Scheduling and Planning...with Mission in Mind

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

If you're like most of us in business, scheduling the layers of your life can be challenging.  My wife and I have four children who are still at home and in school, each involved in at least one extracurricular activity.  We both work multiple income-generating avenues, and are deeply involved in our local church in a variety of ways with our family.  When it comes time to scheduling all of these layers, it is probably one of the most challenging things I've ever done, and probably more difficult than anything I've done in business yet.  Here are some helps from our own experience which we've shared with many others over the years.

1.  Make Plans to Plan.

If you fail to plan, then plan to fail.  It sounds abysmal.  But it's true.  For years I had dreams and desires to do everything from great feats for God (like writing and creating) to smaller feats of labor, also known as "honey-do's".  My wife and I had dreams of doing things with the kids, going places, inviting new people we've met over to the house, birthday parties, vacations, etc.  And recently, as my kids have grown older and developed their own interests, their desires and dreams have also grown.  In the end, though, so little of it actually ever got done.  Why?

Because we didn't plan.  

However, there's one little important feature about planning that often goes overlooked: planning your planning time!  It's amazing that even a feat like having a planning time must itself be planned.  We've done this at our house in two ways:

First, Sherri and I plan each Monday morning together, usually after the kids are off to school.  That's 8AM usually, or thereabouts.  A little breakfast and coffee together, a little news on the television, and our brains are awake enough to talk about our week together.  We work through all the layers of our lives: personal, kids' stuff, ministry, Jubilee Church events, Revive plans, birthdays, Sherri's doula appointments and on call schedule, etc.  It takes about a half hour to work through a week together, and during that time we usually get a decent preview of the rest of the month also.

Second, every other Thursday evening we do family planning.  No, it's not "family planning" (wink).  It's all six of us gathering together with the laptop plugged into the tv and Google Calendar pulled up so we can all see what's going on.  Each kid has their own Google Calendar account and between meetings they schedule their events with "Tentative: Birthday Party at Jamari's" or "Drama: Play Practice" or something like that.  Then, when the family planning meeting comes, we review every kid's request, see how it impacts everything else (always ensuring it does not interrupt Jubilee Church events), and decide a "yeah" or "nay"...after which there are usually parenting and discipleship opportunities for the kids who don't get their way.  This part of our planning is fairly new and developing reasonably well.  But it has been another level in the greatest challenge of my personal life so far as it relates to scheduling and planning.

2.  Plan Much as Possible

As a rule, I am a long-term planner, usually planning out several months in advance. It's an art and it's developed over months and years.  If you're committed to it, you really can get better and better at it, and experience more and more productivity and efficiency than ever before.  I try to plan in altitude layers of 40,000 feet (annually), 30,000 feet (quarterly), 20,000 feet (monthly), 10,000 feet (weekly), and Runway (daily).  Here's what it looks like.

On Mondays I do 10K planning for my week.  I review what I did the previous week, pull whatever was not done onto the radar, and schedule the upcoming week.  I attempt to allow strategic initiatives or long-term goals affect my planning for the week.  I'm not always successful, but I'm getting better.  Keeping the end in mind helps me plan week by week.

Tuesdays through Fridays I do Runway planning.  I review what I did yesterday and pull whatever was not done onto the radar, and schedule it for that day, if possible.  This means rearranging the next day's work, and so forth.  Whenever you don't get something done there is a domino effect that is really unavoidable.  But how you manage the speed at which the dominoes fall is not unavoidable, but rather is part of good planning.  

The last Friday of each month is 20K planning.  I put it on the calendar and purpose to get away from the office for at least half a day in order to plan out my month.  I rethink strategic initiatives and long-term goals and attempt to break apart those goals into smaller achievable goals, and then break out those goals into tasks.  I don't worry with planning the particular tasks since those can happen during the 10K weekly planning.  The objective is to see some progress and fruit toward the big picture.

