You may fall but you will not fail

Planning will not make things predictable, it should just help us to achieve what we need to achieve so that we can do what we love

Planning shouldn’t take any fun or spontaneity out of life

Planning shouldn’t take any fun or spontaneity out of life


My daughter and I just joined sea scouts. I thought that returning from Sydney after 16 years, it will help us settle further into Irish life. Using the metaphor of an explorer, this series has hopefully inspired you to find your Everest, to anticipate challenges, prime your brain to overcome them and to commit and take the first step.

You’re ready. You cannot fail. Fall, but not fail, unless you stop before the summit. You have taken the first step. Now to sustain it. Commitment is not the moment you make the promise, it is the persistence that follows.

What will determine whether you summit or become another victim? Not willpower alone. What is the bridge between starting the climb and celebrating the accomplishment? Maybe I’ve built it up too much. It’s quite boring, in fact. It’s your routine.

All great navigators have one. Repetition to sustain progress. Daily they rise, navigate to a checkpoint, and recover. Simple yet difficult. But they trust this system. It brings them home safely.

Similarly, you will rise, progress to the next pit stop, and recover. Inexorably, until you plant your flag at 28,000 feet. Repeating the system that you trust.

Routine to escape the routine

What is your system to get stuff done? Do you rarely forget important things? Is your mind clear to do what it does best – to have ideas and not just to remember stuff? The best ideas come, not when we’re busy but when we’re not. At any moment, are you comfortable, not only with what you’re doing, but what you’re not doing?

If you’re not a clear “Yes” to these questions then you’re a “No”.

Here is the routine I trust . . . a magical week. This is where the rubber hits the road, where we move from dreaming to practical and pragmatic. Consider each week an expedition. We have a bag of time. And plenty of stuff to pack. But we won’t get far with too much baggage.

1: Master List

Every good scout stores equipment in one place, away from their activity. Do you have one single place to capture everything that takes your attention? Like a second brain. This contains two things.

  1. Projects: any goal with a start date, a series of tasks and an end date, eg “Build house”, “travel Europe”, “create online business.
  2. Actions: self-contained small tasks, eg buy new phone, fix tap.

Most people try to remember everything. This depletes mental energy. Choose one place for all your stuff’. Make it portable and accessible at any moment. Every day, capture everything you think of. Emails, meetings, people, ideas, projects – everything. Master this practice and your mind will become clear and calm.

2. Allowance

The problem with time is we think we have loads of it. Our master list always has too much. We have to consider what fits. What capacity is our bag of time? A 20 lb shoulder bag, a 40 lb holdall or a 100 lb suitcase? We often feel overwhelmed. We lug a suitcase when the allowance is a carry-on. Or worse still, we let others pack our bag.

Packing should be easy because stuff fits or it doesn’t. Time is a little less obvious. But we can still plan by simply matching demand, what we could do, with capacity, the time we have.

To calculate your allowance, grab a weekly calendar. Start with 24 by 7, which is 168 hours each week.

Block out anything you do every day. These rituals include sleep, morning routine, exercise, commuting, lunch, dinner, TV and so on. Workwise, it might include emails, calls. Nobody’s judging. Be honest! Include things you should be doing such as personal time, finances or family time.

Maybe you have 30 hours left. The suitcase has become a holdall. Now commit another hour every Friday (trust me) to plan each week.

29 hours left.

Now, meetings. What once-off commitments do I accept? Be strict. Is it essential? Do I really need to be there? Can someone else cover? If it’s essential, then accept it.

15 hours. This is your capacity. Shoulder bag it is.

3. Goals

Now to decide what’s essential. We all have too much to do. This can be positive. It means choice. Imagine the opposite.

From your master list, pick what you should do. Where will I be? What do I absolutely have to get done? Highlight the top four or five.

Stop! Put the bag down. No packing until you know it fits. Estimate the hours. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just roughly estimate how long they will take.

This is demand. It must be less than capacity (we always leave space for the stuff we pick up). If not, either:

  • Reduce the essentials until they fit.
  • Increase the capacity of your bag. Give up the three-hour Netflix marathon.

Make these decisions now. Don’t be the guy at the airport ditching stuff on the fly.

Then pack the big stuff. Frontload everything so that you have spare time towards the end.

Don’t forget the small stuff.

Pack little items in the gaps. Gather them together according to where you do them. eg home, shops, laptop.

4. Inspiration

Anything you want to read, watch or listen to.

5. Connection

Anyone you need to help or ask for help.

6. Admin

Items you need to buy, pay for, send, etc.

7. Leisure

Always include fun and recovery. This is non-negotiable for sustained performance.

That’s it! Your itinerary for a magical week.

Most of us complain we don’t have enough time. But we all have the same amount. Anything truly essential to our happiness and wellbeing must be packed. Sometimes we just need to clear stuff that’s in the way.

Planning shouldn’t take any fun or spontaneity out of life. It should help us do, so that we may be. To finish what we must, so we can do what we love.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection


Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.