My first dozen years in the field were full of information overload, constant overwhelm and massive diffusion. My personal life was swallowed by the business. Diffusion led to constant frustration. Then I designed my first color-coded success calendar. My production rose dramatically, but so did my free time. I discovered the power of focusing through color-coded time planning.
The Annual Roadmap
The annual time plan is the first step. (The tools and instructions you require are free and may be found at www.cottonsystems.com under Resources.) You'll need an hour and four highlighter pens (red, green, blue and yellow) to complete this exercise.
First, create a “model” year. If you could live the ideal life, when would you take time off? Are you a skier, traveler, biker or a cottage person? What would you do if you had more time off? Would you spend more time with family and friends? What are your personal causes?
Create a model year using the Annual Roadmap. Yellow days are “MY” days, which is short for “Mellow Yellow.” These are days off and include weekends, holidays, personal commitments and vacations. Always start with yellow days, because time off drives time on. Get excited about yellow days. Then you'll be motivated to be more productive on workdays.
Finish putting yellow on your first draft. You can always modify your Annual Roadmap later. For now, build the life you would love to live. You are in a business that offers some free time.
Next, allocate some “Blue Sky” days at the beginning of each quarter. Use them to summarize what you have achieved in the last 90 days, identify your current growth challenges and strategize what you plan to accomplish in the next 90 days. You need time to summarize, analyze and strategize.
In The E-Myth, Michael E. Gerber writes about the importance of working on your business, not in your business. Blue days help you determine what can be done to build a better business and a better life. In my Top of the Table years with the Million Dollar Round Table, I allocated five days each quarter to work on my life and my business.
“Red Tape” days include time for education, training, administrative duties and clean-up. Fridays make great red days after four days of focused work. You may not know when education days or convention times will happen, so allocate one red week per quarter and adjust the dates when details are clear.
The remaining days are for the “Green Machine.” On green days you are going to earn your income by helping clients resolve the life issues that our products and services are designed to solve. You must focus on the client acquisition activities that lead to results.
Add up the number of green days. Pretty scary, isn't it? Now you realize how little time there is to sell. You will have to focus on the key activities that lead to results. You must make every move count. There is no time to fool around!
A model year reduces the analysis paralysis experienced in designing your first calendar. Use the model year as a guide to building your current Annual Roadmap.
Under Green Machine enter the activities that will lead to results. This might include such things as 15 meetings to ask clients for referrals.
The 90-Day Wonder
Print the 90-Day Wonder found here. Use the same colors as the Annual Roadmap when you develop your quarterly plan. The annual calendar has provided a guide for each quarter.
Determine your priority projects and objectives for the next 90 days. The four headings are Blue Sky, Green Machine, Red Tape and Mellow Yellow. Under each, you will list the projects or activities that will lead to the results you plan to achieve. There is room on the page for a maximum of 20 significant objectives you plan to accomplish in the next 90 days. To view an example, follow this link.
If physical exercise is important to you, put “exercise 60 times” under the Mellow Yellow heading. My father is over 90 and a very important person in my life. So I put “daily dad gab” under Mellow Yellow. I drive to his place every night to have a visit and to help him get ready for bed. When I am out of town, I call him every night at 9:30 his time. This has become a habit that I couldn't break, even if I wanted to.
Under Green Machine, enter the activities that will lead to results. This might include such things as 15 meetings to ask clients for referrals. Or you might put down 60 opening interviews with prospective clients.
Under Red Tape, list cleanup projects and education commitments. Now go to work and fulfill your 90-day vision. Always carry your Annual Roadmap and 90-Day Wonder with you. You'll have a very clear plan from both a time and project point of view. At the end of each quarter, measure your results against your plans, and give yourself a score. You received grades all through school, so why not in real life?
Success calendars will help you develop a more balanced approach to achieving your goals. They will help you focus on the goals that are meaningful to you. As it says on the top of your 90-Day Wonder, “If you know what you want, you can say no to what you don't want.”
© 2003 Wayne Cotton, CLU
Wayne Cotton, CLU, was a qualifying member of the
Million Dollar Round
Table, Court of the Table or Top of the Table for 21 years. Today he
works as a productivity coach and consultant for the financial services
industry. Wayne may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.