The last Friday of the quarter is 30K planning.  I put it on my calendar and purpose to get away from the office for the entire day.  Much of what happens during the 20K planning day happens here too, but it allows me to get a bigger picture, reviewing various preplanned events, attempting to assess their effectiveness, who needs to be involved and how, when things need to be done, etc.  This planning is much more broader and I attempt to avoid smaller things like task planning.  

The last quarter of the month is a 40K planning day.  It happens once a year, and though it may coincide with a 20K planning day I try to keep them separate.  I have traditionally implemented 40K planning over the course of 2-3 days on a personal retreat, and coupled it with some recreation like deer hunting.  My goal is simple: envision strategic initiatives for the year, pray and fast and hear from God, pray about potential leaders to disciple that upcoming year, discipleship directives for my children, marriage goals for my wife and I.  Most of these are broken down into smaller categories of things to think about like volunteers, resources, finances, dates, times, etc.  This is the most enjoyable planning time of them all because it's really, really big picture thinking that involves dreaming and creativity.  

3.  Answer Key Questions About What Needs to Get Done

One of the biggest hurdles to good planning in my experience is the unknown.  Here are the questions I attempt to answer in my scheduling and planning each week in my 10K planning.  

1.  What is your role and what are your responsibilities for each role?

Ignorance about your various roles (husband, father, manager, small group leader, neighbor, etc.) and the responsibilities involved for each role is the first muscle that doesn't get stretched enough, in my opinion.  Usually what happens is that we just let life happen to us.  Then we sit back a month later and wonder why we didn't get the stuff done that we originally wanted or envisioned.

2.  How many times per week do you need to do this responsibility?

Ignorance about the repetition of a responsibility is another muscle that doesn't get stretched often.  There are some responsibilities that we need to do more often than we think, and sometimes we allow them to sneak up on us.  Then we find ourselves acting like we're so surprised.  That is a fitting description of my life several years ago.   

3.  What is the best day and time to do this responsibility?

When you have figured out how many times a week you have to do something, schedule it.  Put it down on your calendar.  That's the first step to acknowledging it and getting it done.  It has to be recorded somewhere and a reminder set so you won't forget.  Google Calendar allows you to set reminders per your preference.  I get reminders to my iPhone a day before on some events, and usually an hour before on most other events. 

4.  What resources do I need to carry out this responsibility?

 You'll almost always need stuff to do what you've got to do.  You'll need people, money, documentation, literature, phone numbers, lists, contacts, technology, etc.  Getting stuff done always requires more stuff.  Forget to make a list and you'll be kicking yourself in the rear the entire time because you know you're wasting time.  

5.  Who needs to be involved with me in fulfilling this responsibility?

Team is everything.  Even God Himself works in a team.  It's called the Trinity, and they never do anything without each other.  Jesus seemed to always have His disciples do stuff in team.  He sent 70 out to preach, and sent them out in pairs.  He sent two guys out to get the donkey He would ride on to Jerusalem.  He chose twelve men to do ministry and life with Him.  The early church sent out a team to get apostolic mission done.  Who's doing stuff with you?  Doing stuff by yourself is the best way to ensure that you are stuck with it and are never able to give it away.  Doing stuff together is the best way to disciple someone else, teach them how to do stuff, and to discover character that needs conforming along the way. 

6.  What percentage of cushion time do I need during the week to rest, play, catch up, clean up, etc.?

When you're done planning and scheduling, be sure to leave cushion room.  There's always stuff that comes up.  God is sovereign and while He promises to bless your efforts to plan by faith, He doesn't care about your agenda.  Remember this is His story and you're in it.  So leave room for the stuff He throws into your life, along with other important areas like playtime with the kids, date night with the wife, time to catch up, time to clean up, etc.  If you don't, the little stuff will pile up around you and you'll suffer with immense guilt that you can't get to it, along with the guilt that comes from knowing you're not spending enough quality time with your family.  

These are the things that have helped me along the way.  Try them on for size and see how they fit you.  As always, I'm available at for further questions...or for coffee if you live locally.

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