As we got our coffee and sat down, the conversation continued.

“I am just swamped though, and the work just seems endless. I don’t know if I can keep this pace. I just imagine this wave of work overtaking me.”

My friend tried to comfort me by adding, “You know you will work through it. You always do.”

Plan the Work, Work the PlanAs we continued our spiraling conversation about the continuing loads of work, someone walked over and dropped a napkin on our table. She just said, “I couldn’t help overhearing parts of your conversation, and this simple principle has always helped me and my team through the challenging work times – Plan the work, and work the plan.”

My immediate reaction was, “Well, of course, but it sounds way too simple for my situation!”

She just matter-of-factly said, “If you really are planning the work, then you will see how things connect together to realize a specific, defined objective. If all the activities are disconnected, then you really don’t have a direction, which is another issue.”

“Once you have a plan, then you work it, meaning you do the work, learn as you go, and make adjustments as activities are completed and new insights gained.”

I just looked at her with a slight smirk on my face. “This just seems too simple.”

She just chuckled. “Of course! Too often, we make things more difficult than they need to be. Many times, the simple principles are what keep us on the right path, heading in the right direction. Just do this, when you head back to your office, take this simple approach – plan your work, work your plan – and organize your efforts around it. See what you discover, and keep using this for the next month and write down what you learned from it.”

I said that I would try and thanked her for the advice.

As she walked away, I returned to my friend and said “What did you think of that!”

He just smiled and said, “Well, it makes sense to me, so why not try it?”

As we left the coffee shop, I shoved the napkin in my pocket and went to work.

The story could continue from here, as we each have our own to tell. Sometimes we ignore the simple principles that deliver big results. Here is the crux of plan your work, work your plan.

Plan Your Work

  • Document all the activities you need to do
  • Organize the activities into common groups
  • Answer a key question:  What objectives do these activities align with? If there is no consistency in how all the various activities come together, then re-evaluate why you are involved in them.
  • Focus on the activities that are tied to a plan objective. If no objective is defined, it is time to develop a direction or, in other words, develop a real plan.

A hodge-podge of activities does not make for a productive day, week, or month. There needs to be some purpose behind the work to be done, so it is essential to develop a plan in which to organize the work. This simple step connects activities to meaning and purpose for your organization and your daily work.

Work Your Plan

  • Identify people and other resources needed to get the work done
  • Collaborate with the right people to get the right things done
  • Adjust your work as new information is gained – adapt as needed
  • Set the milestones to keep the work moving forward
  • Celebrate the milestones that you and others will recognize as being important to have achieved

Plans are not static; they adapt to changes that occur. As work is done, more information is gained, which means more insights. From this, we see a clearer picture of what reality really looks like, and we need to make the necessary adjustments to the plan and the activities. It is about making your moves and then seeing the corresponding counter-moves before taking the next step forward.

We all have our work stories, and we need to continue to develop our storyline into something that works for us, our initiatives, and our organization. We need to listen to the characters that enter our story while ensuring we are involving the right characters as our planned plot unfolds.

We need to plan our work, and work our plan!

Jon Mertz
Jon is a vice president of marketing in the healthcare software industry. His background consists of an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and working for companies like Deloitte, IBM, and BMC Software. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders. Connect with Jon on Twitter @ThinDifference or on Facebook.
Jon Mertz

@ThinDifference

With a thin difference between two generations, a vast opportunity exists to create a big leadership story. Close the gap & enable Millennial leaders to excel.
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