management in general!
Until next time!
*Please note: I’m not a personal trainer by background. The design, or strategy, behind this initiative, comes from sources I find reputable (Tim Ferriss as an example, among others), atop my own previous experience and success with lifting more weight. The point of this article is not to assess how good my OKRs are, but rather how I set them up.
With that in mind, if I can improve my OKRs so that I could get stronger smarter, I would very much like to, yet I already expect through this process of goal setting, it will come about naturally.
In particular, this is where a Study-based OKR comes in handy. One could commit an entire objective just to studying how one can exercise smarter.
The same goes for studying one’s own nutrition, networking, review, and even studying in itself!
There’s no end to what you can set your mind to — you’ll hear that from every guru out there, but I bet you close to no one is putting a practical system in front of you that details out how to set your mind towards what you want.
And with that, I’ll leave you.