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Big Ideas

Naked Planning

How "going public" and finding a planning partner can make tackling your to-do list effortless.

Does the thought of planning fill you with dread?  When you do force yourself to plan, do you realize at the end of the day that you never actually looked at your list? If so, it could be time to step out from behind all of the project management software, moleskine notebooks, and to-do list tools that have kept your daily activities hidden and participate in some naked planning.What do I mean by naked planning?

Basically inviting another person into the process of planning your days and keeping you accountable to what you say you’re going to do.Why? The most successful people I know acknowledge what’s hard for them and then put the right support in place to help them achieve their goals. By baring your planning to someone else, you can get over your embarrassment and frustration about what you’re doing (or not doing) and get the right things done.Here are three keys to doing this effectively:

Create Safety

You want to find someone who is extremely reliable, but not judgmental to help you invest your time more effectively. For paired planning to work, you need to know that this person will consistently be there for you and that you can be completely honest with him or her without fear of criticism. This could look like talking to your significant other, business partner, or co-worker. But for the sake of safety and neutrality, you may find it better to enlist a person outside of your inner circle like a mentor, coach, or friend.

By baring your planning to someone else, you can get over your embarrassment and frustration.

Create Transparency

Even with someone else involved in your planning process, you will still need all of your time management tools. But instead of hiding behind them, you will use them to create total openness about the reality of your situation. Make it a personal goal to update your to-do lists and calendar before talking with your planning partner. And if appropriate, you may want to even give the other person online access to your documents.

Precision plays an essential role in this process. While you are talking with your planning partner, you must clearly define what action steps you want to take, what deliverables you hope to produce, when you will do the activities, and how long you estimate they will take you. You may already know these details and simply be stating them to your planning partner, or you may use your joint planning time to help you through this process.

Either way, by the end of the conversation, you should both have absolute clarity on what you intend to do. In the end, you may find that you don’t have time to do everything you wanted to do. That’s good. It’s better to have realistic expectations and to clarify your priorities during the planning stage than to try to forge ahead with expectations of accomplishing the impossible.

By the end of the conversation, you should both have absolute clarity on what you intend to do.

Create Accountability

You and your planning partner should both keep a written record of what you agreed to do. That way when you connect over phone, skype, or in person, you can accurately measure your actual versus intended progress and make adjustments accordingly. Some people find that it works best to connect in this way on a weekly basis while others need a daily connection time.

You can choose what works best for you and your planning partner to do consistently. The frequency is less important than the fact that you know—without a doubt—that you will need to report back on your results. If you prefer writing over talking, this sort of collaboration could also happen through email, text, a shared document, or a project management system.

Creating the right kind of accountability plays a huge role in your productivity. By enlisting someone else to keep you honest, you can reduce your resistance to the process and dramatically increase your output. 

Remember: You don’t have to work alone. It just might be time to expose yourself.

What’s Your Approach?

Do you have other people help you in making regular planning a habit?What has helped you to put this accountability system in place?

More Posts by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress and How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Find out how you can accomplish more with peace and confidence at

Comments (7)
  • Janet Barclay

    At a recent Golden Horseshoe Virtual Assistants Group meeting, one of the members commented that it would be valuable to have a way to monitor progress on our individual business goals in between meetings. We’ve now created an Accountability Partnership Program. Interested members are paired with someone at a similar level in their business, and each pair decides amongst themselves how often they’ll connect and how (phone, email, in person, etc.)

    My partner and I email each other every Friday with an update on what we’ve accomplished and a plan for the following week. In just a couple of weeks I’ve completed some things that have been on my mental to-do list for months, and made an external commitment for the fall that means I will have to stay on track. I’ve thrilled!

  • Elizabeth Saunders

    That’s awesome Janet!

    It can feel incredibly vulnerable to share what you’re doing (or not doing). But this transparency can allow you to overcome long-standing barriers to success as you’ve seen in your Accountability Partnership Program.

    To your brilliance!

    Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  • fgh


  • Keane Angle

    I started doing this a few weeks ago because I thought it might be a good idea. It is. Every sunday I have a check in call with a good friend of mine – we’re both working on independent projects and this keeps us in check. We go over what we’re working on, provide feedback, then outline todos for the coming week and email that to each other.

  • Jack Peterson

    Wow great article. I think I will scan my planner physical planner each week and post it to Facebook.

  • Andrew Newey

    Thanks Elizabeth. I am a soloist, so accountability has been difficult for me. However, I think I will start to put in place a regular meeting with a key person to review my business activity.

  • James Reynolds

    You made some great points! we could all use a little time to step away from project planning software. A different way of planning could lead to a more efficient plan and a refreshing view point on things.

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