Long-Term Planning and the Pomodoro Technique


Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

I know that planning something isn’t as much fun as actually doing the thing that you is planning for. This is especially true if you are struggling with your financial future or possible job prospects. Most of us would rather take it easy, go with the flow and “just see what happens.” This is a dangerous way to approach anything in life.

When you go with the flow you just end up being swept away by the current of life and ending up in some place you don’t want to be in doing something you don’t want to be doing. By not putting in the time to plan your life, somebody else is going to plan it for you. When that happens, the rules of the game change. You are no longer in charge of your life; you have given the reigns over to somebody else.

Planning pays. Failure to plan makes you pay.

It doesn’t matter if you are planning for your education, to save some money, future employment, or your next vacation, the necessity of planning cannot be avoided.

Several years ago I developed a habit that to this day has proven its worth in gold. There are several things I do to make planning a priority before anything else. I set aside the time to plan things out at the beginning of the week. When I first started this, I met with a lot of resistance. Planning was never something I was good at. I preferred to just roll with the punches and take things as they happened. I learned a valuable lesson from this: nobody is going to show up and help you unless you take the first initiative to help yourself. In other words, if you fail to take action, action will be taken against you. You will end up following somebody else’s plan and working for their goals instead of your own.

Imagine if you decided to take a vacation and got into your car without any sense of destination. This sounds silly but think about it, isn’t this how most of us live our day-to-day lives? By getting behind the wheel of life and plunging forward, ignoring all the warning signs along the way. There is a saying that “done is better than perfect.” Well, maybe its time to create a plan that is only 70% good than wait for the perfect plan that is 100% guaranteed. No plan is perfect, but creating something that is half-assed is better than kissing ass years later down the road.

Don’t Waste More Time Than You Already Have

The time you spend brainstorming and mind mapping ideas actually saves you twice as much time in the future. Ten minutes of planning a day could save you two hours the next day. You don’t have time for that? How much time does the average person spend watching TV a day? About 2.6 hours. How much time does the average person spend on Facebook and other social media sites? About 1.7 hours. This includes checking in thirty times a day to all those little notifications we get on our smartphones.

So, why does failing to plan lead to failure in other areas of living?

It is in the stages of planning something that most of the work is already taken care of. Many things that you want to get done but have been procrastinating about can be worked out if you sit down and draft out a plan of attack. Again, just getting this stuff down on paper gets the ideas flowing out of your head. You could save yourself years of grief and waste d time by taking time out today, right now to start piecing together a plan of action.

For example, as a writer, before I set out to write a novel, I create an outline for the work. The few days or weeks I spend drafting ideas for the book and planning what to write before I write it is an investment in the project. The writing then goes much faster and, by the time I am done “outlining” or planning, the book practically writes itself. You can adjust this strategy for anything.

Before you set out to do anything, have some kind of plan beforehand, even if it is rough. Taking action, just a small step, is better than being paralyzed and doing nothing. And when we waste time on activities that don’t contribute to the quality of our lives, we are setting ourselves up for some serious pain later.

For example, you are creative and you want to express your creativity through art or writing, but you don’t have time? Make a twenty-minute stint where you shut off everything and get started. Write down a sentence. Type a word, or dig out that old recipe you have been meaning to try out [yes, cooking is creative too].

The same formula can be used for putting together a financial plan for your future. You are hang trouble saving money? You don’t know where to begin? You are forty years old and have no retirement plan?

25 Minutes and your Problems are Solved

Twenty five minutes of your life is all I’m asking for. Set a timer for twenty-five minutes. Why twenty-five? Because then you can use the Pomodoro technique. Within twenty five minutes you are going to dump all your ideas for taking action on the one area of your life that makes a difference. On paper or using an app for mind mapping such as Mindmeister you are going to get all your ideas out if your head and down on paper.

Do this for twenty-five minutes an then see where you are at. Chances are you’ll feel refreshed and ready to do more after a five minute break. Continue this until can’t get anything else down, or you just simply run out of ideas. Then, choose one of these ideas and put it into action. Make it an action that can be done in less than five minutes. This gets the momentum going.

Next, organize all the other ideas for your theme in the order that you should do them. Do you have to research some information? Call someone? Set up an appointment? Buy a schedule book? Whatever it is, I would do the easy actions first. Get them out of the way, and then focus on the more complex action steps. Break the big steps down if you can; make these your mini-goals.

Remember: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. No exceptions.

Everything in your life, from a career to health to raising your family, would benefit from a well crafted plan. And again, the plan doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to outline every detail for the next twenty years, but you do need to start somewhere. The best time to start would be right now.

Action Plan Recap

Once again, here is the process I use for working out a “rough” plan for my work [projects] and my life.

  1. Write down the one area of your life that would lead to massive change or have an impact on the quality of your life if you were to take some form of action. Is it your financial situation? Career? Do you want to quit your job and do something else? Do you want to start up a website that promotes your business at home? Write it down.
  2. Do a quick brain dump. For the next 20 minutes, do nothing but write down as many ideas as you can that would initiate action to be taken. Do you have to call someone? Research a topic? You can stop after twenty minutes and look at the actions you have written down.
  3. Take one of your ideas and act on it. Now the key here is, you want to choose something that is easy. It should take you just a few minuets to complete. For example, maybe your goal is to set up a website or a blog. You can actually do this rather quickly by joining hostgator or bluehost. You can get a domain name here. Registration takes a few minutes. By taking a minute action, it starts to build momentum.
  4. Write down your actions in a list and label them in order. Then, make a commitment to do one thing everyday. This can be a mini-action. It doesn’t have to be “write ten blogs by the end of Friday.” Break it down into bite-sized chunks.
  5. At the beginning of every week, set up your action plan for the week. Make a list of six things [action steps] you are going to take to move you towards your goal. I would recommend Sunday evening because it is the start of the week for many people.

So now answer these questions:

  • What area of your life do you want to take action on?
  • What actions can you take? Make a list.
  • What small action can you do right now?
  • What does this action plan look like in order of importance?
  • What will you do this week?

This process takes about one hour of work. Or, you can watch the latest episode of Game Of Thrones.

Your choice.

About Scott Allan

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