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I had a main list with the main projects and tasks, organized according with priority, importance and other factors. I would like to be able to plan a whole month of work in advance, so when the day starts, it is clear to me what I have to do. But currently, I am only able to plan my workday, and I think it is a waste of time since each day I allocate a lot of time to this and I feel I could do it once per month.

Are you able to plan a month of work in advance and in which detail?

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How detailed can you plan your day? Do you know exactly how long a task will take you? Can you forsee emergencies? Will you be sick? How many hours are you prepared to work to fix your schedule if the unexpected happens? –  Demian Kasier Apr 6 '12 at 13:53
    
I would like to work in three/four projects per day, apart from the daily unavoidable tasks (email, meetings, phone). I can not foresee all the emergencies. My current workday comprises 9 hours, if something unexpected happens I would work one or two hours more, but that is all. –  flow Apr 6 '12 at 16:44

5 Answers 5

up vote 4 down vote accepted
+50

First let me say that I admire you - I wish I was that disciplined every single day. Here are some ideas that might help you get started with your planning a month:

  • Divide your plan into percentages based on priority. For example, if your job is working on building software - maybe 70% of your time will be working on the software project (you can break this up further), 20% keeping abreast of current trends and learning new technology, and 10% building your network (which can also mean socializing with your coworkers, or attending meetups, etc). If you segment your time this way, based on your work priorities, then you can be sure that your daily (or perhaps weekly granularity might make more sense) is distributed with the order of importance. If you notice one of your priorities being neglected then you can adjust your plans accordingly.
  • Set goals at the start of the month. By establishing your meta goals for the month - like write 4 blog posts, or finish project X - then break them down into chunks that are spread throughout the month. By setting yourself up intermediate milestones, it can help ensure you make progress and evenly distribute the work across the month. And as the other readers said above, I would strive to add some buffer since things will come up.
  • Block out time on your calendar. By breaking up your longer term work items into scheduled chunks, and scheduling recurring items as calendar appointments, you can be sure that all the things you need to do have a specified time. If you are disciplined and able to complete them at the scheduled hour, then it can be a great way to ensure you are time boxing things that may be less important. This doesn't work for everyone though - since I know for myself, that I have to be in the mood or have the right flow to complete certain tasks.
  • Pay attention and be ready to make changes. Even if you do plan a month and are able to stick to the plan, make sure that you adapt when needed. Often times things change - you find out more about the customers, the market, the problem, the technology - and being able to adapt to those changes to vital to seeing your maximum success. So even if you do come up with a good plan, pay attention to the world and be ready to assess if it is time to make a change to your goals.

Hopefully this helps! It was fun writing an answer because it got me thinking of all the things I need to do to plan my month!

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thanks a lot, I agree with all your points! –  flow Apr 4 '12 at 7:13
    
Ok, I think yours was the best answer, thanks –  flow Apr 11 '12 at 9:10

Being able to plan an entire month (without having to completely redo it every few days) would require a level of workday predictability that few are able to achieve. One sick day, project emergency, or even just an unscheduled meeting and the whole thing is shot.

You can do a high-level review and pick some areas of focus. As part of my weekly review, I look ahead a few weeks on my calendar, to see what my schedule looks likes; consider any deadlines I have upcoming; review what's currently on my plate; and verify with my supervisor that my priorities haven't changed. Then the projects with the closest deadlines and/or highest priorities go at the top of the list of things to plan for on a day-to-day basis.

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This is nearly exactly how Im trying to plan my work for a few weeks and has been working good so far. So your answer is like the one I was about to give, just clearer and better formulated. +1 :) –  Morothar Apr 3 '12 at 10:11

I think trying to plan an entire month on a fine-grained day-by-day level of detail would be both an enormous amount of work and largely useless due to unpredictable changes.

I'm lucky to have a pretty flexible job, so my monthly plan basically consists of:
- a few inflexible events on my calendar every week (mostly meetings and such, some of which require a few hours' or occasionally a few days' preparation)
- a list of tasks ordered by urgency, with an estimate of how long they should take (a few days, a week, 2-3 weeks, etc)

So every day I deal with the inflexible events as they show up, and spend most of my time going down the list of tasks in priority order (of course, the priorities may change or something else may get added). If I have multiple tasks with about the same priority, which happens often, I work on whatever I feel like that day, and try not to context-switch too often.

If a task goes significantly over its duration estimate, then I need to think if it's a good idea to keep going - usually I try to get to some sensible stopping-point that qualifies as having gotten something done on the issue, and postpone it in favor of hopefully quicker things (or not, if it's much more urgent than everything else), and wait for a chance to discuss it with my boss.

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the thing is, I have the feeling, if I do not see deadlines for everything and have a kind of "free" schedule like yours, I will forget that this and that needs to be done and I lose finally the feeling of progress –  flow Apr 4 '12 at 7:15
    
How would you forget that things need to be done if you have them all written up as a list? Same with the feeling of progress - as long as you're getting things done (and can cross them off a list! ;)), you should have it, unless no deadlines would make you not get things done, in which case that's a problem. –  weronika Apr 4 '12 at 8:51
    
the problem is, for me, to have the feeling that I am doing the right things at the moment (the most urgent and the most important, for instance, according to Eisenhower). My problem is that if I plan my day everyday in the morning, I lose the big picture –  flow Apr 4 '12 at 12:41

Personally I like calendars! Schedule an activity over an interval and work towards completing it, if it is completed great. If not, then move on and if you ever find time when you have an open space due to a cancellation or finishing something else early, resume work on it.

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Planning a month in advance seems like a pretty lofty goal. Let us know if you succeed!

Instead of going to possible extremes, why not start planning a whole week in advance, see how it goes, then try planning two weeks in advance and test it. Keep planning for more and more days in advance until you get to a breaking point. Then you'll know how much you can plan in advance.

In our office we plan a week in advance but even that is definitely not exact.

G'luck!

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