Are you tired of trying every new planning system on the market and still feeling over-scheduled, overcommitted, and overwhelmed? I don’t blame you because that’s my story, too. After reading this article, it won’t be a problem any longer.
This is the third and final article in a series about mindful planning using the Zen-Journal approach to planning and scheduling that actually eliminates all the negative aspects of scheduling and planning.
In the first article in this series I wrote about how most planning systems make the same mistake by ranking tasks according to urgency. In the second article I explained how making one simple change in the way you rank your tasks -using relevancy instead of urgency– you could experience a more mindful approach to your planning.
Eliminating the potential for over-scheduling and the feelings of overwhelm that it brings on has always been my goal in coaching others to greater productivity. In this article I’ll explain how the Zen-Journal planning systems helps you eliminate over-scheduling.
Zen-Journal takes advantage of your digital technology
The Zen-Journal planning system relies on our ever-present digital devices for tracking appointments, setting up reminders, and keeping our contacts current. It’s one of the only analog planning systems that openly incorporates the smartphone or tablet (depending on what you use most) in it’s practice.
It’s my personal conviction that most people who use analog planners incorporate their digital devices anyway whether or not they admit. Taking advantage of the capabilities of the digital devices that power our lives makes sense. For this reason I deliberately tell my students to track appointments using their digital devices.
That’s why there is no monthly or weekly spread in Zen-Journal. Other analog systems contain calendar spreads: Bullet Journal suggests monthly spreads with a row for each day; Striketh.ru has a full-on grid.
In my experience these types of calendars don’t provide enough room for a multi-event day, and by using them they encourage an urgency-based ranking of tasks. Neither has ever worked for me.
Zen-Journal ranks your tasks using relevancy
In the previous article I mentioned briefly how Zen-Journal relies on relevancy for order tasks.
Task relevancy is a key term in the Zen-Journal system as it’s meant to include only those tasks that are most relevant to your life on any given day.
When tasks lose their relevance, they are eliminated from further attention. This results in only the most relevant tasks being assigned to a specific date.
Task relevancy is a subtle shift that once understood changes the way you see your schedule. When you break from the traditional method of scheduling into a calendar and instead begin listing tasks in your Quarterly Look-Ahead (QLA) by month your schedule will naturally feel less scheduled and more focused on task completion.
Another way to look at this is what I think of as your scheduling target. Think of this target as a dartboard and your tasks as darts.
Most people, by default, designate their calendar as their scheduling target. The Zen-Journal system uses the Discipline Task Lists to generate relevant tasks to populate the QLA which is a more functional scheduling target.
When a task is entered on a Discipline Task List (a group of tasks that fall under individual categories, pictured below), it’s given a reference tag. That reference tag is entered on the appropriate month in the QLA – but the difference here is that it’s not assigned to a specific date.
Instead of assigning the task to a specific date that isn’t relevant yet, the task is a listed on the QLA under the appropriate month with a suggested deadline on the right. Each day when a Day-At-A-Time Work Area is created, tasks that are relevant for that day are then listed as a Most Important Tasks. This is the only place where importance is a useful ranking.
You’ll notice in the photo of the QLA above, I’ve listed tasks generically (Ins. Claims, Car Titles) instead of detailing each one. That’s because some tasks that need to be completed in a given month have many moving parts. If I was using a traditional calendar as my scheduling target, I’d not have any room to list these individually.
This is another strength is using the QLA and grouping tasks generically instead of using a calendar and attempting to schedule each tasks individually.
Zen-Journal’s ‘Relevancy Filter’ helps prevent over-scheduling
The Relevancy Filter is an idea whereby your tasks, events, deadlines, commitments, wants, goals, wishes, etc. all are pressed through filter. What remains after careful and mindful consideration, are what is scheduled into your QLA and daily on your Day-At-A-Time Work Area (DAATWA).
How to use the relevancy filter
Method 1: Mindful Reviews
The relevancy filter can be used to combat over-scheduling yourself and feeling overwhelmed and overcommitted. In the Zen-Journal Sutra, the set-up guide that I give away free when you subscribe, I write about using twice daily mindful reviews.
I suggest conducting these reviews once in the evening after your workday is complete and once the following morning. I also recommend a midday review to allow for adjustments to your daily plan as event unfold and your day evolves.
These mindful reviews act as ongoing relevancy filters and, when carried out as instructed, they allow you to view the current day, assess your progress on the tasks undertaken thus far, plan for adjustments and, if needed, rescheduling of tasks to another date.
This results in only working on tasks that are relevant for the present day. When you complete a task, you place a single line through the task on the both the DTL and QLA while circling the bullet on your Day-At-A-Time Work Area.
If you need to reschedule, place an right-facing side arrow > next to the task on the current Day-At-A-Time Work Area and note the date you’ve rescheduled it for. Place the same arrow next to the task when the appropriate Day-At-A-Time Work Area is the current day.
Method 2: As Yourself the ‘Clarifying Question’
In the book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan the authors came up with what they call the clarifying question. By asking this question repeatedly, Zen-Journal users can remain mindful and aware of what makes it through the Relevancy Filter.
The clarifying question: What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it will eliminate or make everything else easier?
This is a very complex question that gets to the heart of our scheduling issues. It asks us to continually drill down and discover the ‘first domino’ that would be sufficient to make all remaining ones fall.
By asking this question and evaluating answers, you will arrive at what is the most appropriate and most relevant course of action, tasks, item to complete next. It’s a powerful question to incorporate into your Mindful reviews as mentioned above.
In my experience the clarifying question can reveal that the tasks I’ve thought were relevant to work on actually weren’t. The ONE Thing concept forces me to evaluate each task to see if it’s really the best option at the current moment.
Read these related articles, too:
- Why Most Planning Systems Get It Wrong When Prioritizing Tasks
- The One Change You Can Make in Your Planning That Will Change Everything
Want to learn more about using Zen-Journal and plan mindfully without become over-scheduled?