If you read my blog or articles often enough, then you already know that I’m a huge fan of planning out your day in advance so that you can be sure you’re taking care of your most important work. The only problem with that approach is that it doesn’t take much to throw our plans and schedules off course. In other words, our days don’t always go the way we think they will, or want them to.
Depending on your job, it may only take one frantic phone call or e-mail to change your priorities… and then your plan is little more than a nice idea. Have this happen for a few days in a row and something that had seemed important to you – like working out in the morning, or making progress on a long-term project – no longer enters your thoughts on a day-to-day basis.
That can create a real problem if you are trying to establish routines. Modern working life calls for flexibility in your plans, but being too flexible can ruin good habits. Since habits are so important to long-term productivity and time management, the question has to be asked: At what point does being flexible with your plans become being too flexible?
That answer will vary for each person, but here is one trick you can use to help you sort it out: Keep track of the major goals you set for yourself every week or month, and then see how often you were able to stick to what you wanted to accomplish. If it seems like you’re coming fairly close, then it’s likely that you are just a normal, productive person who has to deal with interruptions now and then.
On the other hand, if you find that you are very rarely meeting your major goals, then it’s time to take a closer look and find out why.
- Do you have too many projects and priorities?
- Do your time management skills need more improvement?
- Are you trying to finish work that’s far outside your department and expertise?
- Are other employees or supervisors putting too much on your plate?
These are only a few sample questions, and your issue may be similar, or very different. The point, however, is that you can’t really know whether you’re being too flexible until you can compare your actual productivity against some concrete goals. Once you do that, it should be easy to adjust your game plan for the future.