“A plan is what, a schedule is when. It takes both a plan and a schedule to get things done” – Peter Turla
There’s a big difference between planning and scheduling. It’s not effective to do one without the other. A plan without a schedule isn’t specific enough. Whereas, a schedule without a plan is too detailed and short-term focused. Scheduling when you intend to take action doesn’t replace the need for planning. Instead, it increases it.
Not having an effective plan is a fundamental mistake often made by workers who don’t make sufficient progress on their targets. While they might consistently schedule each week the specific tasks they’ll action and the meetings they’ll attend, it’s likely the schedule will be quite fluid reacting to urgent demands. This results in being busy but somewhat ineffective due to no elevating thoughts to what will have the greatest impact to achieve the big picture goals.
A better way is to have a simple planning process each week that provides a more strategic view and provides the opportunity to reconcile:
- What are the most important activities I need to do to be successful in my role?
- How am I tracking against my KPI’s and key result areas?
- What strategic initiatives need to be actioned?
- How many hours do I have available (capacity minus existing commitments in the schedule) and how can I make the greatest impact with this time?
Having a schedule is definitely better than no schedule at all. However, an integrated planning process is paramount because it brings it all together when it drives the focus of the schedule.
I’ve seen the flow on effects on not planning well recently in my coaching engagements. A number of managers were essentially scheduling their weeks without integrating it into a planning process. The impact was they never had the time or energy to devote to the strategic aspects of their role because they were simply reacting to demands. In turn, they felt the pressure of having too much to do and not enough time.
Once they added a planning process they became more intentional in driving strategic outcomes and reported an increase of 52% more time to work on their key responsibilities and key projects. While the ROI was significant, importantly it was achieved without working longer hours because they dramatically reduced the time they were getting distracted by the low important urgent items. That’s the difference when keeping a line of sight on the big picture and prioritising based on importance instead of urgency.
How effective are you? To maximise the impact you make, review and finetune how you plan and schedule.