I have to admit it: discovering Tony Robbins Rapid Planning Method (RPM) was a true revelation. This was my experience after I applied the RPM method to my existing task management system – a system that I thought was quite good and that I spent time building up.

Imagine that you are lost in a foggy forest, and trying to get back to the main road. You hear the sound of moving cars, and you know the road is out there, and you try to follow the sound but it’s deceiving, you are going in circles and getting more and more frustrated. Then the sun goes up, the fog clears out, and suddenly you are standing on a path, and you see that the path leads straight to the main road. A feeling of joy fills you up and you start moving towards the road with steady steps.

Who is Tony Robbins?

Tony Robbins has been coaching Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Mother Teresa and three U.S. presidents – a very impressive client list. That means that when Tony speaks, you listen and absorb.

Life Coach and Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins.

Life Coach and Motivational Speaker Tony Robbins.

Below is my interpretation of Tony’s teachings and a write-up of how I applied it to my current planning strategy.

Tony Robbins’ Rapid Planning Method

On a more abstract level, the RPM method is about changing our thinking by becoming aware of the language we use, and changing the outcome by changing the words we use. Language is a powerful tool: you can change a few words and it will totally change where you end up.

On a more practical level, the system allows you to group the 143 things that you have on your mind and narrow them down to 4 or 5. This will immediately drop your stress level and raise your concentration.

The RPM method teaches you how to focus, and how to focus on what’s most important so that you don’t end up “majoring in minor things”.

The video below gives an 8-minute introduction into the method by Tony Robbins himself:

Step 1: Capture

If you are familiar with the GTD system, this step is suspiciously similar to David Allen’s capturing method. When I saw this, my mind immediately went into a dismissive state, whispering that same old techniques are being re-purposed here. Well, it is partially true: there are a lot of similarities, with one important difference. While David Allen’s GTD system uses capturing to get things off our minds and reduce anxiety so that we can focus on getting things done, Tony takes it to a whole new level.

For starters, he openly admits that the point of capturing is not to get all these tasks done. In fact, he states right there that we are not going to do most of those things. This was the first “aha” moment for me. I always thought that the purpose of writing things down on a to-do list was that we won’t forget to do them. Tony says: write them down but you won’t have to do them.

So what’s the purpose of writing down all these “todos”, or, rather, the “not todos”? By reviewing all these items on the list, we will be able to decide which of them are worth doing, and more importantly, why we are doing them. It doesn’t stop there: we will be able to add new things to the list, the truly important ones that will make the largest impact on our lives.

I am using Asana to track my tasks, and it made this step very easy to implement: it was already done. Tony recommends grouping the tasks, so we don’t end up with a mile-long list of items. My tasks are already grouped in projects, but I went through the current projects list and re-shuffled it a bit.

For example, I had two projects that served the same purpose: “Admin” and “TODO”. Those projects were used for miscellaneous administrative tasks that didn’t belong in any other category, of the type “pay the bills” or “change the light bulb”. So I merged those two projects into one.

When I reviewed my “Family and Home” project, I noticed that it had several tasks related to diet and health. I decided to create a separate project called “Health & Rejuvenation” since I am planning to actively work on improving my and my family’s health and moved those tasks in there. While I was doing that, I came up with a couple more tasks and added them to the new project.

All of my business-related projects were already setup, so I didn’t have to make any changes there.

Here are the most important areas of my life, categorized into projects in Asana:

  • Admin (daily todos)
  • Home & Family (home refactoring, family vacations, etc.)
  • Networking (events, follow ups)
  • Health & Rejuvenation (food, exercise, etc.)
  • Project A, B, C, etc. (each business initiative has its own project in Asana)

Step 2: Plan

Now comes the interesting part. As I mentioned before, since I was already using Asana to track my tasks, the previous step didn’t add much to my current routine.

The planning step involves answering three questions and taking three actions.

Question 1: What do I really want (Result)?

The purpose of this is to go through your existing to-do list and use it to help answer the question of what do you want to achieve with it, what is the desired outcome? Again, getting back to our “wandering in the fog” example: there was something behind those todo items, that made you think of them and write them down, but you may not have asked yourself a direct question of “what do I want to achieve with this task?”or “how is my life going to change when I check this task off the list?”

This question forces you to find the answer. For example, in my “Health” category, I had a task to “Create a list of healthy and unhealthy foods” so that I could use it as a guide when doing shopping, that I hoped would help me to make the right choices.

I asked myself: what did I hope to achieve when I wrote down this task? The answer was: “Have perfect health, feel young and energetic”. Then I realized that I won’t achieve this goal by just having a list of foods handy. So I added another important task: “Create a weekly meal plan”.

Once I had answered the “what” question, I added it to the project description in Asana:

Asana Project: Result (What) and Purpose (Why)

Asana Project: Result (What) and Purpose (Why)

Tony recommends making the result measurable, because it will help you to determine if you have achieved the desired outcome. I strongly agree with that and realize that my results do not qualify as “measurable” the way they are  currently written. I will have to go back and re-work them. Another reason to make the goal of a project measurable is that you will actually be able to mark the project as complete and close it in Asana.

