Continuous Improvement 4 Life

Weekly Planning: The Trim Tab for Life

My wife Cheryl and I love to waterski. We have loved to waterski since we first learned on Montana lakes in our teenage years. 

The other day, Cheryl took me for a morning ski on calm glass water at 7.30 a.m. Suddenly, while moving at 30 miles per hour, the boat abruptly tilted on its side. The jolting tilt didn’t affect me behind the boat, but those family members in the boat were highly alarmed because someone could have been thrown out.

Thankfully no one was injured, but we were shocked that a boat running at 30 miles an hour could suddenly tilt the way it did.

As we arrived home, we found a letter in the mail telling us that the software on our boat needed an update and that its current configuration could cause the boat’s trim tab (a little underwater “wing” that affects the pitch of our model of boat) to tilt at high speeds, causing serious injury or harm. Yikes! 

The software update was an easy fix and the boat is fine, but we consider ourselves very lucky.

Two boat trim tabs

Above you see pictured two trim tabs for motor boats. Compared to a massive 23-foot, 6000-pound boat, the trim tab seems inconsequential. Yet these small sheets of metal can change the whole angle and plane of a massive boat at high speeds.

When a trim tab is working effectively, it can give you the perfect angle and run for your boat, turning your wake from bumpy for waterskiing to very little wake at all. For surfing behind the boat, the trim tab adds depth and cleans up the wake so the surf looks like North Beach in Waikiki, Hawaii!

I’m amazed at how such a small lever had such a big effect on performance. 

Life’s Trim Tabs

The above experience got me thinking about my research on habits, happiness, continuous improvement and productivity. 

If something as small as a trim tab can have such a big effect, could there be an analogous trim tab for personal performance? What is the trim tab activity in our lives that can make the difference between a bad ride in life or a great ride?

Weekly planning is the trim tab activity for personal improvement and productivity.

A Return to Goal Setting with Weekly Planning

So many people give up on their goals—or don’t even set them anymore—because urgency often wins over importance. Moving at 30 miles per hour, people will often address urgent, in-your-face tasks first, letting non-urgent but highly important activities get swept aside in life’s wake. 

Our lives are full of urgent requirements—to pay a bill, to respond to an email, attend various meetings, take kids to lessons and sports activities, and responding to phone calls. If we let every urgent task control all of our time, we’ll never get any long-term but important goals done.

Weekly planning, our trim tab, can change that.

Filling the Gap Between Short-Term and Long-Term

Weekly planning serves as a bridge between daily planning and yearly goal setting. 

Spending 20-30-minutes each week to calibrate your goals will set you on a happy and fulfilling course for the week.

Weekly planning is your game plan

You would never go into a competition without a game plan. Some of the best football teams script the first 10-20 plays of the game based on their game planning.

The need for a game plan is also apparent in industrial settings, where every hour of a maintenance shutdown is extremely costly for lost production. Great Shutdowns script out the first several days activity by activity to ensure a good start to the maintenance shutdown period.

Our time is precious, so why would we start our week without a weekly game plan?

Benefits and Requirements of Weekly Game Planning

The benefits of weekly game planning include greater ability to:

  1. Focus on and accomplish the important but non-urgent activities/goals
  2. Avoid getting sucked into the busy trap
  3. Prioritize activities you have wanted to do but have been procrastinating
  4. Feel satisfied from working on your most important life items

Here are some of the key factors of success when carrying out your weekly game plan:

  1. Have your purpose statement and yearly goals in front of you when setting up your weekly plan.
  2. Set your weekly game plan in all areas of your life, not just work. Specifically, set goals in the following areas: Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Family & Relationships, Work, and Financial.
  3. Establish the same time each week to develop your plan. Sunday nights are a good time to set up your week. Train your brain with a consistent time and place to weekly game plan.
  4. Refer to your weekly plan during your daily planning sessions.
  5. Measure your completion percentage on weekly planning. An 80% completion percentage says you’re accomplishing a lot but maybe not setting too easy or too hard of goals for the week.
  6. Don’t get discouraged. Treat each day and each week as a learning system.
  7. Honor what you did well! Learn from what you didn’t get accomplished. Love the process!

Here is a sample weekly game plan:

Go to www.ci4life.org to download a weekly game plan sheet. Look for the “weekly game planning tool” menu button.

Send me your learnings and feedback to Rickh@ci4life.org