The most successful people all have one thing in common — they are excellent planners. The important part of planning is to keep it simple and flexible so that you can easily make changes when things don’t go according to plan.
You can solve this problem by making lists — and lots of them. But what if you were told that planning isn’t just about making lists? What if you were told that planning is much more than simply crossing off items on your list? What if you were told that there are seven methods for planning effectively that will help make sure your next assignment gets done without running out of time or budget?
If you’re wondering how to plan ahead, read on because this guide has everything you need to know.
1. Know your trigger times
The first step to success is knowing when you are most productive. For example, if you know that you’re at your best in the morning, start your day by getting up early and working on your goals for about three hours straight before heading off to work. Some people are more productive in the evening, others on weekends or after work.
As a rule of thumb, try scheduling your most important tasks around your “trigger times” — the time of day when you feel most focused and energized. This will help ensure that they get done even if other things come up throughout the day that may distract you from the task at hand.
2. Have a goal, and be specific about it
Your goal should be specific, measurable and achievable. You also want to make sure that your goals are relevant to your situation, time-bound and realistic.
It’s important for you to enjoy the process of working towards your goal as well as reaching it.
3. Create a visual map
A visual map is a way to organize your thoughts and see how everything fits together. You can use it to plan out your study or get an overview of what you need to do next.
To create one, start by drawing out the main ideas that are important to the topic at hand. Then think about what subtopics come from those main ideas and write them down as well. Don’t worry if some of these have more than one subtopic — it’s okay for things to cross over.
Once you’ve written down everything you know about this subject, make sure that there isn’t any information missing. If there is, draw in more lines until every piece has been connected into a coherent whole:
4. Prepare and do everything in advance
As soon as you have decided to start studying, prepare yourself. Prepare everything in advance and do your homework before starting. This will give you better organization and create a more dedicated approach.
For example, if you plan to learn 10 new words each day, then write them down on paper or in an app like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. Create lists of words according to the topics and subjects that you want to learn about (i.e., “vocabulary for chemistry”, “vocabulary for history”, etc.). Then check off each word as it is learned so that you can see which ones are leftover at the end of each day/week/month and so on.
5. Use the 80/20 rule
You can use the 80/20 rule to prioritize your studying. This rule of thumb suggests that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For example, if you have a large amount of material to learn, focus on only 20% of it first. Once you have mastered this portion, move on to another 20%.
When learning new material in school or work, it’s important to understand how much time should be spent on each task and how long it will take for results; otherwise, you could end up overwhelmed by information overload and increased stress levels. The key here is knowing when to stop working before getting burned out — and knowing when not to do anything at all is just as crucial.
6. Reward yourself properly
Rewarding yourself is an essential part of the study process. When you accomplish something, it’s important that you acknowledge your progress and make sure that you’re celebrating in a way that feels good to you.
If you have a specific goal in mind, it can help to set up a reward system beforehand so that when the time comes to celebrate, there’s no question about what type of treat or event would be ideal for the occasion. If possible, make sure these rewards are sustainable: They shouldn’t require massive amounts of money or time on your part.
7. Don’t be afraid to fail (be honest about where you’re at)
Don’t be afraid to fail. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the best way to get where you want is by jumping in and taking the first step. If something doesn’t work out, it’s okay! You’re learning from your mistakes and will know what not to do next time around.
Be honest about where you’re at. It’s important that we don’t just think positive thoughts but also speak them out loud — to others as well as ourselves. This makes us accountable for what we say and do, which can help keep us on track with our goals and not just daydream about them.
When you make a plan for success, you can avoid the pitfalls that trap many people who don’t have a plan. You’ll know what steps to take and when to take them. Planning will also help keep you motivated because it gives you something to look forward to.
Finally, planning helps you set realistic goals for yourself so that when things don’t go according to plan (as is often the case), then at least there’s some direction on how you should do things differently next time around.