Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

How do you plan your day?

“What gets scheduled gets done.” – I love this sentence by Michael Hyatt because it synthesizes well the purpose of planning: getting things done. But have you ever experienced planning things and, afterward, it seems every day has a life of its own, stopping you from reaching your goals?


I often experience this and started wondering if maybe the problem is not being unable to reach my goals, but the planning itself. I’m using Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner. Thus, the strategy includes establishing my weekly three big goals, and every day another three big goals aimed at

fulfilling the weekly ones.


Big goals are those you should do before anything else. However, some of them are far from completion and sometimes it seems… well, that I haven’t given proper thought into how I defined my goals. I remember Hyatt’s SMARTER technique to define your goals.


S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Actionable
R = Risky
T = Time-keyed
E = Exciting
R = Relevant


I find the T part the most challenging.


The T – problem

The time-keyed part focuses on establishing deadlines and time triggers, but I think we need to include the Time To Completion (TTC) foreseen for each big goal. When I was processing temperature data from a measurement campaign, I wasn’t able to have an automatic validation procedure. In some sets, I had good data, and was able to process it in due time, but other sets required eliminating outliers or entire temperature profiles before averaging, taking more TTC. Not all TTC’s are homogeneous.


You only know the time to complete some goals after going through the process. This can alter your plans substantially and risk postponing other goals for the day. How can you overcome this?


Deep work and goal-splitting


The purpose of establishing goals related with your work is to produce valuable outcomes. The law of productivity (Deep Work, p.TK) is the product of the time spent in a task, or several, by the intensity of focus.


If you can’t shorten the time to completion, you need to intensify focus. But if the task is boring, it’s hard to keep your focus. A possible solution is to split your goals into smaller and simpler tasks. But is this enough?


Reviewing tasks

We may feel demotivated when reviewing what we planned for a day, and compare to what we were able to complete. But you can understand the purpose of reviewing in a more positive light. We review to adjust.


There are no recipes for uncertainty. There is experience and a sensibility you can only gain by failing. We should bear in mind the tortuous way taken by everything meaningful in our life. It is helpful to expect imperfection, adjustment and sometimes restarting. This is the effect of reviewing.


Keep getting better

Jon Acuff in his excellent book “Finish” has interesting insights about the ultimate question of every completed goal – “what’s next?” Some people don’t complete their goals fearing what comes next, because as long as the goal is incomplete, you find purpose in your planning. But once you finish, you may experience a mix of joy and emptiness.


I’ve experienced the value of imperfection when reaching a goal. I know I can do better and different. It is profoundly human to feel unsatisfied despite our achievements. However, it is important to find joy and realize we can always keep getting better. The process is the way, and as long as we breathe, it never ends.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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