cbSullivan Consulting, LLC

Building a Better Plan - - Leave Space!

Apr 1, 2019 | by Cindy Sullivan


Better planning means avoiding pitfalls that jeopardize our intentions.  Like last week’s article “Broadening the Scope” (click here to catch up), the idea of Leaving Space means giving ourselves room to maneuver and adapt as life comes at us.  Here are some things to consider:


  1. How "responsive" is your role?  Consider how often interruptions, client communications, personnel interactions or even family commitments come up as a normal part of your day.  When these are a part of your role it's best to recognize that and build enough time into your plan for those things to come up and be dealt with.  If you are more in control of your time and have fewer interactions with others you can likely plan your day more fully.  Just how much time do you spend on responsive tasks?  If they often account for 2-4 hours or maybe more, know that you’ll only have the remaining portion of time to set aside for scheduling activities.  
  2. Build in time to transition between tasks.  It’s critical to allow time to move from one activity to the next; finishing up the current task, gathering items or documents you need for the next activity, any time to move physical locations or take a break, mentally shift gears, and then transition into deeper focus on the new item.  Plan an additional 10-20% of a task’s time to allow for the transition.  That percentage may be even higher if the activity doesn’t take long – the transition time could prove higher than the activity itself.  Plan accordingly.
  3. Understand just how long tasks take.  We tend to underestimate how long we spend on our key activities.  Especially if you are used to multi-tasking or if you are new to your role, it’s important to gain knowledge around the true time it takes to accomplish our key tasks.  For your main activities and those that take up significant time, it can be helpful to track time spent on these items until you can better gauge what is the typical time required for those things.  You may need some extra time than what you originally planned. 
  4. Expect the unexpected.  We’ve all had experiences with waiting for others to respond, technology that doesn’t cooperate, delays, mistakes, shifting priorities, or things taking longer than we anticipate.  Leaving room in your schedule to accommodate those changes alleviates a lot of stress.  It also means fewer things must be shuffled around when something happens to change our plan. 
  5. Try a simplified approach.  If planning based on time estimates seems daunting or if you like to keep things simple, try aiming for a priority list that is pared down.  Alex Cavoulacos, COO of The Muse uses the 1-3-5 Rule.  Each day, Alex plans 1 big thing, 3 medium things, and 5 smaller things.  You could try this or even establish a set number of items to plan for the day.  If you get them done, you can always go back to the drawing board and select new items to do or maybe work ahead on items for tomorrow.


We often feel there is so much to do we try to “cram it all in” anyway, knowing that we likely won’t be able to accomplish everything.  There is less chance of throwing in the towel on your plan if you’ve left space to be flexible and adapt when needed.   Give yourself breathing room.  It helps alleviate the stress we put on ourselves and ultimately helps us make better choices around priorities.


Cindy B Sullivan is a Time Management & Productivity Consultant.  Contact Cindy at for a complimentary consultation to discuss ways we can help you “Organize the Time of Your Life!”