So maybe you’re not the best at sticking to deadlines and quickly ticking things off your To Do list. But what if I told you I could help you become a time management master by correcting the 5 most common mistakes of effective planning? Yes, it sounds like we are about to serve you a magic potion, which will permanently cure procrastination, but to be honest, effective planning has very little to do with finding the cure for laziness and everything to do with learning how to properly plan. Ready for the big reveal? Here we go with 5 mistakes that will change the way you organize.
#1 You Don’t Know How To Prioritize
The art of prioritizing is simply a realistic evaluation measuring what needs to be done against the tasks’ level of importance. To keep it simple: the most important task goes on top. But sometimes it is hard to discern which task is actually ‘most important.’
When you have a deadline set by the client, then this task is the most important. When you have a paper to turn in, a newsletter to send, pieces of reports to put together, these are the most important tasks. Essentially, all deadline-dependent activities should be jotted down onto your To Do list as top priorities. It is also a good idea to get in the habit of setting daily, weekly, and monthly goals. You can organize these depending on the amount of effort that will go into the execution of these tasks. Ask yourself ‘What is my goal?’ and once you get that part down, start setting priorities by asking ‘Is this task bringing me closer to my goal?
#2 Your Plate Is Too Full
Ambition is the driving force behind many actions. But being overzealous can become problematic when you load your planner with too many tasks. Multi-tasking is a myth and bloodshot eyes are not sexy.
#3 Know Yourself
The golden rule of following through on your commitments is to be realistic. Would you ever run a marathon without prior experience in running? Would you apply for a CEO position straight out of university? My point exactly.
Effective planning means knowing what you are capable of and how much work you need to put in to reap the benefits.
- Consider the time the entire task should take. Also remember to set yourself a deadline otherwise you will fall into delays and procrastination!
- Consider how many stages the task has and how much work/time you need to spend on each task. For example, I need to take pictures for the blog post and edit them, write the post, proofread it, and plan post promotion.
- Consider the resources needed for the job – is my camera working and are the batteries charged? Do I have enough information about the product?
#4 You’re Using The Wrong Tools For Planning
There is no such thing as ‘a bad way of planning’ because each of us has a unique approach to their organizational system. For some it is a paper notepad, for others, Google Calendar is their go-to planner. Which method do you use? Ask yourself honestly if your organization pattern has been satisfactory. Are your planning tools fulfilling all the functions or are you still searching for your perfect planning method? Without proper tools, you will find yourself in a situation where you will have crumpled notes with To Do lists, hastily written during your morning shopping trip.
#5 The Destination Is Not Exciting Enough
So you nailed down your tools, priorities, and assessed the tasks, but something still isn’t working. If success is still eluding you, then planning might not be your main problem. The lingering problem in this case might be your goals. Perhaps your goals are not thrilling enough for you to really go for them. That means it’s time to rethink your goals or include an incentive. Maybe you are lost under a pile of work and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. Adding progress monitoring to your To Do list might help. I guarantee you that seeing how much you have achieved will provide the perceived value of what you’re doing and spur you on.
As somebody smart once said ‘Failing to plan is planning to fail’. What they forgot to add is ‘Failing to recognise the right way of planning makes the whole exercise pointless’. And you can quote us on this.
This article was originally written for the Impact Hub Vienna blog and published on the 15th of June, 2016. Access it online here.