I used to envy people who lived a planned life every day. How else do we ensure that random urgent-looking work does not totally displace our long-term priorities?
However, whenever I tried to plan my day, I failed miserably. Tasks often took longer than expected, and unforeseen things would come up, derailing the plan. I assumed that I either lacked the discipline or was doing something wrong.
I now realize why I failed: A fixed plan just does not work. Period.
We are terrible at estimating the time a task will take. Further, life is too uncertain - how do you say no if your boss wants something urgently done?
Instead, a much better approach is to block chunks of time for different types of tasks.
Reactive, low value work (emails etc.)
Work requiring longer blocks of time (e.g., making a presentation)
Real long-term priorities
As the day unfolds and unexpected things happen, keep changing the above time-blocks without feeling guilty.
Which means, at any point, we have a plan even though it is NOT the plan we made yesterday evening. This ensures that we are not just busy, but actually prioritize the things that matter.
And was that not the ultimate goal of planning?
Give it a shot and do share your feedback.