Some people cannot imagine a day without a precise plan, others prefer to “go for it”, considering planning a waste of time and limitation to spontaneity. However, is there anyone who would risk building a house without guidelines in black and white? In that case, why so many of us assume that planning our work is useless? The pace of our life is increasing and the amount of challenges we must face every day is growing as well. With no proper organisation, it is much harder to control everything and achieve professional goals. Planning the tasks we have to do, we can shorten the work time considerably, at the same time devoting less energy to it. All it takes is 5-10 minutes spent with a calendar in our hands, with an application or just writing a “to-do” list. Let’s take a closer look at most common mistakes that stand in the way of effective planning and what can help this process.
With all certainty, all of us had few plans which died on the vine. Why does that happen? One of the most common reasons for this failure in the field is trying to make use of every minute of our time. Meanwhile, it is impossible to avoid unforeseen events during the day. Not without reason, experts advise to plan no more than 60 percent of your work day. Leave the rest of the time for unplanned activities and, above all, for some rest without which it is impossible to work effectively.
The key element of effective planning is to create a hierarchy of your responsibilities. Determining which tasks are the most important for us and focusing on them first will give us energy and motivation for further work. Even if it turns out that we are running out of time, forcing us to move less important tasks for tomorrow, we are still one step closer to our final goal.
Effective planning cannot be successful if we do not know the pace of our own work. Usually, we are too optimistic about the number of tasks we are able to perform in a given time period and, as a result, we do not have enough of it for less important activities that we have to postpone over and over. To avoid being overwhelmed by work, it is worth assuming that a given task might take us even twice as much time as we expect. Obviously, our checklist will automatically shorten. It appears, however, that it is better to complete less tasks rather than wrap up the day with frustration and feeling that you did not work well enough, right?
To plan the work day you can use a simple paper notebook and a calendar. You could also benefit from the advantages of new technologies and try out some applications helping with time and task management – such as ICP. Using it, we might not get the satisfaction of checking the consecutive points on our “to-do” list with a pen, yet the conveniences offered by the system make up for this minor drawback. What can we gain? Above all, access to our task list from almost any place and possibility to share it with other team members. There is no need to persuade anybody that this could improve the work flow in the team. Even the best checklist created on paper cannot, unfortunately, be synchronised. Time management in ICP is also simplified by the built-in calendar which displays tasks entered in it. We do not have to remember the date of their implementation, the system will remind us of this with a special notification.
Let’s sum up what you can do for the planning to be effective:
- leave yourself a margin for error
- prioritize the tasks
- start with the hardest assignments
- learn your work pace
- embrace the opportunities offered by modern tools
Higher motivation, better quality of task execution and time savings are just some of the benefits of effective planning. Although this skill is, indeed, a form of art, mastering which does not come without effort, by all means it is worth practicing. This is an investment with a great rate of return.