Best Laid Plans…

Last few days I was not feeling well so was unable to do much work. So got into the self-reflection mode and analyzed the events, targets, goals and progress in the last 7 months.

The first thing that I did was pull out the notebook on which I had done a similar exercise a few months back. At that time, I was doing a causal analysis as to why I was not using my time efficiently and why my productivity was down. There were 3 pages full of notes—issues, goals, priorities, solutions and resolutions.

One of the main issues was that my writing assignments were not going as per schedule and there were several missed deadlines and commitments. My usual output is 4-5 books a year, but in 2006, I have completed only 2 books and another was about 60% completed. According to the plan that I had created in January, there were 7 books to be completed.

So I revised the plan so that I will complete 3 more books this year—the one that was 60% complete and two new books. My observations about my lack of productivity were:

  • Spending too much time doing nothing and watching too many movies
  • Spending too much time channel surfing on TV and web surfing
  • Has wasted more than 4 months—done only 2 months in the last 6 months
  • Too much time spent on reading novels
  • Not prioritizing things to do—am doing the easier and non-essential tasks and postponing the important and critical tasks

It was evident that I was not managing my time effectively and on productive tasks. After my analysis of 19th June, I had written down the following items in the to-do list:

  1. Write one post per fortnight for the blog
  2. Limit the time spend on blogging and blog related activities to 45- 60 minutes and schedule this task to act as work breaks.
  3. Write one review for Computing Reviews per month.
  4. Watch TV only when absolutely necessary.
  5. Write one technical article per month.
  6. Limit the number of novels read to two per month and read a few chapters at a time so that a novel lasts at least a week.
  7. Read the newsletters, magazines and other relevant stuff to stay informed and up-to-date both about current affairs and technological issues.
  8. Plan some activities like reading/reviewing/ researching when the power is down. Don’t waste time when there is a power failure.
  9. For books to be completed make chapter-wise schedule and communicate the schedule to the publisher so that there will be motivation and pressure to adhere to the schedule.

I also reorganized my working hours so as to meet the above objectives. A day was roughly organized as follows:

  • 9.00AM – 10.00AM – Checking mail, browse the web, read and comment about blog posts, and other miscellaneous activities.
  • 10.00AM – 1.30PM – Writing, reading and doing research.
  • 1.30PM – 3.00PM – Lunch, magazines, periodicals, etc.
  • 3.00PM – 6.30PM – Sleep
  • 6.30PM – 7.00PM – Tea and family prayer.
  • 7.00PM – 8.30PM – Checking mail, blog related activities, and other miscellaneous things.
  • 8.30PM – 9.00PM – Dinner
  • 9.00PM – 11.30PM – Writing, reading and doing research.
  • 11.30PM – 12.45AM – Checking mail, answering queries and other miscellaneous activities.
  • 12. 45AM – 5.00AM – Sleep
  • 5.00AM – 9.00AM – Morning rituals, breakfast and newspapers, etc.

[Sleep – 7 hours 45 minutes; Work – 9 hours 45 minutes; Food, Daily activities, entertainment and recreation – 6 hours 30 minutes]

I would have loved to reduce time spent on the last item and allocate the time saved for work but the physical limitations make it impossible; for example, it takes about 30-40 minutes to get up from the bed, get dressed, transfer to the wheelchair, put on the shoes and complete the dressing (and that too, with assistance).

I have done the following in the past 51 days:

  1. Written 4 posts for the blog (Target of 2 per month achieved)
  2. Limited the time spend on blogging and blog related activities, but not to 60 minutes. I am spending more time that that, but definitely have reduced the time, should target 60 minutes/day.
  3. Has written 2 reviews for Computing Reviews (Target of 1 per month achieved)
  4. Have not written even a single technical article
  5. Reduced TV viewing time but still there is scope for improvement.
  6. Read 6 novels—The Genesis Code (John Case), Map of Bones (James Rollins), Ice Hunt (James Rollins), Nimitz Class (Patrick Robinson), Crisis (Robin Cook) and Master of Life Skills (Vijay Nair).
  7. Read 5 non-fiction books—Communicating in Style (Yateendra Joshi), The Art of Indexing (Larry S. Bonura), Speeches That Changed the World (Simon Sebag Montefiore), The Road to Reality (Roger Penrose), and The Ten Faces of Innovation (Tom Kelly).
  8. Rescheduled the 60% completed book for next year.
  9. Completed the research for the first of the remaining two books, the completed manuscript to be submitted to the publisher by September end.
  10. Completed the outline for the second book, the completed manuscript to be given to the publisher by December end.

