Masha Reko - Apprenticeship Blog

What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing. (Aristotle)

Day 26: Plans are Nothing, Planning is Everything

I always say that University teaches you three important things (and everything else comes as a result of those), namely:

  1. how to study
  2. how to Google
  3. how to organize

Everyone studies differently, and what works for me would probably not work for someone else, and vice versa. So I won’t spend much time explaining that today. Googling stuff is an incredibly important skill, especially for software engineers (we all know that our life would be a thousand times harder without it). But again, that’s not something one could teach; it just comes naturally, with experience.

But what I can shine some light on, and possibly give an advice or two - is how to plan and organize yourself.

What I like about this apprenticeship (among other things) is how much freedom I have to organize my time in whatever way I find it best. Freedom is awesome, but if you’re not careful, it can quite easily lead to complete and utter chaos. So I needed a method that will keep me on track at all times.

For this purpose, I use a Trello board, where you create tasks and put them in different categories, such as: To Do, Doing and Done. Simple as that. I try to make the tasks smaller; say if I’m reading a book, I make 1 chapter = 1 task. Or if I’m doing katas, I make 5 katas = 1 task. And so on.

Then I label the tasks with different colors. For this apprenticeship, I use six colors for each of the six categories. That way I can just glance at the board and instantly see where I’m standing, without having to actually read any of the tasks. We humans are visual beings, so never underestimate the power of colors.

For daily plans, I created another task category, which is (unsurprisingly) To Do Today. Every day before I go home, I put a couple of tasks in that category, so that tomorrow morning I have the entire plan laid out for me. Usually I do 3 or 4 tasks per day, depending on their size.

And of course, every Monday (like today), I add new tasks to the To Do board. It’s one of my favorite parts of the week. I think that organizing yourself on a regular basis actually helps in reducing the stress; once you see that you need to do _insert_any_numberhere things, once you can actually count them, it all becomes easier. The goal becomes attainable. And as that number decreases, you feel more confident and more fulfilled. There is no greater feeling than crossing of a thing from your checklist, throwing away a post-it note, or moving a task to the Done category.

With that said, you should know that planning is nothing without discipline. That shiny colorful Trello board looks nice and all, but it is completely useless if you don’t use it for which it is intended for. Of course, there are days when you feel lazy, unmotivated, slow, or it’s simply Friday - and that’s ok. We are all human, and it is completely normal not to reach your daily goals every once in a while. But don’t make it more frequent than once in a while.

The thing is - motivation gets you started, but discipline keeps you going. Through bad days and sad days when you just don’t feel like doing anything, but also through nice and sunny days when you would rather be outside than stare at your computer screen. It simply comes down to knowing how to differentiate between what you want now and what you want most.

Master discipline, and excellence is never too far away.