02 January 2013

Guest Post - In Praise of Planning - David Popely

Thank you to David for sending in this Guest Post to share with you his thoughts on the start to the New Year.

So, Christmas is over, and Santa has brought you all, or most, of the things that you asked him for. And among them for many of you, if my Twitter feed is anything to go by, was a shiny brand new Filofax. OK, for some of you, I know this will not be the first time Santa has done this (or that you’ve done it yourself), but again, if my Twitter feed is anything to go by, there are a lot of people out there holding their first ever Filofax in their hands right now.

So if this is your first Filofax, maybe you have found your way to this excellent site via Google, word of mouth, or some other means, and if you have it may just be because you wonder……what do I do now?

I hope regular readers of this blog will forgive a slightly more ‘entry level’ piece, but the fact is that if you’re new to Filofax, and even if you’re not, the tidy piece of leather/plastic/whatever, and paper, which  you now hold in your hands can be the means to fulfilling all your goals, the things you’ve been ‘meaning to get around to’ but never have - yet.

However, there’s a catch. Unfortunately, like iCal or Google Calendar/Tasks, your shiny new toy, massively useful as it is, will not do this great task of helping you to reach your goals and ambitions on its own.

In short, you’re going to have to do two things. You’re going to have to plan, and you’re going to have to execute.

Back in the 1980s when planning and time management were actually popular (at least in the junior management ranks I used to inhabit back then), these skills were taught and were expected to be learned and mastered, but things have changed since then. Somewhere along the way we became convinced that modern technology had solved the problem, which we no longer needed to plan anything at all, because Outlook would magically make everything better.

To expect Outlook, Google Calendar or iCal, or any other technological panacea, to make everything work together properly is about as sensible as expecting your tools to get out of the toolbox on their own and build you a wardrobe.

Here’s one of the models which was popular back in the 1980s for demonstrating the benefits of a ‘planning phase’ before an ‘ execution phase’:


Notice how the longer planning phase on the second line leads to a much shorter, more ‘tidy’ execution phase, meaning that the total time for planning and execution is shorter than the upper line, where planning is compromised for the sake of making a start.

I’ve been looking at my Twitter feed for #filofax quite closely, and the impression I get is that the majority of people posting are now busy ‘filling in their diaries’ for 2013. I’ve got news for you. If all you’re doing is ‘filling in your diary’, then you won’t reach your goals in 2013. If you were given a Filofax with the standard 5-part index dividers, take a look at the other tabs and you’ll see one further down the set called Projects.

That’s where you need to start. Make your plans, set your goals, and then, and only then, put the things you need to do to achieve those goals into your diary. I’m not going to tell you today how to do this in detail – hang around this site for a while and you’ll discover that for every person contributing there’s a method of planning which is different, particular and customised for that person’s needs.

And we all love to share. No really – we LOVE to share, at length. Great length. So I’m not going to tell you what is the right way to do this because you’ll have to find out what’s right for you. But what you need to know is that you must plan, or you won’t achieve anything you intend to. And its New Year Resolution (aka goals) time, isn’t it?

So please, from one Filofax enthusiast to another, use this wonderful, marvellous tool you now have in your hands, to let your New Year be  really new year for you, the year in which you don’t just accept the agendas of others as your own, because if you just ‘fill in your diary’ with the commitments you’ve already made, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing.

I hope you understand that I mean this in a kindly way. I know most of them are your friends, but their agendas are not your agendas, and if you don’t follow your own agenda, your unplanned time will flow in the twin directions of others’ agendas and your own weaknesses. Take a minute to think about whether that’s *really* what you want for 2013. In short:-

Whose life is it, anyway?

A Wise Man of Industry in the UK once said,

“Show me your diary and your bank statement, and I will show you your priorities”

I think he was right. How about you?

24 comments:

  1. Ok, this is an amazing post from someone really into this planner/organizer stile for a long time. I love it and it's really true what you have said David. Because if you don't know for what your working for, the tools are just there with no use at all.

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    1. Thank you Elizabeth. I think a wise man once said that if you're going to climb the ladder of success, you'd better make sure it's leaning against the right wall first!

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  2. Well said, David. This is what people miss when they think your Filofax is just a big fat diary - no, it's much more than that.
    I have created a spreadsheet of my goals for 2013, with each goal broken down into separate tasks which need to be monitored daily or weekly. By the end of January, I expect to have made serious progress towards achieving these goals. In previous years, I have made New Year's resolutions but not actually planned how I was going to achieve them, and consequently nothing really changed. 2013 is going to be different (fingers crossed).

