Simple Planning – Using Bite Size Actions
Article by Harsha A. B. Seneviratne –The Uni Student Coach
“They say time is the fire in which we burn” quote Delmore Schwartz from a poem “Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day,” and also mentioned on Star Trek Generations Movie. I have always been fascinated by time. Even as a young child I remember asking my parents if we can go back to yesterday… however in our reality time moves forward. Every day every one of us has the same amount of time – 24 hours. Some say how we utilise it is very important. I would tend to agree, and planning out our time, our day, our week, our month and year as well as having long-term plans is extremely useful.
However I would like to come at this at a different perspective today and discuss how we can best utilise the time we have by planning ahead. Brian Tracy says that “..every minute spent in planning saves as many as ten minutes in execution. It takes only about 10 to 12 minutes for you to plan out your day, but this small investment of time will save you up to two hours (100 to 120 minutes) in wasted time and diffused effort through the day.”
How we think of time is just as important as how we utilise time. Have you had the experience of putting off a task for ages, thinking its going to be this huge, painful thing that you have to do. Once you actually sit down and do it, you get it done in 20 – 30 minutes. So let’s have a closer look at what happened here.
In your mind you constructed a story… this task will take more effort and time than I have. It’s going to be painful, and I’m going to be too drained afterwards… so you kept putting it off. All the this time that you kept putting it off, it was actually draining you – emotionally, mentally and perhaps the effects could be observed physically in the form of stress. It was also robbing you of time / energy in all the though processes leading up to actually doing the task.
What I suspect actually happened was that you did not actually breakdown the task into bite size pieces… and if you get into the habit of doing the following, your ability to manage your time will improve along with your productivity. Let’s conclude with an example to demonstrate this… You need to pass a work safety test to comply with work requirements. You keep putting it off… however you have run out of time, and your supervisor asks you to take action on it this week. Let’s break it down into bite size pieces.
Major Outcome – Attend and Pass the Work Saftey Test
Smaller tasks (no particular order – you can order them later)
Find out if there are past tests that you can look at
Find out if what the study materials are and obtain a copy of them
Register to sit the next available test (giving yourself enough time to prepare)
Find out from your supervisor the exact test that you need to sit (so you do not have to repeat it)
See if there are any costs involved, and if you or the work needs to pay for it
Find out any other factors that will affect you siting the test (availability, time from work)
Go and sit the test and pass or do better
Once you have created a list of smaller actions, the next step is to order them in terms of priority and a logical order to do them, that fits in with your life.
You can go ahead and write it in your diary when your doing each, or put it into your online calendar or phone to give you a prompt / reminder.
Next step is to start taking action on each step, one by one. Remember to stick with the smaller step till it’s completed. Don’t jump around, unless for some reason you got the order wrong, in which case you can swap them. General rule is once you start… finish that task and move to the next.
What originally in your mind started off as being the immense task is now much easier to get through. You have effectively created a plan and executed it till completion.
Final thing, and most people miss this action is to celebrate. Having got through a task like this or any major milestone, it is essential that you take time to acknowledge that you played an important role in making it happen… it will build your confidence in approaching other tasks and you will feel a much better sense of accomplishment to!