Tools to use the Plan Do Check Assess cycle

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I wanted to talk about what I call the key concepts in management, at least for me, and they’re things that I recommend. The post below is a summary of the following video. Please take a look.

Please note that we also provide video transcription and subtitling services.

Plan Do Check Assess

The first is Plan Do Check Assess, which is a planning cycle which helps you to improve your operations and your actions and your doing over time.

Plan Do Check Assess

Eisenhower Grid

I discuss Todoist, but the Eisenhower grid keeps coming back as a very simple representation of choices, about what’s important and what is urgent.

The Eisenhower grid

So if you’re thinking about your activities, what’s important and what’s urgent, you can choose the things that are both important and urgent. Some things are neither important nor urgent, which you shouldn’t be doing at all.

This type of planning is a way of thinking about your activities, your hopes and desires, what you should be doing now and in the future.

The PDCA (Plan Do Check Assess) Cycle allows you to review your way of working.

The Trusted System

The Trusted System is a collection of tools, so here I’ve listed the ones that I use.

The trusted system

Todoist, Ayoa, Sortd, and mind maps are the main things which help me, sort of, fulfil this PDCA cycle in terms of planning, doing, checking and assessing what’s going on.

So plan Do Check Assess is the framework for everything. It helps you to think about your activities in a more structured way.

If you’re planning things, you’re setting objectives, and you’re trying to aim to get to those objectives, you do this by actually doing the work.

So there is a specific planning phase, you’re doing, and then you’re checking the quality of your work, really to make sure that what you’ve done is indeed in line with the plan.

And then the assessment phase is to go back and sort of replan and start your next cycle of doing.

I’ve found that the more you repeat the cycle, the more you get used to this idea of feeding back from the last cycle. So whatever you’ve done, continually improving both your process.

GTD – Getting Things Done

GTD requires more than a mention – it’s the doing phase of the Plan Do Check Assess, in reference to the trusted system, which I discuss later in terms of tools.

There are a few key concepts here: next action, inbox, the trusted system and mind like water.

Measuring the distance from your trajectory is about assessment as part of the PDCA. Here we’re looking at where we are now, where we intend to go, our future position and correcting our trajectory through checkpoints.

The Inbox

Todoist inbox

But the inbox is a pretty important concept here.

This image is the inbox from Todoist, which allows that buffer of saying well, things are coming in, I don’t necessarily have to do them now.

The inbox is an opportunity to assess the new things coming in.

Next Action

Next action is a concept which rather than necessarily thinking about the objectives, here you might be working towards your objectives, but you need to do things now.

So next action is a way of saying right fair enough, I can see that objective far off but what do I need to do next?

Mind Like Water

Mind like water is a great little catchphrase from David Allen. It means that once you’ve planned things in your trusted system, your mind is calm, because you know that you’re managing.

And if you’re associating priorities and importance to these things, then, all you need to do is fill the system, and you should get to a point where you’re happy about your plan.

Five Planning Horizons

So the last thing is the five horizons from now to the future below.

5 gtd horizons
5 gtd horizons

What we’re saying is there are essentially five horizons of time.

So there are the current priorities that we’re dealing with now, and our objectives in the future.

Checking quality and the plan

Now checking, as part of PDCA is going back and assessing the work in terms of quality and planning. Quality avoids reworking.

Measuring Your Trajectory

This assessment is really about your objectives. So that’s sort of before your assessment.

Measuring your trajectory

If you do establish your trajectory, your future position, your desired outcomes, you can look to see whether you’re going in the right direction or not. You can make some decisions about the direction that you need to go, that you want to go.

You can see about coming back onto your original trajectory or deciding that your objective is no longer appropriate, and moving off in another direction.

Tools to implement Plan Do Check Assess (PDCA)

So how do you go about doing these things in this PDCA cycle?

Well, here are some suggestions:

Todoist and Ayoa

Todoist is my favourite. I used Ayoa a lot because it has this great function building mind maps and then link tasks to the mind maps. Unfortunately, Ayoa is not fast enough to use everyday use. So, I use Todoist to manage the operational stuff.

Sortd for Gmail

Now also I’ve got a lot of email coming in as has everybody, and I’ve found that it’s important to have a good email management system.

The one that I like is Sortd which overlays Gmail with a kanban, which, I say, protects the inbox.

sortd gmail kanban
sortd gmail kanban

I don’t necessarily want email automatically coming into my to-dos. I want to be choosing what I do, a conscious choice to put an email either into Todoist or just manage it within the Sortd kanban.


Whether in Ayoa or in Simplemind, mindmaps are a useful tool for clarification and brainstorming.

Mind maps are an important management tool

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