The OATS Principle

…inspired by Mike’s best-selling book, “Brilliant Time Management – How to Manage Your Time”.

I don’t believe in systems. It’s not that belief systems exist. They do. There are many, many time management systems and some of them are extremely good. But the problem is this. Not everybody find systems help. And even if you’re one of the 50%, let’s say, of the population who does find systems helpful? Will this system work for you? Or will this system or will this system, the system I give you may not be the right system for you. So, even if I get lucky, perhaps only 25% of my audience will ever find any particular system I can present. Let’s be useful. So I don’t use systems. I have a different approach. And my approach is this. I’ll give you a principle that underpins everything in managing your time. And I’ll give you lots of tools, which flow from it that you can use. And these are practical, helpful, everyday tools. And the principle I’m going to give you is what I call the oats principle. And the oats principle is about planning how you’re going to use your time well, because remember, you can’t manage time, all you can do is use it well. So what is the oats principle? It’s a four step planning process, which is enormously flexible. And it has to be because a lot of my clients, when I’m speaking at seminars and delivering training will say to Mike, the problem with our work life these days is we can’t plan our day. We certainly can’t plan a week and expect the day or the week to pan out the way we expect. by lunchtime maybe even by 10 o’clock in the morning. Something’s happened in our workplace. And we’ve got to change our plans. And the oats principle is flexible enough to handle that. You can use the oats principle for planning a day ahead, a week ahead, a month ahead, even a quarter ahead, and I do all of that. In particular for me, I use weekly and quarterly planning. I do that rigorously and ruthlessly. But we’re going to illustrate the principle by starting at the easiest end day by day outs planning. And once you get used to that, you can then start to plan your weeks and then your months and then your quarters. Once you get really good at it, you’ll find that as you feel more in control, you can do weekly outs plans, and then flex your days a day at a time. Sometimes not even needing to do a new plan each day because you’re so much in control of your time, and how you use it, that your weekly plan is good enough for most days, it’s only when exceptional things happen, that you need to do your daily plan. But let’s start with the daily plan. The question then arises, when is the best time to plan tomorrow. And there are two schools of thought on this. The first is that you should plan when you’re fresh. You get up in the morning, you’re going to work and the first 1015 minutes of your day, you sit down with a clear head, a cup of coffee, and you plan the day and you do your own planning then the other school of thought is that you should do your outs plan at the end of the day, so that when you get into work tomorrow morning, it’ll be ready for you. Good to go. So Which is better? Well, the answer actually depends on you and how you sleep. Because, for most people, if they’ve got to learn stuff they need to do tomorrow. It plays on their mind when they go to bed. And they have trouble sleeping because all those things they have to do tomorrow are buzzing around in their head. If you’re one of those people, then you do need to do your oats planning in the evening at the end of your working day, ready for tomorrow. Get your oats in the evening before you go to sleep. And the reason is because when you’ve done your oats plan and you’ve committed everything to paper, you’ve emptied your brain and allowed it to relax and sleep. If on the other hand, you can go to sleep very easily with nothing buzzing around in your head. Then first thing in the morning. Absolutely fine. So first thing in the morning or in the evening. That’s the time to do your main daily oats plan. But oats planning is of course flexible and in order to be flexible, you need to be prepared to review you Plan during the day, but we’ll come back to that later. So let’s look at the four steps in our oats plan. The first step of our oats process is to think about outcomes. Let’s say it’s five o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon, and you’re thinking about your own plan for tomorrow. Ask yourself what outcomes you want for Wednesday. Specifically, ask yourself what do I want to be different this time tomorrow evening, because outcomes are changes that are beneficial changes that you have designed. And this is where oats planning takes on. Its flexibility. Because one of the biggest mistakes that people make is they’re greedy. They look at tomorrow and they say I’ve got tomorrow. These are all the things I want to get done when you’re setting your outcome But tomorrow, start by thinking to yourself how much of my time tomorrow is likely to be in my control. Because many of you watching this video will have working days where you get interruptions and things cropping up your customer facing, you have a boss who’s demanding, you have all sorts of things that can upset your day. So, it’s Tuesday afternoon. Think about a typical Wednesday. On a typical Wednesday, do you normally get eight hours uninterrupted time to do the work you choose? Or do you typically get only four hours with four hours of interruptions? Would you get six hours or two hours? Let’s say for the sake of argument, that on a typical Wednesday, you would get six hours of uninterrupted time in two hours dealing with whatever comes across your desk or comes across your workbench. Okay, so set outcomes that you notice Paid will take you six hours to create not eight hours. Because if you set eight hours worth of outcomes, you are dooming yourself to failure right at the start. So outcomes are beneficial changes. The second step in the process is to ask yourself what activities you will need to engage in, in order to create those outcomes. So, take those small number of outcomes and turn them into a long list of activities. Ah, some people are watching this and thinking I know what that is. It’s a to do list. I’m good at to do lists. Some people will say this is not a to do list it is categorically not a to do list. And in a later video, we’ll look at to do lists and why they are toxic. If they are your primary means of managing your time. I’m not saying don’t use to do lists, but As a primary means of managing your time to do lists of toxic and this list of activities in your oats plan is not one of them. Okay, so you’ve got a list of activities. What’s the third step in the oats process. The third step is to take each activity and estimate a time that it will take for you to complete that activity properly. This is the hardest part of the process, because estimating times is difficult. The good news is that in a later video, I will show you how to get really good at estimating times. And I’ll also give you a checklist of techniques you could use to help you estimate while you’re getting good, but it’s crucial that you estimate times. Fortunately, human beings start off as being pretty rubbish at it. By the end of this program, you will be on the route some mastering time estimation. So outcomes activities times, the last step in the process is actually the easiest. But for some strange reason, it’s the one that few people actually do. And that’s unfortunate, because the last step is the one that makes the biggest difference in giving you control over how you use your time, what is sometimes called time management. Step four, is to schedule those activities into your day. If you’re doing is planning a weekly or a monthly basis, it’s about scheduling those activities into your week or your month. actually put them in your calendar. And in later videos, we’re going to look at how to schedule them where they should go in your calendar. And why scheduling makes a really big difference to the psychology of how You use and control the way that you use your time. The process outcomes, activities, times and scheduling a very simple process, a very powerful principle that will give you control over the way you use