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Time Management Training - Planning Ahead

Time management training - planning ahead

Time management training - planning ahead

Goals require plans

All goals require plans that are capable of achieving the goal.
If you set a goal, but you have no plans capable of achieving them, then you have wasted your time.
If you have a goal AND you have a detailed, practical plan of action that are capable of achieving the goal, then you have a potent combination of elements.

What is a plan?

A plan is a thought process that has been recorded in writing.
A plan is intended to be a prescription for a course of action aimed at achieving specific goal or objective, within a specific time.
A plan should explain, in as much detail as possible, what needs to be done, by when, by what means, and by whom, and often includes best case, worst case and expected case scenarios.

What happens if you fail to plan?

If you fail to plan, then you are forced into the position of acting without a plan.
If you are acting without a plan, then you are forced into the position where you must simply react to events, as they occur, and without time to think things through logically.
If you are simply reacting to circumstances as they happen, then you have lost the initiative; you are no longer driving events; instead events are driving you!
If the events are bad-news-events, and they are driving you, then for the non-planner, the future looks bleak.

What happens if you do plan?

If you do write the plan, which is prescription for a course of action that is capable of achieving a specific objective, and if you can explain what needs to be done, by when, by what means, and by whom, then you are in the position of acting with all the benefits of a well-designed plan.
If you are acting with all the benefits of a well-designed plan, then you are no longer simply responding to events as they occur.

Instead, you are acting and reacting within the framework of a contingency plan where the thought process has been done in advance of the event. You have done the thinking when there was sufficient time to think things through logically.

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You are no longer simply reacting to circumstances.

If you are not simply reacting to circumstances, then you have retained the initiative and now you are no longer being driven by events; instead you are driving the events.
If you are driving the events, then for you, the planner, the future looks exciting.

How should one plan?

To some degree, all situations are unique, and so it is impossible to give one prescription that will satisfy every possible scenario. However, in any unique situation, there are always universal principles operating that do apply in all cases. So, what follows is a list of principles that you can and should apply to your planning process.

A plan should be written

Plan in writing.

Remember the definition of "a plan" started with this sentence: "A plan is a thought process that has been recorded in writing".

Always make written plans; as opposed to:

  • Talking about it - without writing it down.
  • Thinking about it - without writing it down.

What happens if you think about the plan - without writing it down?

If you think about the plan without writing it down, then you will inevitably come up against a limiting factor. That limiting factor is the fact that your brain has limited powers!
If you are a human being, then your brain has limited powers. Consciously your brain can hold in-mind, only a maximum of nine pieces of information at one moment.
If you try to hold more than nine "bits" of information then you will find that you start omitting elements and you make more mistakes.

The problem is this: Most plans require that you take into account far more than nine "bits" information. Even a grocery shopping trip to the local supermarket requires that you hold more than nine bits of information in mind.

If you are planning the achievement of a major goal, then that plan will require that you manipulate thousands of bits of information; and therefore your plans must be written plans.

What happens if you talk about the plan - without writing it down?

Answer: Many bad things will happen!

Why? Because in order to achieve your goal, then your plan must involve other people. They must know two things from you.

  1. What the goal is (the SMART target).
  2. What the plan is (the prescription for a course of action that is capable of achieving the SMART target).

If your colleagues are human beings, then their brains too, can only hold a maximum of nine pieces of information in the conscious mind.
If you try to tell them more than nine bits of information, then you will find that they start forgetting certain elements of your message and they start making more mistakes.

If you are planning the achievement of a major goal, then that plan will require that your colleagues know thousands of bits of information from you; and therefore your instructions and plans must be written plans and written instructions.

Plan on paper.

A plan should be detailed

Remember the definition of a plan contained this phrase:

"A plan should explain, in as much detail as possible, what needs to be done, by when, by what means, and by whom, and often includes best case, expected case, and worst case scenarios."

Having a detailed plan means giving careful consideration to all parts and aspects of the process.

What if the plan is not detailed

What if you plans are not detailed and are instead; sketchy and poorly thought through.
To the degree to which the plan is sketchy and poorly thought through, is the degree to which your plan is NOT a plan.
You plan must be detailed if it is to quality as being "a plan".

To illustrate:

Imagine I said to you, "My goal is to dominate the world!" and you said "Show me the plans!" and I gave you a half sheet of notepaper with the words: "I will dominate the world by doing the right things in the right order".

Then you would hand the note paper back to me and ask me to try again.

You would say "I'm sorry Chris, but this document does not constitute" a plan". Try again!"

In order to qualify as "a plan", you need to have mapped out, in as much detail as possible:

  • What needs to be done, by when,
  • By what means, and by whom,
  • Often you might include: best case, expected case, and worst case scenarios.

Tonight, sit down with your partner and write down your detailed written plans that are capable of achieving the specific objectives that you have set for yourselves.

PDCA

Further reading: Plan, Do, Check, Act.

About the Author: Chris Farmer

Chris

Chris Farmer is the founder of the Corporate Coach Group and has many years’ experience in training leaders and managers, in both the public and private sectors, to achieve their organisational goals, especially during tough economic times. He is also well aware of the disciplines and problems associated with running a business.

Over the years, Chris has designed and delivered thousands of training programmes and has coached and motivated many management teams, groups and individuals. His training programmes are both structured and clear, designed to help delegates organise their thinking and, wherever necessary, to improve their techniques and skills.

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