Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 17

Can Planning Help Boost Your UN Career?

Happy UN Career Podcast / Episode 17

Episode 17 / 8 April 2021


Hello, and welcome to this 1st episode in a new series called: “Plan & Succeed”.

In the last few episodes, I’ve talked about some of the big issues around career and work life. Your visions, your dreams and your values.

So, basically all about what fulfils you in your work and life!

However, a very important element in succeeding with all of this is your ability to make your visions and dreams tangible. And take action on them.

So, in this new series, I’ll share some very simple, but very effective techniques for planning, creating an overview and – maybe most importantly – prioritising your time, your attention and your resources.

In other words, how do you succeed in doing the things you really want to do? How do you set and reach your goals at work? How do you create more professional fulfilment? And more balance in your life.

So, what’s really important to understand here is that good habits and techniques around planning, will help you not only become more effective with your day-to-day work tasks. But also help you reach the bigger goals for your career and for your personal life.

Why spend time on planning?

  • Planning makes things possible. It opens up possibilities because we put our priorities on the agenda
  • Planning helps you make sure you spend your time on the right things
  • Planning saves time

However, I’ve also found out that we sometimes – subconsciously – avoid planning because it forces us to prioritise. Something that many of us struggle with!

No matter our personality, our job function, our family status, we all benefit from some level of structure, overview and clear prioritization.

In fact, your ability to plan and prioritise can be a key determining factor
for creating and maintaining a happy UN Career.

It’s critical for you to:

  • succeed with your work projects
  • have a general peace of mind, knowing that you’re on top of your work
  • sustain a balance between those work tasks that are urgent (of which we all seem to have too many)
  • – and those tasks that are important, but don’t have a deadline (and are therefore often left on the back burner too long. Think for example strategy, development, health, training, etc.)
  • find time for executing long term professional and career development and
  • last, but not least, to create and maintain a balance between work and home life

Planning is worth your time!

A big eye-opener for me was when I heard the quote from the American time management guru, David Allen, saying something along the lines of:

”For every minute you use on planning, you save 10 minutes on execution!”

When I heard that the first time, I thought: “Hmm, that sounds just too good to be true.”

It even seemed sort of counterintuitive to me, because it often felt like I had so much on, that I couldn’t possibly waste 5 minutes on planning. I just wanted to throw myself headfirst into the email inbox!

But, in my own personal experience, it has proven true again and again.

That, really, for every minute I use on planning I save more on the execution of the task or the project.

It’s always more effective to get an overview and prioritise your time. And your resources.

The better I think through:

  • my priorities
  • my planning and
  • the most effective way to deal with a task
  • the right order of action steps
  • the amount of time I have available, and
  • the time I need for a task

– the better my day and my week flows. The more I get done. The more successful I am with my goals.

And the happier I feel at the end of my workday!

And this is also what the people I help report back to me.

In other words, planning really is well worth your time!

Make it personal

So, as you can probably hear, I have a passion for all things to do with planning and structure. Maybe because I know that I need it very much myself!

But it depends on the circumstances. When I’m on holiday, I like to take things as they come.

However, when I want to get work done or when I want to achieve a goal of professional or personal development – then planning and structure help me enormously.

The funny thing is that much as I love planning and structure, it can still sometimes happen that I find that after I’ve made a plan – I suddenly rebel against it.

I can get this feeling that my plan limits me. That it prevents my “free-spirited living”. So, it has happened that I – sort of unconsciously – have left my plan for a while because it felt uncomfortable, somehow.

And then after a while, I started feeling deflated and unhappy because I wasn’t moving on my important goals or projects.

(Maybe you recognize that feeling of wasting your time? You’re running around feeling crazy busy, but you’re not really moving on things that matter?)

In my own case, I then typically recognize that my planning has been too tight and therefore I don’t feel comfortable with it. Or that it hasn’t been specific enough, and therefore it isn’t actionable for me.

So, now I know that I have to adjust my plan so that it suits me and my personality and way of working – and then things work out again.

And that’s a very important point I want to make here:

your planning needs to fit you, your personality and your working style.

I’m a big believer in a personalised approach to – well, actually to most of the things we engage in in life – and definitely very much to your career development and your career strategy.

And when it comes to planning, I’ve seen time and again that it’s essential that you find the tools for planning and execution that fit your personality and your style of work.

So, if you find that something doesn’t work for you, don’t think it’s you there’s something wrong with. You probably just need to tweak your tools or methods, so they fit you better.

When I work with my clients on this that’s a very important part of the process – finding the way that suits their individual ways and preferences. And the kind of work they do, of course.

Put it on the agenda

So, when we plan, we put things on the map, so to speak. When we put things in the calendar, there’s a much better chance that we actually do them.

There’s a whole cycle around planning and prioritisation, and in the coming episodes, I’ll give you concrete advice on the planning tools that I find are really essential for a happy UN Career.

These include:

  1. Setting concrete and actionable goals
  2. Creating and maintaining an overview of all your tasks
  3. Daily planning of your tasks, energy and resources
  4. How to be realistic with your time
  5. Prioritisation – which most of us need to work on!
  6. Creating a weekly overview to make sure you have time for your most important priorities

But for now, I encourage you to just take a moment to reflect on where you’re at today.

Think about
  • Do you sometimes skip planning because you think you don’t have time for it? (And how does that make you feel at the end of the day?)
  • Are you often planning more than you realistically have time for?
  • Do you sometimes find that day-to-day tasks prevent you from taking action on important career goals or private goals?
  • Do you sometimes feel like a “headless chicken” at work – being crazy busy but not really sure what you’ve actually accomplished at the end of the day?
  • Was there a good planning habit you used once, that you have skipped along the way?
  • Would it be worthwhile revisiting that habit? Or introduce a new one that fits you better today?

If you can say yes to any of these, then I promise that there are plenty of things you can do to get to a better place. And feel better!

Most importantly, start by setting aside a bit of time every day for your planning. Remember the quote I mentioned earlier: ”For every minute you use on planning, you save 10 minutes on execution!”

Get Support

You’re not alone in this. Maybe you have a good colleague or friend who will be your planning accountability partner? Or maybe you can exchange planning tips and tricks?

Maybe you know somebody who seems to always be on top of things? Could that person be your role model? Is there something they’re doing that you could learn from?

And then, of course, stay tuned for the next episode where I’ll dive into concrete and tangible tips for you.

What’s next?

Starting next episode, I’ll talk about how actionable goals will help you achieve that happy UN Career.

Do you have a love/hate relationship with goals?

Many of my clients do. And I know the feeling too. I want to show you how you can get to love goal setting. But even more, you’ll love the way goals will help pull you towards the dreams you want to achieve.

I’ve touched on goals in previous episodes, but next time I’ll show you how to create and phrase your goals in such a way that you can start working on them right away.

If you enjoyed this episode, then please think about sharing it with a colleague or a friend in the UN who might be interested in this topic as well.

Most people find podcasts through word of mouth, so you would not only be helping your friend, but you would also be supporting the show – for which I’d be very grateful!