So, the reorganization is working but has not reached the full potential. Need more control on the number of novels read. Also have to find the time and motivation to write the technical articles/essays. Have to be more effective in reading the newsletters and magazines so as to stay current and up-to-date.

The next 50 days, is going to be really tough as writing a book requires more energy and concentration that other activities. Even though I have done my research well and have taken copious notes, referencing and cross referencing the material, it still is a tedious task.

So wish me good luck, I certainly need lots of it. But reading the blogs is a welcome break from the routine and hence I don’t think I will give up that.

I wrote this article on 9th and before I was able to post it, my system crashed. For the last two days, I have been working hard to restore it and update the files, programs, etc. from the backup. So much for planning!!!

41 Comments

  1. LALITHA Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 10:39 am

    Alex ..good wishes to you and I do hope you complete your book.You are such an organized person.You can actually account for all the time spent on various things. I cannot imagine going to bed at 12.45am and waking up at 5Am.you sleep little and you are an early bird. good luck and God Bless.

  2. chekku Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 11:33 am

    Good lucky Alex in ur planning schedules..
    Cant imagine putting myself in such a routine..bcoz I rarely follow a timeline..It doesnt work for me..Wish I had such orderliness..

    Walking up at 5.00 am..u kidding..eh!! ;)

  3. Anju Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 11:46 am

    What is uncanny about this post is that I had also made my scedule and my first resolutions are so similar to yours.

    “Write one post per seven days for the blog”

    Your second resolution I am already following i.e.

    “Limit the time spend on blogging and blog related activities to 45- 60 minutes and schedule this task to act as work breaks”

    I have realised that I am getting more done due to the sheduling and have cut out a lot of wasted time. I get to spend more time with the family and friends this way. I just loved this post…maybe because I have done a similar exercise but more than that, I love to be organised and hence this post was an gastronomic delight for that aspect in me !

  4. chacko Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

    wow… so u did a good evaluvation :) ….

    and am 100% sure i wont be able to do something like that…..

    ususally if i start something (ex: jogging every morning, reading a particular book for half an hour etc etc…) it wont last more than 3 -4 months….after that am back to the same routine :D

  5. nina Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 2:16 pm

    how on earth can somebody b so organised????!!!!!!!!!! that too by restricting the time for SLEEP??!!!!!!!111

  6. Pradip Somasundaran Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

    Wow! What an ideal schedule. me? Am getting too much into blogging. I realised this from your review…I should reduce the time spent on blogging…But am stuck now..Well think better leave the blogging out as I think it’s in one way adding up to my skills in writing blah…blah…Initially I did miss my valusble yoga and breathing sessions but then with the sinusitis have realised my folly. Yes…you are right. We have to be organised to be able to complete jobs in time. But still there would be such things as the system crash…”man proposes….and God…disposes”

  7. Suji Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 4:11 pm

    I was wondering why there was no post on ur blog for a long time. Now I know why. All the best to you for ur books and for sticking to the schedule. I am very bad at sticking to schedules. Wish I could be so organised and disciplined.

  8. James Bright Said,

    August 12, 2006 @ 10:12 pm

    It was very nice to see that targets and the analysis.
    I always wanted to organise myself, but after 12 hrs of work most of the days , I get very little time..! I wish I had an organised life..!
    I am very happy that you are going to write another book very soon.
    My best wishes are always with you my dear.
    God bless you.

