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Jacques Habra
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Santa Barbara, California
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Jacques Habra: Plan to plan

Creating structure and organization are critical components to successful entrepreneurship. Jacques Habra explains a technique he developed at the University of Michigan to effective planning.
Written Dec 23, 2011, read 1260 times since then.
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Perhaps the most common complaint people give me regarding their startup or reasons for not launching their startup is a lack of time.  A common reply would be to "make time" and that does not go over well since most budding entrepreneurs are already burning the candle at both ends.  My advice is all about planning to plan.  There will always be unexpected events in the course of your business plan, but if you are unable or unwilling to delineate your goals and your vision, it is that much more unlikely that your idea will turn into a viable business.

At the Univeristy of Michigan in the mid 1990s, I made a point to take on as much as I could handle.  That meant extra classes, community projects, part-time jobs, the pursuit of a dual concentration thesis, and of course, the social schedule of college life.  It became clear to me that each and every day was critical to the success of the 4 month semester.  When I studied the goals and objectives on a 4 month calendar, I realized that not only each day, but each hour was actually critical to success.

I decided to spend each and every evening planning the next day.  I outlined what I would do for just about every hour.  A typical plan for a Tuesday might look like this:

8am - 9am - Homework: Proof English 206 Paper
9am - 10am - Class:  Existentialism and Logic
10am - 11am - Class: The Great Works
11am - Noon:  Final prep for Physics Exam
Noon - 1:  Lunch
1pm - 2pm:  Class Physics 310
2pm - 4pm: Work: Computer Lab II
4pm - 5pm: Open Lecture: America's Economic Challenge
5pm - 7pm:  Gym, shower
7pm - 8pm:  Dinner
8pm - 10pm: Review Physics notes and review Existential Paper Draft

I found myself creating a daily schedule for the following day EVEN during that prior day.  I will be the first to tell you that I often deviated from the schedule.  However, I maintained that schedule and followed suite at least 80% of the time and it translated to success.  When I ran into problems on classes, or tasks, I would schedule getting help. 

One of the more interesting aspects of this degree of 'hourly management' is that you literally identify your priorities in writing.  You acknowledge responsibilities and requirements for achieving success as a result of this comparmentalization.  What's more, you limit annoying surprises like realizing you have a major exam you haven't even begun to study for.  Taking the emotion out of stressful tasks makes them easier to handle.  Ultimately, you are creating your schedule and managing yourself as an entrepreneur would manage a team.  You are indeed part of this team.

This entire process may seem quite collegiate and it is :), but it does indeed work.  Planning to plan has to with organing how you spend your time, and what projects and tasks get your energy.  You do indeed decide and in a way, you are then making time.

Learn more about the author, Jacques Habra.

Comment on this article

  • Career Discovery Coach 
Kirkland, Washington 
Kathryn Torimoto, P.C.C.
    Posted by Kathryn Torimoto, P.C.C., Kirkland, Washington | Dec 27, 2011

    Hello Jacques,

    This is an excellent article on planning time. I am new to the role of entreprenuer and struggling with this issue. This article reminded me that when I have been at my busiest and most successful it has been when I have planned my time. You also talk about going beyond the planning to following up on the plan and being accountable to the plan. Thank you very much for writing what Ineeded to hear.

  • SEO Consultant 
Jersey City, New Jersey 
Elvis Arias
    Posted by Elvis Arias, Jersey City, New Jersey | Dec 29, 2011

    Planning is synonymous of being very organized and that is key to having success in your everyday activities. Good article!

  • Author. Entreprenuer. 
Ojai, California 
Jason Womack
    Posted by Jason Womack, Ojai, California | Dec 29, 2011

    Jacques,

    I completely appreciate your comments here, and can stand by and attest to the power of attention. One comment I read is that this may be a "collegiate" process... yes, and no.

    I've worked with some Bankers, VC's, Executive Directors and other senior leaders in the military and politics, and their calendars also look like a Tetris game; filling in each and every block of time seems to be their point of the day.

    The only comment I would make, looking at this as an outsider, is that (and science is proving more and more) there seems to be the need for "slack" in the system. One thing I've worked on over the years for the "self-driven" work (eg: NOT classes/meetings) is to break the hour-long blocks in to three chunks of 15 minutes.

