Mallory Baskin

Web Developer and Ghost Writer
Mallory Baskin

The Oldest Productivity Hack

A plan is critical if you want to be productive. No explorer has ever gotten where they wanted to go without a map. It is no different in the things we attempt today, be it business, education, or fitness. A good plan does not determine how far you will go, but it does decide if you will ever make any progress worth measuring. Vague directions lead to confusion and false starts. Creativity at the wrong time causes more problems than it solves. Not having a to-do list will lead to things not getting done. A plan must be put in place to have the highest chance of a successful outcome.

Explicit Directions

Rambling directions generate resentment, confusion, and a lack of trust in your bosses, your teammates, and your subordinates. Your boss needs to know that you understand the issue at hand, what exactly the situation is, and have a handle on what it will take to fix it. Your team needs the documentation for later should the same issue pop up again. Your subordinates need the help to solve the problem that you have the answer to, without having to contact you for clarification at every step. Be detailed in your instructions both up and down the chain of command. Your workers need to understand the steps of what they are doing and your boss needs to understand that you have a good grasp of why that is the best solution. Provide both with what they need by delivering solid instructions for achieving the goal and sharing them.

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

Built-in Contingencies

Creativity is necessary and an important part of business and personal work. However, flying by the seat of your pants when trying to achieve a big goal is not creative. It is also not professional or productive and will result 9 times out of 10 in failure. Having to come up with solutions on the spot makes you more likely to make mistakes and puts you and your team under unnecessary pressure. How can you handle even a small bump in the road if you haven’t so much as thought about what you might do if such a thing might happen? Rarely should you need to come up with impromptu solutions? Things should be well thought through with plans for possible disasters and contingencies should you need them. Having done this planning ahead of time will make you much more likely to make logical decisions should such an event happen and emotions run high. The plan that includes possible side tracks and roadblocks is going to enable you to reach your objective more efficiently and easily because you already know how to handle the issues that will inevitably come up.

Optimized To-Do List

To-do lists are sometimes scoffed at in today’s world of high tech productivity, however, without one of some sort things will fall by the wayside. You are not a superhero and you do not have a steel-trap memory. You will forget what you do not note down. We all do. If you don’t have a to-do list, chances are your day is spent drifting until you remember something important which needs to be done. Things not on the list are not given priority and will not get done. Not in a company, not in your life. Workers cannot be expected to read your mind and know what needs to be accomplished to keep the company moving forward. If you don’t put priority on it, and probably write it down, your fitness isn’t going to happen. You need a way to keep yourself focused, to remember all the little things that have to be completed and to prioritize where your time goes. A to-do list does this for you as part of a bigger plan to draw you toward your goal.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Plans are not the end all be all of productivity. But they are one of the most important parts. Workers will sit idle if they aren’t given a job. You will waste your life away if you don’t attempt to achieve something. Dreaming of an outcome is not the same as planning for one. Planning means facing what it will cost to get to where you want to be, looking at all the things that could go wrong, and realizing that work is involved. But plans are how progress is made. They are part of all major wins from football to battlefields to business for a reason. They work. Use them in your own life and in your business. Make sure you have a plan if you want to make progress.