The life-changing magic of learning how to plan

Published: 16 July 2019 By Elizabeth Grace Saunders

The life-changing magic of learning how to plan

The benefits of taking time to plan your work more than pays off in increased productivity

 

When you plan, you’ll often discover some hard truths about what it will take to accomplish a project or simply get your work done. Photograph: iStockphoto

When you plan, you’ll often discover some hard truths about what it will take to accomplish a project or simply get your work done. Photograph: iStockphoto

Some of the smartest people I have ever met struggle with convincing themselves to do one thing: plan their work. Something about scheduling makes their brains shut down, and they can go from brilliant to blank in an instant.

One of the reasons these individuals struggle is because they can get away with not planning for much longer than most. If you have some charisma and a strong ability to cram, you may have been able to pull off decent work at the last minute – or at least find ways to get an extension. If you can continue in this way without any major issues, there’s no need to change.

But as time demands increase, a life without planning or routines can make you tired at best, and miserable at worst.

If you decide that it’s worth the time and effort to create plans and routines, there are some tough truths about planning that you will need to accept before moving forward. Once you understand them and make planning a habit, you can harness its power to create a happier, healthier and more productive life.

Planning will trigger pain, at least initially: If you have very weak planning patterns in your brain, you will literally feel pain when you begin to plan. But as you develop the habit of planning, the pain associated with it usually decreases. And the more you do it, the more positive reinforcement you will receive.

Planning takes longer than expected: It’s typical for planning your week to take 30 to 60 minutes and project planning to take much longer. For those unfamiliar with planning, this can seem like an excessive amount of time. But for those who have seen its power, they understand that one hour a week can make hundreds of hours of thoughtful work less stressful and more productive.

Things tend to go better when you plan: When you plan, you’ll often discover some hard truths about what it will take to accomplish a project or simply get your work done. This can feel a bit uncomfortable. But discovering these facts as early as possible gives you the ability to quickly negotiate expectations on deliverables or pull in more resources on a project.

Planning can give you warning signs: Planning can helpfully provide early warning signals in case something is going wrong and needs to be rethought. Having a plan and checking against it allows you to notice and make adjustments before your projects or other time commitments are in major peril.

Can planning be difficult? Yes. But is it possible for you to do more of it? Absolutely. The pay-off of going through the pain of planning can be huge in terms of increased productivity, decreased stress and, most of all, intentional alignment with what’s most important.

– Copyright Harvard Business Review 2016

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, a time coach and the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training.

 

Previously published in The Irish Times.

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