In The Score Takes Care of Itself, football coach Bill Walsh talks about how he started experimenting with scripting each play in the opening drive of his games and the startling results it produced:
I was flying by the seat of my pants; we lost. “Never again,” I vowed, “will that happen to me.” That’s when I got serious about scripting; never again would I walk into the future unprepared for foul weather.
Consequently the number of plays I planned out — scripted — increased substantially the following year when I was with the San Diego Chargers as Tommy Prothro’s offensive coordinator. The next year, when I was head coach at Stanford University, the number increased again, and the impact was startling. In fact, during my second season, Stanford scored on our first possession eight times in eleven games. Typically during a season a team might score once or twice on the initial drive of a game.
This success wasn’t an accident; I had written the script for our success. Informed preplanning — looking perceptively into the future and getting ready for it — gave the Stanford football team a distinct advantage. I took that advantage with me when I was hired by the 49ers.
At San Francisco our first twenty or twenty-five plays of the game would be scripted, along with a multitude of options, alternatives, and contingency plays depending on the situation and circumstance. Among other things, it plugged me into the future; I was visualizing the game ahead, “seeing” what would happen. I could close my eyes and literally see all twenty-two men running and responding to some specific play I had drawn up.
Similarly, I started scripting my Mondays a few years back. I’m not sure where the idea came from, I hadn’t read the book yet. I think it was born out of my own frustration with losing track of my days and not getting done what I wanted to.
Each Sunday night I would look ahead to the goals and deadlines that were approaching, what meetings were on my calendar and what personal obligations or errands I had to get done. Then I would slot it all into my calendar, planning out my entire Monday, by the hour.
This had the effect that Bill Walsh describes above. Instead of starting my week by reacting to whatever came at me, I was intentionally executing what’s on my calendar and getting the most important things done.
The other benefit of this approach is that by working off a calendar instead of a task list, you can only expect yourself to do what will realistically fit into your schedule. Instead of ending the day feeling overwhelmed and stressed because I only got done half my todo list, I feel satisfied because I accomplished the half that mattered.
I now try to do this most days of the week, not just Mondays. When I’m able to stick to it, the results have been very good. But it’s not perfect…
There’s days when the unexpected happens and you get forced completely off script. It’s frustrating, but I’ve learned to be adaptable. I just rearrange my schedule as needed and deal with it, knowing that I get to start over the next day with a new script.