  9. Sarah Said,

    August 13, 2006 @ 4:19 am

    If i could organize my life atleast 1/10th..life would have been easy….With three kids I am lost when it comes to time management.. I sleep when they roll off my body, I wake up when they roll on top of me and scream we want breakfast!!, I eat after they eat my head for breakfast.. Gosh, I envy your time management skills!

  10. Mind Curry Said,

    August 13, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

    wow al..i really respect you. i am such an idiot when it comes to organizing myself..and i am always the one to scramble in the last minute..probably i work only under pressure..

    but nice to see and read about someone so organized. i am sure you will meet all your deadlines and targets.

    and hey..try and add some more time spent on blogging :)

  11. Alexis Leon Said,

    August 13, 2006 @ 8:17 pm

    LALITHA: Thank you Lalitha.

    chekku: Thank you Mathew. I used to wake up at 4.45AM. But added another 15 minutes after reading a RD article about the problems due to lack of enough sleep.

    Anju: Great minds think alike :-) Yes, one can save a lot time if you organize and plan the activities. It has always worked for me. I always review my progress and often does this kind of causal analysis, as there is always scope for improvement.

    chacko: Thank you. If you periodically review the goals, then you will be able to keep doing it, rather than going back to the old routine.

    nina: I don’t need too much sleep and since my childhood I used get up very early. So getting up early is not a problem. And when I was doing my Engineering, I used to sleep very late. So staying late is also not a problem. I was very organized from my childhood onwards. So basically, it is what I learned during my childhood days.

    Pradip Somasundaran: Pradip, you do a lot of things in a day—teaching, singing, blogging and host of other activities. Only an organized person can do that.

    Suji: Thanks Suji.

    James Bright: James you are doing a very noble job and in your profession schedules do not have much meaning as a medical emergency can happen anytime and can upset all your schedules. So it is better to stay as it is ;-) God bless you too.

    Sarah: I sleep when they roll off my body, I wake up when they roll on top of me and scream we want breakfast!!, I eat after they eat my head for breakfast… That was really funny.

    Mind Curry: Hi bro, how are you? And thanks, I definitely have to meet the deadlines, otherwise my editor will be a very angry man. Spend more time on blogging. Look who is talking. Your current post is after a long break. The last one was dated June 24, 2004 :-)

  12. Paresh Said,

    August 14, 2006 @ 12:41 am

    Uff… I’d have take a rebirth to achieve this kind of planning efficiency. Hats off to you man. If I get at least 5% of this my life will be worth. [:D]

  13. Quills Said,

    August 14, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

    :) Nice and organized eh? Very good. I am not too suprised tho as a lot of Cancerians I know seems to be pretty adept at being very organized.

    I make lists too sometimes, but usually forget to follow it or worse still, forget where i have written it. sigh!! :( So mostly it is a mental list for me. :) But the only time I have religiously kept lists, is back when I was in college and exams were just around the corner, and when I am scrambling last minute to learn, I make a time schedule. :) It usually works..well kind of. :)

    Nice post as usual Alexis. After reading, I am so inspired, I think I might even make a “to do” list today.

  14. Gaurav Jain Said,

    August 15, 2006 @ 4:42 pm

    Hello Alex,

    First time visiting your blog.. found it interesting. You’re quite an accomplished person.

    Good luck with your time management, and with your books.

    Gaurav

  15. venus Said,

    August 16, 2006 @ 3:18 am

    That is quite an efficient schedule you have laid out! I should get some inspiration from you too and make an efficient use of my time. But on the days when i come back from work, and wait for conf calls, I just let myself do whatever i want to do (whatever I want to do == watch TV) :(

    There is a lot of room for an improvement, I was doing good earlier this year in not watching TV at all, but now, I’m back to the idiot box.

    Good luck for the schedule keeping!

    It’s good to see activity on my blog pals’ sites, though I do not post as regularly!

  16. Dewaker Basnet Said,

    August 16, 2006 @ 7:12 pm

    Hey Alexis,

    nice to come here after a long time :) resolutions made at the beginning of the year are a little difficult to keep but reviewing it and trying to work towards it is fantastic…lessons to learn and follow from it mate…u just inspired me to look into my resolutions:) thanks a ton….

