Planning should come naturally to most people. When a project comes into our minds, we instinctively try to plan out what to do, even if it's a very small project. For example, lets say that you've decide to renovate your home. This project begins with an assessment of what needs to be renovated, how much money can be set aside for the renovation and a decision is made whether the renovation should be done. Upon deciding what to do, replacing hardwood floors for example, our next step is to look a different types of floors. We do just that and the project continues on from there, your mind tries to think of what to do next. But, in many cases the what's next is never more than a step or two away from what you are currently doing. This is not what I would call planning, it a decide-as-you go system.
Planning can help you get things done quickly and cheaper. An old saying of
well begun is half done contains in itself a hidden gem of wisdom. The well begun part assumes that you plan things out in advance. Beginning with a good plan will save you time and will help you complete our project successfully and to the highest standard possible.
So how do you force yourself to plan, moreover, how do you get yourself in the habit of planning?
One thing I can say for sure. It is not easy. It takes dedication and willingness to commit yourself to cause. It takes time. You have to do it so often as to make planning a habit, it has to make you feel weird if you don't plan.
I plan my days in the morning. The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk is to quickly look over the email to see if there are any pressing issues and then I pull out my trusted Field Notes notebook and write down what I need to do today. It's simple, the first thing that comes to my mind goes down on paper. I put a little checkbox in front of it to check it off later. After I've come up with a nine or ten things that I need done, I prioritize them. On the other side of the page, I draw a vertical line a few millimetres from the border of the page and proceed to assign a priority letter to each item. The letter A being the most important and Z the least. I usually never get to Z in one day.
I evaluate each item and assign it a priority. That creates a road map for the day. As I work on the items I check them off and if I forgot something I just write it down below the existing ones. Easy, right? It sure is. The trick is to force yourself to do this every day. What I did in the beginning was to have a task to write the plan for tomorrow. It was simple, I wouldn't check it off until the next day.
I've been doing this type of planning for a over a year now and I already have one Field Notes book filled with completed plans and tasks. It feels good to leaf through, it feels like I've accomplished a lot.
Another thing you can do is create weekly and monthly plans. I started doing that last year as well, after I got into the habit of planning daily. Each Monday I write the tasks that I need to complete that week. Throughout the week, I refer back to this plan when I write down my daily todos. To keep me on my toes, I write down the todo to write next weeks todo in the weekly plan. It works like a charm.
Monthly planning is similar to weekly planning and serves as a general guide to my weekly tasks. Big appointments, big projects, meetings, conferences, important dates are some of the items that I put down on paper. I use the monthly plan to guide my weekly planning.
Daily, weekly and monthly planning are very helpful in getting you into the habit of planning projects, no matter how big or small. Whenever I look at a new project or idea, I begin by creating a plan for it. I use paper and pen when planning. They are essential for me and help me get things out of my head quickly. Later, I usually transfer these plans into a more appropriate project planning tool like Basecamp.
So plan, plan, and plan so more. You will reach your goals or complete your projects in twice the time and at half the cost.