    Often, as in writing, researching, preparing workshops, I can get 60 minutes worth of work done in just 45-50 minutes; if, as you say, I've planned the plan!

  • Consultant to Franchisees 
Edmonton, Alberta Canada 
Nathan Kawulka
    Posted by Nathan Kawulka, Edmonton, Alberta Canada | Dec 29, 2011

    I would say that this is a good start to planning time but I would take it a step further and plan the week in advance with daily, or nightly, updates to re-focus on tasks that come up throughout.

    In my opinion I think that weekly gives you more ability to plan important tasks first rather than just fitting in all of your tasks. Some are really important and not super-pressing whereas some are super-pressing and not important to your long term success.

    Jacques, I also agree with the "slack" or blocking in time for things to go wrong comment. It is supremely less stressful to have some time built in to breathe.

    Great article as a first step towards better control of your time!

  • Business Coach, Strategist 
Venice, Florida 
Terry Murray
    Posted by Terry Murray, Venice, Florida | Dec 29, 2011

    Hi Jacques,

    I wish to applaud your perspective on planning. I consulted as a business strategist for more than ten years prior to launching my own shop, Performance Transformation, LLC, so I know how critical planning is for success. It is refreshing to hear a younger, tech entrepreneur embracing this perspective as so many think the best way to go about launching their endeavor is "just do it".

    One comment I'd like to make, something I've learned to appreciate as one of the subtle keys to success, is rather than take your emotions out of stressful situations, embrace them from a position of higher consciousness. Our emotions are part of our ancient survival mechanisms. They're here to help inform us about our environment, both internally and externally.

    When we cultivate self-awareness, social awareness, self management, and relationship management competencies we develop Self Mastery. We develop the witness to the emotional stimuli in our lives. When we master our emotions by embracing and understanding them, we expand our functional bandwidth and find ourselves capable of connecting, engaging, and motivating those around us without the use of coercive or dominating behaviors.

    If you'd like to learn more about this perspective, you're welcome to visit my open blog at http://yourbizstartup.com. You may also find some useful insights from my book, "The Transformational Entrepreneur ~ Engaging The Mind, Heart, & Spirit For Breakthrough Business Success". You can "look inside" the book on Amazon.

    Again, great article and I wish you the best upon your journey!

    Terry

  • Productivity/Organizing Consultant 
Ojai, California 
Brenda Spandrio
    Posted by Brenda Spandrio, Ojai, California | Dec 29, 2011

    Thanks to Jason Womack for sharing this article with me!! As a professional organizer and productivity consultant, I, too, see that one key issue is that people don't want to invest the time it takes to be organized. They prefer it be an inborn trait that just comes naturally. What they don't realize is that those "born organized" people manage their time by managing themselves (aka self-discipline -- another uncomfortable concept for some!).

  • Internet Entrepreneur 
Santa Barbara, California 
Jacques Habra
    Posted by Jacques Habra, Santa Barbara, California | Dec 29, 2011

    A few thoughts...

    1) This is great - really appreciate the feedback. Please feel free to visit www.jacqueshabra.com for some more thoughts and observations. I'll post here from time to time.

    2) One of the challenges for entrepreneurs is that they don't know what to prioritize, so I often dissuade from too much advance planning (weekly, monthly). That is not to say that one should have not have a plan that indicates goals and forecasts outward. Its' just that entrepreneurs often pay attention to whatever is in front of them... hence the shorter time frame.

    3) Yes. Slack in the system is critical. It's that fine balance of self-assessment and anticipating the unknown.

    4) I totally agree with you Terry regarding emotions. Most people don't have the capacity to engage in the level of self-awareness you propose. Thus, I simplify the approach and recommend separation.

    Thanks for the awesome thoughts and feedback!

    Jacques

  • Interior Designer & Coach 
Kirkland, Washington 
Nancy Meadows
    Posted by Nancy Meadows, Kirkland, Washington | Dec 31, 2011

    Thank you, Jacques, and all who have commented. Every successful business person has this down. No matter what, you have to plan to plan or it doesn't get done. It also takes care of looking for "the next bright, shiny object" syndrome. Planning to plan keeps one focused. Am I expert at this? Far from it but I will keep at it because I think it's so important for success.

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