Getting to Thinking and Doing... Quickly
Imagine waking up each morning and knowing that the small steps laid out in front of you led into a bigger plan that builds the type of meaningful life you want to live. All you have to do is show up, work your list, and follow the prompts.
That’s exactly what the Momentum Planner is designed to help you do. It's designed to help you think and plan at the right perspective and level of detail.
If you’ve been using our planner for a while, you’ve got a big leg up here. You already know how to use them and what they’re about.
If this is your first foray into the world of Momentum planning, then I want to start by saying “Welcome!” and then let you know up front that you may be a bit disoriented at first. If planners are your thing, you’ve been using planners designed for people who work differently than you do, and I’ve designed these from the ground up based on the actual work habits of creative people.
That said, play with the ideas for a bit. Over the years, I’ve received a lot of great feedback saying that the planner has dramatically changed people’s work habits – and for creative people, changing your work habits can quite literally change your life.
The Three (Free & Digital) Momentum Planners
The three Digital Momentum Planners that are free to use are the Monthly Momentum Planner, the Weekly Momentum Planner, and the Daily Momentum Planner. You can check them out on Free Planners and Productivity Worksheets.
Each of these planners has a video walk-through available, too. Click the following links to get a mini-tutorial for each:
We recommend starting with the Monthly Momentum Planner since the monthly view is just big enough to give your weeks and days coherence, but not so big that it's in the fog of the future.
Six Ways to Make the Planner Work For You
Our planner is based on a few principles that may simultaneously support and frustrate you:
- The best way to get Big Goals done is to break them into smaller, doable parts.
- We need different levels of detail at different altitudes of perspective.
- Constraints help us focus on the things that really matter because they account for the fact that our reach always exceeds our grasp.
- Keep this planner within reach throughout the day so you can stay present with the plans you’ve made.
- Write in pencil so that when reality changes, you can change your plans easily.
- Start action items with verbs.
You can read more about these essential skills here.
Learning to Shift Perspectives: Go Up for Context, Down for Clarity
Most of our planning woes arise because we’re thinking at the wrong level of detail and perspective (or we aren't practicing the right skills). Throughout these planners, I’ve used a few key ideas to represent different levels of detail and perspective. Examples are helpful here, so let’s dive right in.
In the world of PF, a project is anything that takes time, energy, or attention to complete. Yes, when you think about it, that's a lot of projects.
Where people get tripped up is that projects come in different sizes and it's hard to figure out how to think about them all together.
We've found that the easiest way to do this is to use the time-perspective for grouping. We all know roughly what a year-sized, quarter-sized, month-sized, and week-sized project feels like. And we know that year-sized projects contain segments that can be clumped into quarter-sized projects, quarter-sized projects contain segments that can be clumped into month-sized projects, and so on.
Rather than coming up with other words -- yes, we've tried -- it's easiest to just let the time perspective do the work for us. (If you've been around awhile, you know that we used to call Month-sized and larger projects 'objectives', but that was actually harder for most people to understand so we simplified things.)
Tasks are what actually require action; they’re the one-action activities (i.e., calling a friend, sending a quick email). Tasks happen at discrete points in time throughout the day – they’re what we tie together to complete projects.
What’s NOT important at the higher levels of planning is fleshing out projects and tasks into further detail; honestly, very little is likely to be gained by doing so. Also, you aren’t required to call them the same thing I do.
What IS important is that we all intuitively understand the difference between the three levels of perspective and detail within objectives, projects, and tasks.
Here are the general ideas to keep in mind:
- When you’re thinking about how you want your year to look, it’s best to think about year- and quarter-sized projects quarter-sized projects. Try not to focus too much on the details of a project or a week.
- When you’re thinking about the quarter, you’re still thinking about this quarter's projects and you’re starting to bridge the gap between the goal and month-sized projects by including milestones (mini‐checkpoints you can use to gauge your progress). Quarterly milestones help you visualize what accomplishing those quarter-sized projects will look like.