  17. Sreejith Kumar Said,

    August 17, 2006 @ 11:45 am

    God! That was an amazing schedule. You have filled in the 24 hours completely and still want to do something more and find time for that. That is truly eagerness to improve more, I appreciate that. My life routine is very very different from this. Wake up at 8.15, sometimes at 8.30 in the morning (:D), morning chores in about 1 hour that includes ironing of clothes also! Skips breakfast most mornings (no time for it!), in office from 9.30 till 6, 6.30, 7 and sometimes till 8 or 9. Back in room by 9.30. Then some random reading, refering my favourite book ‘Dictionary’, nattering with fellow lodgers, phone calls till 11.00, sometimes 11.30. Sleep thereafter! Still, I do not have time for anything! LOL

    I would say you should not pursue a very tight and demanding schedule. You need to address your body than anything else. Mind refreshment is supreme. Perhaps you can reduce the novel reading considerably! Reading periodicals and blogs (random reading) would be better. Also, I would say, one should not fill in his entire day with activities. One should find time enough to address some immediate requirements. (like your system crash). If you are totally occupied, that will only help to increase the infliction.

  18. Alexis Leon Said,

    August 17, 2006 @ 12:51 pm

    Paresh: You are doing fine Paresh.

    Quills: Thank you Q. I have been very organized since childhood, so cannot change it now. If I don’t do anything productive, then I feel guilty :-) Since I used to study regularly and would finish my revisions during the study leave, I never used to study during the exams. I would read novels, go for movies and sleep early much to the frustration and anger to my hostel mates who usually reserved all the studying to the eve of the examination. It was fun :-)

    Gaurav: Welcome to my blog and thank you.

    venus: what ever I want to do==watch TV ROFL. Are you are C addict. The == sign :-) .

    Dewaker: How is Mumbai. Hope things are fine. All the best and thanks.

    Sreejith: It was nice to read your schedule. I can have a schedule like that. I will get frustrated and feel guilty and soon will go mad :-) But I have relaxation techniques built into these schedules like listening to music, 10 minutes of meditation for every hour of work, not doing any work on some days, etc. I also read magazines and blogs. But I have to read a few novels a month. It has been a practice that I have been following since my Engineering college days. Now I try to read it in a few days rather than in one sitting. Thanks for the advice. I will try to follow it but don’t know how far I will succeed :-)

  19. Dewaker Basnet Said,

    August 17, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

    hey alexis,
    have started my own tours and travels company..a small start :) focus on tourism towards the North Eastern part of the country..thats the most beautiful yet unexplored part of our country…yeah kerala wins hands down :) hope things go on fine…:)

  20. Alexis Leon Said,

    August 17, 2006 @ 7:32 pm

    Dewaker: Congratulations Dewaker. I wish you all the very best in your new venture. Yes, what you said is true, it is beautiful and yet unexplored part. Kerala is suffering from over exposure. Once again I wish you and your partners all success.

  21. Raj Said,

    August 18, 2006 @ 3:11 am

    Hi Alexis,

    first time on ur blog, wonderful read!

    intimidatingly real

    Raj

  22. Dhanush Said,

    August 18, 2006 @ 4:57 pm

    Wow. Thats a wonderful list. Wish I too could have one like that :)
    Nice see a post after a long time.

  23. neermathalam Said,

    August 18, 2006 @ 6:20 pm

    I have read somewhere,
    when you see someone doing something effortlessly,it just mean that they have put so much effort to reach that stage of
    effortlessnesss.
    I wish I prepare a list like this(very much possible..)
    i wish i could follow my list(too many ifs and buts..;)
    but u seem to be an actiholic and me belong to the other pole ;)

  24. venus Said,

    August 19, 2006 @ 10:58 pm

    naah, I don’t adore C, I am an OOP lover :)

  25. Alexis Leon Said,

    August 20, 2006 @ 9:48 am

    Raj: Welcome to my blog and thank you very much for your comments.

    Dhanush: Thanks buddy. Got the new bike?