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    1. I forgot to add that I put the spreadsheet in my Filofax (A5 zipped wine Holborn) and added the tasks to my Day on 2 pages insert for this week. I am determined to be better organised this year.

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    2. Hi Hamish, sounds like you have a lot of control over task allocation to diary pages there, which is great. One of things which worries me about electronic 'goal-seeking' apps is that they automatically drop 'step tasks' into the diary, which isn't enough control for me.....

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  3. "To expect Outlook, Google Calendar or iCal, or any other technological panacea, to make everything work together properly is about as sensible as expecting your tools to get out of the toolbox on their own and build you a wardrobe."
    AHHHHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA! I heart thee!

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  4. Oh I love this post. Not least because it makes me feel that the six hours .( yup, SIX!) I spent yesterday happily curled up with journal, filofaxes and tea, planning all my goals in all areas of life for 2013 and writing out action plans is not totally abnormal! My only concern is that after I put in such a long planning session it might be wasted because someone will shortly come and execute me!
    And its not my bank statement you need to see... Its the credit card linked to the paypal acount for the two more filofaxes that are as we speak in the post to me. Crimosn Malden personal and A5 Grey Osterly.

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    1. Hi Helen - certainly not abnormal, but certainly unusual these days.....I go through two major goal-setting and goal-tweaking projects a year - one in between Christmas and the New Year, the other in late May, which is an historical throw-back to the days of having children and going on holiday with my late mum and dad during Spring half term week. I was always the one who said they didn't mind going into work in between Christmas and the New Year, because there were no phones ringing, I was out of the house. and by Jan 2nd when the troops rolled back in I had my whole year planned!

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  5. Great post. I especially like "Make your plans, set your goals, and then, and only then, put the things you need to do to achieve those goals into your diary." I actually copied the quote into my Filo. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Where is the 'like' button for this post?? Excellently written and an eye -opener!

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    1. The like buttons are the 'Share buttons' Share it on Facebook, Twitter, +1 on Google+ That will mean more people are aware of the post and will come to Philofaxy to discover it!

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    2. Yes Steve, very true! :) I only realised though that the Pocket size dividers are missing the 'projects' tab! how disapointing. I have only ever used pockets so I never knew that bigger sizes have an additional 6th tab!

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  7. Thanks a lot David for this post, it's the reminder i needed to start this new year the right way! And I'm sure it will also help new comers a lot. Happy new year everybody, may 2013 see all your plans succeed :)

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  8. Thanks David. Great post. I do tend to look at other's posts and decorate my pages in a similar manner. Maybe I am channeling my scrapbook desires into my filofax at times. This year, I have decided to follow my "own" style to get "my own" work done. The emphasis is solely on reaching my goals by end of 2013.

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  9. Great post David - with some classic quotable sayings! You are absolutely right and of course we all need a reminder of this at times.

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  10. Once again, David, a fantastic post. Preaching the benefits of a paper based productivity "system" is difficult, but you always present your case well.

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    1. Hi Neil, it's not the basis of the system (paper or electronic) which bothers me so much as the fact that with technology the temptation is even greater to think the app will do all the work, which it won't.

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  11. Hi, David, great post!! From time to time one absolutely needs a `little reminder` not only to schedule the things you `have` to do - but the things you ´want´to do, too! This post today was perfectly on time for me, I was just about to make this classical mistake.....Thank you very much!

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  12. Excellent post! I will be making a note of some quotes here also.

    Whenever people talk planning with me - whether paper or electronic - I always tell them that system is only as good as the person who uses it. One can have an excellent system, but if you don't take the time to actually use it (in a way that works for you), then it is no good. I recently had this situation with my sister. She recently got both and iPad and an iPhone and she was overwhelmed with passwords and websites. I gave her my black compact chameleon with a-z tabs to keep it all organized. She has yet to put any information in it and is still overwhelmed. So although I gave her the tools, the passwords won't enter themselves on the paper!

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  13. Thank you to all of you for the comments. Apologies for not having acknowledged them in detail yet - I will try to do so tomorrow....

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  14. Wonderful thought provoking stuff David! Thank you. xx

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  15. Bit late.....Excellent post, David!

    Thanks for sharing all your thoughts and setup info.

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