“Failing to plan means planning to fail.” “Proper planning prevents poor performance.” These phrases have become cliche because they’re true. Everybody has heard them, yet many people don’t make planning a priority. The most frequent excuse is that there isn’t enough time. However, failure to plan is one of the biggest time wasters out there. Without planning, you end up expending much more effort with far fewer results. Coordinating your actions with your goals is absolutely crucial to boosting productivity. The basic plans you’ll need to make are yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily.
You may want to make your yearly goals at the end of December or at the end of the fiscal year–but it’s imperative that you make these goals. Take as much time as you can making these goals, since they’ll be guiding you through all the other planning you do during the year. An entire day, or even a weekend, may be necessary. The plans you make yearly are the plans that provide the framework that all of your other plans–even your daily plans–fit into. Keep your yearly goals in mind throughout the year. Write them down, print them out, keep them on your phone–just look at your yearly goals every day.
Quarterly plans identify the steps you need to take to achieve your yearly goals. This is planning in a more detailed sense. What are your goals for the quarter? It’s also a time to prioritize tasks. Identify what you can make happen over the next quarter. You’ll need to spend a few hours making these plans.
Monthly planning is even more detailed than quarterly planning. Spend at least one hour making these plans. What are your goals for the month? What needs to happen in the next month to achieve your yearly goals? Monthly planning is where you really start to balance the things that you have to do and the things that you want to do. Ideally, both of these things should be working towards your yearly goals. If they’re not, you may need to rethink what you’re doing, or rethink your goals.
Make sure you stay on top of what’s going on the upcoming week: spend anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half planning your upcoming due dates, important meetings, and other high-priority tasks. This is also the absolute deadline for scheduling a few hours of free time. Otherwise, it’s not going to happen. Confirm any specific items you’ve planned for in your quarterly and monthly planning.
Spend 10-15 minutes every morning planning your day. Make a quick to-do list. Write it out on a piece of paper or in your smartphone–just get it written down! Remind yourself that what you do today is helping you achieve your yearly goals. Daily planning doesn’t just keep you organized for the day–it also keeps you motivated by reminding you of the big picture.
Remember, every minute you spend planning will be recouped down the line. The motivation and coordination provided by planning are well worth the time expended. Save yourself some time and start planning today.