    Neermathalam: Thanks R.

    Venus: Good. I know no C. OOP lover. That is the way to go :-)

  26. Kusum Rohra Said,

    August 20, 2006 @ 1:55 pm

    Wow, what a meticulous schedule you have. I somehow belive that everytime I make a schedule the forces of nature are up against me, so I try not to make one :D

    Its good to see you are achiveing some of the targets :D but isn’t just one post a fortnight a little unfair to your readers. Oh I mean to the readers of your blog.

  27. Masd Said,

    August 20, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

    My friend…it is one of the challenges of my life to be a better organized person. Your time management skills are remarkable.

  28. Dhanush Said,

    August 21, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

    Yes Sir. Will put up soemthing soon abt it. Bit busy these days.

  29. Quills Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 6:51 am

    Dear Alexis, you have been tagged sir! :)

  30. Anonymous Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 9:05 am

    u r a very busy man.
    :)
    good luck with the plans! they sound like corporate strategy to me! :-S
    revised plans!! :D hehe

  31. Jithu Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 11:18 am

    Man, such a hectic schedule!! Find some leisure time too tto.. :-) . Like watching TV, movies, hearing music etc. etc. I am no man to advice u, but :-)

  32. pophabhi Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 11:55 am

    Alexis -
    I was offline for somdays since setting up things at Kmsry took up some time. It was wonderful to read such a post. I have been feeling a bit guilty for somedays, since I am jobless and also not spending time creatively. I am in the process of bringing myself into a schedule, and when I am lacking that extra push to do it, In comes the blog from you. Now I am game, and am sure to make a decision on how to spend time for a day. Else, we lose days too quickly before we realise that we spent most of the life for nothing. :) Great post Alexis. The difference you make is that you make people think and use it in our lives.

  33. Kusum Rohra Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 12:23 pm

    Alex I just checked the tag quills has left for you, please please please tag me with it :D Oh I know I am the only person who forcibliy asks for being tagged. But main kya karun aisi hi hun main :P

  34. Alexis Leon Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 12:11 pm

    Kusum: Sometimes I too feel like that :-) I think a post a fortnight is the best I can do with my current assignments :-)

    Masd: Thank you.

    Dhanush: Congratulations… Waiting to see it.

    Quills: Thank you dear lady. I will try to do it as soon as possible.

    Anonymous: When one is working on one’s own, then it is very difficult to accomplish the tasks if one is not organized and have a plan.

    Jithu: The leisure activities are built into the schedule and that too very scientifically. My Industrial Engineering background and work on Ergonomic related projects has helped me in designing a schedule that is not tedious and monotonous. Thank you for the comment, you are always welcome. The only time when the schedule becomes very hectic during the final stages of the book and that usually takes its toll on my health.

    pophabhi: Hope things are fine. Wishing you all the best with your new career.

  35. Alexis Leon Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 1:45 pm

    Kusum: I am honored to tag you. In fact, I am tagging you right now :-)

  36. Kusum Rohra Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 2:46 pm

    Nahi nahi alex, itna cheating nahi karneka, you right the tag and then you can tag me :P

  37. Kusum Rohra Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 2:46 pm

    Oh sorry I mean you write the tag :)

  38. anu Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 4:48 pm

    hmmm u r rt..
    i too keep writing my goals and priorities..it may not work out fully.. but it helps in the long run..
    :) )

  39. Alexis Leon Said,

    August 22, 2006 @ 10:48 pm

    Kusum: Completed the tag and have tagged you. Your turn :-)

    Anu: Yes it helps. Even if we cannot complete all the tasks, the schedules and plans will give us an idea as to what we have acheived and where we need improvement.

  40. Mary-Lynn Said,

    September 1, 2006 @ 10:02 pm

    Alexis, I’m glad to see that CR is a beneficiary of your rescheduling!

  41. Alexis Leon Said,

    September 2, 2006 @ 9:38 am

    Mary-Lynn: Hi Mary. Welcome to my blog and thanks for the comment. Yes CR is one of the beneficiary for the rescheduling :-)

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