- When you’re thinking about the month, you’re trying to determine how you’re going to accomplish those milestones. You’re translating those milestones into week-sized projects.
- The weekly level is where you’re trying to figure out when you’re doing those projects and how you’re going to structure your days.
- The daily level of perspective is all about action with your tasks.
The Planner Provides the Prompts That'll Keep You Productive
One problem that many of us have is that we’re not integrating our actions with our intentions – we get a lot of things done, but it doesn’t seem like we’re getting ahead. Another problem is that we often forget to think at a higher level of perspective.
The Momentum Planner will help you with both of these problems. Every week, your weekly planner will prompt you to think about your objectives. Every month, your monthly planner will prompt an appropriate pause for reflection and reassessment. At the start of each quarter, you’ll be prompted to think strategically.
How the planner might benefit you the most, though, is through their versatility. If you’re really good at completing tasks but not great at the higher-level stuff, the planner will help you maintain focus on the future that you’re trying to build. Conversely, if you’re really good at the higher-level stuff but have a hard time breaking down those Big Ideas, the planner will help you think about what it looks like to make those ideas real.
What to Do When Parts of the Momentum Planner Stop Working for You
This planner is designed to fit a lot of people, but at a certain point, you may start to see that parts of them aren’t working for you. This is a good thing – it means you’re learning more about what you need to be your most productive self.
Many people have no idea how they work, so their productivity is largely a crap shoot. Some days they’re good, other days they’re not.
Once you start seeing trends in your productivity, you can keep doing what works and tweak what doesn’t. We’re each different, though, so your task is to figure out what works for you, not what works for other people. (Unless you’re a productivity guru, that is.)
If you notice that you’re over-planning, stop. Do as much planning as you need to, and then get down to action.
If you notice that you don’t need to schedule exactly when you’ll be working on something, don’t. Just make sure you give yourself enough time to do it.
Don’t have any deadlines? Don’t worry about that box. Or use it for your own purposes.
These planners are a distillation of general principles and observations about how effective creative people work. At the end of the day, do what works.
Constraints: Maddening at First, Helpful Later
Many people get overwhelmed by the fact that they can have only five projects. There’s no way they can get everything they need to get done with so few spots.
When’s the last time you accomplished more than five meaningful projects in one day? When’s the last time you accomplished more than five Big Goals in a month? (If you have, can I have some of whatever you’ve got?)
Effective people consistently manage to do between three and five meaningful projects at a time-horizon. (That is, 3-5 month-sized projects, 3-5 quarter-sized projects, and so on.)
Let me flip this on you: imagine that you were able to accomplish three meaningful projects every weekday. (I’m giving you the weekend off... aren’t I nice?) That’s 15 projects per week, or 60 projects per month.
Let’s contextualize this a bit. Imagine:
- Writing 15 really good posts or articles or marketing plans
- Coding 15 critical functions in your program
- Designing 15 websites, banners, or layouts
- Landing 15 clients
- Painting or drawing 15 pieces
- Completing 15 requests from clients
Now imagine that you were able to do this week in and week out and that you were tying these accomplishments into a broader plan. That’s some serious momentum, no?
The constraints on these planners are just a reflection of reality. We are finite beings, bound in space and time. We’re both blessed and cursed that our ability to imagine possibilities is unlimited; we’re blessed because that’s what makes life so rich, but cursed because we all too often forget that our ability to act on all of our ideas doesn’t match our ability to generate them.
You can rebel against the world and its constraints, or you can do the best with what you’ve got. If these planners help you do the latter, my work here is done.
Looking for an app instead?
Starting in 2022, our new app, Momentum, helps you get your goals, projects, and schedule all in one place. It works on your phone and computer – no app install required and no more missing with PDFs.
Momentum is built from the ground up to help you use the Momentum Planning Method. Click here to join the over 500 customers who are already focusing on what matters most using Momentum.