In this week’s Confessions of a Poker Writer series Lee Davy describes his 12-Week Planning process in the hope that it will inspire others to do the same.
It’s that time of year again. Street corner apothecaries are raking it in thanks to the increased stress levels of parents trying to find a single present for less than £100. That incredibly annoying Slade song is repeating on the radio, and people have started planning to take over their slice of the world in 2016.
I think annual goals are a waste of time, probably because I never achieve any of them. This, coming from a man who has, in Sorel Mizzi and Bryn Kenney’s words, ‘quit life.’
I am trying something different in 2016. I pay £80 per month to be a member of an entrepreneurial group called The 1% Club. The club’s philosophy is to work in 12-Week batches and to concentrate on the One Next Action (ONA).
A few days ago my wife and I started this process. I would like to share it with you before you commit commercial suicide and start Post-It Noting your way through a 2016 goals chain that will inevitably break.
The first part of my process was to focus on four critical areas of life.
What business goals do I want to set for the next three months?
What training courses, books or coaching do I need to undertake in the next three months to increase the likelihood that I will achieve my goals.
Do I want to learn a new language, learn a musical instrument or win the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA) Main Event?
What time am I going to carve out for recreational activities? What am I going to do and where am I going to go? This was the one area that we both took a 12-month view (regarding cash needed) and broke down the actions into 12-week plans.
Liza and I sat down and brainstormed these critical areas, and then narrowed our focus to goals we felt we could attain by the end of March.
We ended up with four huge sheets of paper full of scribbles.
The next stage of the process was to take each goal and mind map. I have mind mapping software on my computer, but I much prefer to mind map on paper. Incidentally, I have started doing this for each book that I read, and I am finding my learning is increasing tenfold.
After this process, I ended up with six different pages full of mind maps. Each primary goal was broken down into bite-sized chunks.
Chunking it Down
Next I transferred each action onto a Google Sheet and ranked it as Low, Medium or High. I also shared the Google Sheet with three people; two that work for me, and Liza.
My next action was to have a good look at how I spend my time. I learned through the 1% Club that it makes sense to block our portions of time for specific activities. I also know through my work with habit and addiction, that it helps when your time is more structured. When you are doing the same things, at the same time, each day, then you have fewer stresses.
I am learning the hard way that a good eight hours sleep is one of the easiest things you can do to prolong your life expectancy. The easiest way for me to manage this is to ensure I go to sleep at midnight and wake at 8 am each day.
I reserved time to meditate, EFT, journal, drink my morning concoction of warm lemon water with turmeric and cinnamon and go to the gym.
100% of my income currently comes through my poker writing. I made sure that I reserved sufficient time to research and write my articles.
Although I enjoy writing about poker, it’s not something that aligns with my meaning and purpose. I want to reduce suffering in the world by helping people find freedom and happiness. I made sure that I reserved time each day to do this work.
Reading is one of the most important areas of learning in my life. It’s the fastest way to gain access to the minds of the world’s greatest mentors. In the past year, I have also learned of the importance of reading fiction as well as non-fiction. I carved time out to read every day. I also ensure there is a methodology to what I read and when I read it. Everything has to serve a purpose.
After identifying what training courses and coaching that I wanted to pay for during the next three months, I had to plan when I was going to participate in the learning process. I have lost count of the number of courses I have bought and never finished, and it’s because of poor planning.
What is life without a connection?
I make sure there is enough time for my wife, son, and community.
I do what the hell I like on Friday’s and Saturday’s.
The One Next Action
After cordoning off each block in my Google Calendar, it’s time to fill each block with action. I go through my Google Sheet and choosing my actions in an order of highest priority, and in a logical order of flow, I place each action into space on a daily basis.
Once I have completed this action, I may be left with some empty blocks of time. If this is the case, this becomes buffer time for any emergencies that may crop up.
I am also a member of an e-mail reminder service called AskMeEvery, and it sends me daily emails asking me if I have completed my action as planned. After answering the service, I then go into the 1% Club and tell the rest of the group how I performed during the day, and to ask for advice if I feel I need it.
Early Learning Feedback
When you take this approach, you realize how little time you have in your life when you are working on the things that matter. There is no time to watch television or mess about on Facebook if you want to get your primary actions completed.
Some people have told me that this process is too inflexible. I couldn’t disagree more. By creating this structured approach, it enables me to be successful and, therefore, carve out more free time. I can also change my structure whenever I want because it’s my structure. I don’t have an employer who tells me what to do.
Brian Tracy wrote an excellent little book called 21 Ways to Eat a Frog. In it, he uses the metaphor of the frog to replace the one thing you don’t want to do. He believes this should come first in the day. Once you have eaten your frog, then everything else is more palatable. I agree. I always plan the most difficult tasks first. This is also the time when you have more energy. It wanes by the end of the night, so it’s important to have tasks that inspire you or make you happy during these times.
By working in 12-week segments, you can see the end, and it inspires you to get moving. An annual goal allows too much flexibility for the procrastinators. By planning this meticulously and crossing the actions from the list, you create a real buzz each day. There is a sense of meaning when you wake up because you know what your challenges are.
You are prepared.
In the words of Steven Pressfield:
“You have turned pro.”