Question 2: Why do I want it (Purpose)?

Now that you have visualized the desired outcome of your actions, can you answer why you want that outcome to happen? When putting this way, it appears very strange that many of us don’t have this answer ready.

You are putting all this effort into something, but why are you doing it? For example, you say that you want to eat healthy foods. Why? You may say: because I want to be healthy. But this is not a good answer, and you have to counter it with another “why”: Why do you want to eat healthily? Well, you may think and respond: “Because I don’t want to be sick”. Again, not good enough. Why don’t you want to be sick? “Because I want to feel good”. Why? “Because I need to have energy and the right mindset to lead a happy life, and to achieve my biggest goal in life”. Now we are starting to get closer to the real reason.

This exercise is very inspiring and will put you in a lucid state of mind where you push the limits of your imagination and start dreaming big.

Question 3: What do I need to do (Action Plan)

The desired action depends strongly on the desired outcome. Now that you know what the desired outcome is, you will be able to see what actions you need to take to get there. This is where actions will start falling off your list rapidly – actions you thought were important but came to revelation that they are not. At the same time, other actions will come to your mind, that you will need to take to achieve your result.

Tony says that without being clear on what the end result is, your actions are going to be based on stress, concern, fear, people who interrupt you, reacting and demands. And your life will be nothing but a reaction tool.

As you create your action plan, you will work with things on your list, and remove the things that are no longer important.

Action 1: Star the things that are a MUST

Since you are not going to do all the actions on your list, you need to decide which ones you are going to do. The best way to do it is to put a star next to the 20% of the actions that will generate 80% of the results. Those will be the actions that will generate the greatest impact with the smallest amount of effort. You will focus on these tasks.

In Asana, I used the “favorite” function to star the actions. This gave me an easy overview of the most important actions. Then I moved them to the top of the list.

Asana project favorite tasks

Asana project favorite tasks

Action 2: Establish the real time

Tony recommends putting a time estimate next to each task, ranging from the minimum to maximum amount of effort. Although it is a very good tactic, it can be quite time-consuming and discourage me from following the system.

I may start doing it in the future, but for now, I use the Calendar view in Asana to give me a quick overview of all tasks that I have planned for the day. If I see that one day has too many tasks, I will move them to a different day that looks more empty. You can simply drag and drop tasks in the calendar.

This system will work on one condition: you have to start every day with your most important task. Doing so will guarantee that you are making meaningful progress. If you have completed your most important task, it doesn’t matter if you had to re-shuffle some of the less important tasks.

Asana project calendar view

Asana project calendar view

Action 3: Leverage

Oftentimes you have to employ other people to help you achieve your dreams. And it doesn’t always mean that you pay someone to work for you. You may need the support of your partner, friends and business partners.

The bottom line is that some of the tasks in your Asana project cannot be assigned to yourself: someone else has to do the job. Tony says:

“Leverage is different than delegation. Delegation is when you give someone something that needs to get done, and when they don’t do it, you get pissed off. Leverage says: I can move the Planet Earth with a little bit of effort, if I can get something to do it with, but I am still part of it. If I am going to leverage something to a team member, I am going to make sure that he/she understands the outcome and the purpose. The action will be up to the team member, they get to choose how to get it done. And we will check it on the progress on a set date, before it’s needed, so there are no surprises. And if the team member has any problems, they can come back to us, because we are partners on this.”

This means that it’s not enough to just create a task in Asana, assign it to someone else, and “consider it done”. If I need someone else to do something for me, I create a task for myself, mark it as “delegated”, and set a follow-up date. When the time comes, the task will pop up on my calendar and remind me to follow up on the progress.

Asana Delegated Task Example

Asana Delegated Task Example

Step 3: Commit and Schedule

Every morning, look at the tasks that you need to complete today and put them in time slots. Start with things that involve other people’s participation, like scheduled meetings. Put them on you calendar if you haven’t done so already.

Then proceed to your most important task and set the earliest time possible that you can work on this task, ideally first thing in the morning.

Usually, I would not set a time for every task, but arrange them in the order that I want to do them.

In Asana, you can get a great overview of you day by going to the List View, and sort by “My Priority”. You will be able to group the tasks by “Today” and “Upcoming”.

Asana Today Tasks View

Asana Today Tasks View

Step 4: Complete and Achieve

There is nothing more to say about this task except for: “do it“!

Step 5: Celebrate

This step cannot be overlooked as it will give you the motivation to keep going after the initial excitement has settled down and you have had a couple of setbacks. It will give you a sense of accomplishment and energy to continue.

Don’t wait for major accomplishments to celebrate – look for little victories and embrace them!

In Conclusion

Asking myself what I wanted to accomplish and why gave me a refreshing perspective on my life. I was able to incorporate this practice into my existing planning system in Asana.

I am not following the method A to Z: instead, I am customizing it to my personal circumstances, which will make it easier to stick to and hopefully grow into a life-long habit. At the end, it’s better to follow an incomplete system than attempting to implement the system all the way and failing.

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