In last week’s Productivity Tuesday, I covered the power of habit-based productivity approaches. Today, I’ll cover the two most foundational habits: planning and retrospectives.

Planning and Retrospectives are the simple practices of thinking forwards and backwards in time. Planning obviously entails outlining the activities required to reach an outcome. Retrospectives entail reflecting on how well you did towards a plan. Both operate on a specific timeframe, and ideally each planning session should have some form of retrospective.

Most people plan to some degree - setting daily to-do’s, new years resolutions, monthly goals - all are planning exercises. I’d guess that personal retrospectives aren’t as common (although I don’t have any empirical evidence outside of my own experience). I believe it’s the more important of the two practices.

A good plan has (a) specific timeframe and (b) clear outcomes. A good retrospective answers how well you did against your intention, and where there is opportunity to improve.

Planning and retrospectives are the foundational habits, and they create the space to reflect and plan for any additional personal improvements - whatever it may be.

I do some form of both on a daily, weekly, monthly basis.

On a daily basis, plans include to do’s - discrete tasks and habits I’m actively tracking (currently, daily reading, writing, and coding). A daily retrospective is very quick - marking completed discrete tasks, and tracking which habits I actually stuck to. I currently daily plans in Google Sheets, of all things, because it helps me track my to-do completion rate (to see how much I overcommit), and measure habit streaks (there are some great apps to do all this individually, but a spreadsheet let’s me customize and analyse easily).

On a weekly basis, planning and retrospective happens together, about 30 minutes per week. Plans are divided into 2 sections. Goals (groups of discrete tasks I need to complete) and the habits I want to either start, improve upon, or stop. Given I’m on a parental leave, I’m limiting this to 1 group of discrete tasks a week, 1-2 improvements in habits. I do weekly planning in Simplenote, and my retrospective notes are added to the end of the plan from the previous week.

On a monthly basis, I follow largely the same structure as weekly, do the planning in Simplenote, and make notes about how well I was able to follow through on plans. Monthly plans take an extended period, I like to take 1-2 hours, sit outside and reflect on the month.

I use multiple frameworks for longer term planning and retrospectives, which deserve a separate post of themselves.