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4 simple steps to position yourself for getting it done in 2012

Dec 21, 2011 2 comments

Christmas is coming up and hopefully you all will have some time to sit down, relax, review the past year and make some plans for 2012.

I know that “living without goals” seems to be state of the art nowadays, but if you are living an a goal-oriented business environment – like I am – where you cannot wake up and just do what you are passionate about, a system to manage yourself will be essential for your success. This is why I recommend to structure your ideas and to make some plans for 2012, now.

This year, I had the chance to do my review already before Christmas which gives me the opportunity to provide you with a step by step guide which I created while doing my planning for 2012. Read more…

Manage your life with a mind map – Five steps to get started

Oct 12, 2011 1 comment

I am always looking for ways to simplify my self management system. In the past, I used an excel sheet to manage my goals, but a few month ago, I started using a mind map to organize and review my targets.

For me, using a mind map is much more intuitive and flexible compared to excel sheets. I am really enjoying this very simple visual way of managing my targets and I would like to share this experience with you. Read more…

Just updated: Operational Planning Q2/2011 – First targets achieved!

Apr 16, 2011 Leave a comment

I just checked my 2011 targets in the context of my monthly operational planning and I thought it might be interesting to post an update.

To check my current position, I opened the file that I created during my yearly planning and I went through the targets and measures quickly.

Interestingly, I was able to mark the first targets as achieved and I had to integrate only minor changes into my planning.

Finally, I added one additional task to toodledo to start working on an upcoming target which I scheduled for May 2011.

What about you? Are you on track with your targets for 2011? Feel free to post your status! 🙂

Planning – How to realize my dreams?

Jan 19, 2011 Leave a comment

During my last years in school, the idea of visiting all seven continents grew in my mind and this dream was born. But at those days, I did not really start planning to realize this dream. I was just traveling wherever an opportunity arose and many of these opportunities made my visit North America, but no other continents. Thus, realizing this dream was still a dream…

Influenced by the experience that I made within my main job – where I have to plan a lot in the context of project management, continuous improvement and Deming’s Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle – I began to transfer these planning habits to my personal life. This gives me structure and guidance throughout the year and helps me to realize my dreams.

I differentiate between three different levels of planning:

Strategic planning: This is the big picture of my life that I update once a year. It contains the dreams of my life, my overall goals and looks up to 10 years into the future.

Tactical planning: Once a year, based on the strategic planning, I develop a plan of concrete measures that I want to implement during the next year to get a little bit closer to my dreams.

Operational planning: During the year, I check the status of my measures every month, adjust the planning (if necessary), and add additional activities for new measures to my task management as starting point for my daily operations.

I perform these different levels of planning in a top-down approach from strategic to operational planning on a regular basis and insert upcoming issues during the year in a bottom-up approach from my daily operations into the planning.

To read more about this approach, I recommend starting with the “Strategic planning”.

Strategic Planning – Define your dreams

Jan 19, 2011 1 comment

Once a year – normally during the Christmas holidays – I sit down for half a day to review the previous year, to adjust my dreams according to the current situation, and to plan how I can realize these long term goals. My planning horizon for this strategic planning is about 5 to 10 years into the future. This is the very big picture of my life!

To visualize my dreams, I use a simple table with the following columns:

Area of Life: This is a description of the area of my life that I am thinking  about. Just to give you an idea what I am talking about, here are some examples: family, job, education, health, languages, sport, culture, finance, etc.

Dream: I try to put my dreams that are related to the respective area of my life into words. While doing this, I think about the next 5 to maximum 10 years. Examples are: “become my own boss”, “finish a marathon”, or “visit all seven continents”.

Current Situation: To define the starting position for every dream, I write down the current situation. In case of the dream “visit all continents” I have been to Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America so far.

Measures: In this column, I develop measures to close the gap from the current situation to the dream. As far as possible, I break the measures down to years to have achievable milestones. In the “visit all seven continents” context, I have to assign trips to Antarctica, Australia, and South America to the upcoming years.

While defining these dreams and measures to achieve the dreams, I try to integrate my findings from the success and the fun journal to focus on goals that are supported by my skills and talents or that will create a relevant fun factor.

In addition, I maintain something like a waiting list for dreams and ideas that come to my mind during the year and that I would like to integrate into my strategic planning during the next cycle.

How I continue with the results of the strategic planning will be described in the “Tactical planning”.

Tactical Planning – Plan the upcoming year

Jan 19, 2011 2 comments

Subsequent to the strategic planning, I do the annual planning to structure the upcoming year. I use the strategic planning as basis and I try to select not more than three to five goals – maximum one per area – to focus on.

To ease the planning process, I use a table with the following columns:

Dream: Copy and paste the selected dream from the strategic planning. Again, let us use “visit all seven continents” as an example.

Measure: Copy and paste the measures to realize the dream that are assigned to the upcoming year. In the context of the dream “visit all seven continents” it could be a measure called “Travel to Australia”.

Steps incl. effort: I brainstorm the steps to realize the measures and estimate the effort. For example “Plan journey (30 hours)” and “Perform journey (4 weeks)”. I do not brainstorm all activities within these steps, I only do a rough estimation of the necessary activities and their effort.

Timeframe: I schedule these steps throughout the upcoming year as basic planning to know when I want to work on what steps. In the context of the Australia example, it would be possible to plan the journey from January to April and to perform the journey in May and June.

Selecting the measure and planning it helps me to make up my mind for the next year. This simple table is the reference that I use within the “Operational planning” during the year.

Operational Planning – Stay focused during the year

Jan 19, 2011 3 comments

My operational planning throughout the year is quite simple. To stay focused, I check my yearly planning once a month and adjust my current activities, if necessary. To remind me of doing this check, I integrated a repetitive 30 minutes task into my to-do list on every Friday of the third week of the month. During these 30 minutes, I check my current status and integrate – if necessary – additional activities for new measures starting during the upcoming month.

For example within the first operational planning of the year – normally subsequent to the tactical planning – I develop and add the first “next action” of all measures that are assigned to the next month to my task management.

As I explained within the “Tactical planning” section, I do not plan all activities to realize the measures upfront. Thus, I have to develop a plan of the activities while doing the operational planning. This gives me the opportunity to be more flexible during the year and to adjust my planning according to the current situation without having spent too much time on the details during the tactical planning.

In short: At first, I have a look onto the dream and the selected measure. Then I think about the necessary actions to realize the step of the measure that is assigned to the upcoming month. Finally, I add the next action as to-do to my task management. That is it!

In the context of the Australia example, I have to define the necessary activities to realize the travel planning: Inform yourself about Australia, define the places to visit, detail the travel route, buy flight tickets, and book rental car and hotels. Based on this planning, I simply add “Inform yourself about Australia” into my task management. Sometimes I insert the rest of the planning into the comment of this task to have it at hand when I have finished this activity.

After doing this for all steps of measures that are assigned to the upcoming month, I am ready to start the “Daily operations”.

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