| July 19, 2022
My plan for today lasted almost halfway through the morning.
I sat down at my desk just before 8 a.m., pulled up my task list, and started my daily planning and prioritization process. By 8:05 a.m., I had everything in place. If you’d asked me what I planned to do at any particular time of the day, I could have told you.
From 8:05 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., I answered emails, then had three coaching calls, half an hour each. After that, I’d planned another half hour to get coffee, return a few phone calls and deal with anything that came in while I was on my coaching calls. After that, I planned to sit down and write this, budgeting an hour and a half for the task. But it’s now after 4 p.m., and I’m just sitting down to start writing.
What happened to the plan?
No Plan Survives
There’s a maxim in the military: “No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” The practical application of that is simply that you plan based on what you know now, and change your plan based on what you learn later.
Here’s the first key point for today: If your priorities change, your plan must change.
So let’s talk about my priorities as of 8:05 a.m. The three coaching calls were at the top of my priority list. Why? Because they represent a delivery commitment on my part. Coaching is one of my products. It’s exactly the same situation as when you promise to deliver a print order by a certain time.
But wait, there’s often wiggle room in your delivery commitments, right? Yes, you committed to today, but you might still be OK tomorrow. The same is true with my coaching calls, and there have been times when I’ve asked a client if we could bump our call to accommodate my schedule. But — and here’s the second key point for today — any time you ask for more time, that has potential to stress a relationship. It is not a step to be taken lightly.
So what happened between 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to change my plan for the rest of the day?
First, let me tell you what happened that didn’t alter my plan. I received four phone calls and 22 emails during those two hours. I didn’t answer any of the calls. (Three were robocalls anyway.) The emails were a similar ratio of junk to quality. During my catch-up block, from 10-10:30 a.m., I deleted 15 emails, answered three (one of which became a back-and-forth exchange) and set four aside for later.
I also returned the non-robo phone call, which turned into the most significant alteration of my plan. It concerned a proposal I’d written several months ago, and had later been told they were going in a different direction. As of today, they still liked that direction, but had decided against the consultant they originally chose. They asked if I could provide that scope of work and would I write up a new proposal for their consideration — by the end of the day.
Let’s go back to the four emails I set aside for later. They were things I needed to address, but not now. In other words, interruptions. The consulting proposal, on the other hand, felt like an opportunity. So I deviated from my original plan and got it done.
Did I win the job? Don’t know yet. Did I use my time wisely? I think so.
Bottom line, I put my time into an opportunity rather than into interruptions. That leads to the third key point for today: Know the difference!
Dave Fellman is the president of David Fellman & Associates, Raleigh, NC, a sales and marketing consulting firm serving numerous segments of the graphic arts industry. Contact Dave by phone at 919-606-9714, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit his website at www.davefellman.com.