Lesson 4 – Planning Tips and Tricks

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Planning Tips and Tricks
Life gets much easier when we have a plan and put it into action. Having a plan gives us a place to start, as well as being a way to remember what we are supposed to be doing at any given time.
In this lesson, we will share some of the strategies that we have found most useful for efficient planning and organization. As you work through this information, remember that we recommend choosing one or two tactics that you think will work for you and trying those out, rather than trying to implement a whole host of changes.
 
Guidelines for Efficient Planning
Here are some guidelines for efficient planning that you can make work for you right away.

  • Did you know that you can save yourself an hour each day just by getting organized? When you arrive at work or return home, take a moment to put your coat and keys where they belong. Put papers where you can put your hand on them quickly.
  • Use your workspace and personal space (home, vehicle, garage, etc.) to their greatest advantage. There is no need to do a big clean up once a year if you can take a half hour once a week to file, sort, and keep things organized.
  • It is important to identify and operate within two time horizons: short and long term. Anticipating events will help you to get things done in the short term which contribute to achieving long-term objectives.
  • An up-to-date master calendar can be your most helpful planning tool. If you prefer an electronic version, make sure that it is backed up properly so that you don’t lose your data.
  • When things begin to get hectic, a “Things to do Today” list helps focus attention on the highest priority items.
  • Action planning worksheets, milestone charts, and PERT diagrams (the types of diagrams used in project management) are excellent planning aids when properly used.
  • Planning contact with colleagues and staff will help minimize disruptions. Keep a file for each person you meet with on a regular basis, with items to be discussed highlighted for easy reference.
  • The most effective approaches to planning are those tailored to meet individual needs. Concepts, procedures, and worksheets should be modified to fit individual circumstances.
  • Experts say nothing should be attempted without prior planning, although applying flexibility is also important.

 
A Planning Checklist
For every plan you make, cover all these points:

  • What
  • Where
  • When
  • How
  • Who

 
Putting Plans into Action with Scheduling Tools
Some useful short term planning tools:

  • A daily to-do list
  • A planner with at least a week at a glance
  • A monthly project list
  • Project planning worksheet

 
Organizing Your Work Area and Your Paperwork
A clean desk is not a sign of an empty mind! Don’t fall prey to the false notion that a messy work area means you look busy, and thinking that if you look busy, then you’re productive. Being active is not the same as being productive!
Here are some tips for organizing your work area.
 
Do it now!
Anything that takes less than 30 minutes should be done as it comes up. If it will take more than 30 minutes, add the task to your planner.
 
Dump.
Throw out or take home all those things you have collected that you don’t need or use. We’re so used to holding on to things and sometimes are afraid to throw out the wrong thing. We like the same rule for work that we use at home: if you haven’t used it for a year (or an entire business cycle), get rid of it, because you obviously aren’t using it.
 
Sort and group.
Your desk should be organized logically; pencils and pens in one place, another place for letterhead and envelopes. Have a basket for projects and another one for priority items so that you can locate the things you need when you want them. You can use the same kind of system on your computer so that you can find your working files. Once a project is complete, move it into an appropriate folder for retention.
 
Set up a system.
Use a planner to jot down your daily to-do list and schedule in any tasks that will take longer than 30 minutes to do. Prioritize each item so that you know what to work on, and make sure that you stick to the list. (Maintain some flexibility for emergencies, but make sure you get back to priorities as soon as possible.)
 
Don’t save papers that you can easily find somewhere else.
Don’t ask yourself, “Is there a chance I will need this someday?” because the answer is nearly always yes. Ask yourself, “If I know I need this, do I know how to find it?” One of our biggest time-wasters is searching for papers we know we have but we can’t find. If a piece of paper is important enough to save, it is important enough to file for retrieval.