Benjamin Franklin is credited with coming up with a lengthier version of this saying. Sir Winston Churchill created his own version.
Both these wise leaders are letting us know that if you don’t have a plan you will most likely fail at whatever it is you are attempting.
The best reason to plan is to succeed.
When you have a plan, you don’t float through the day letting whatever happens to happen. You get things done. Your appointments and job are scheduled. You can fit other tasks like errands, chores, and self-care around the scheduled events. If you don’t schedule these other tasks, they won’t get done.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time for floating through the day. I love to do that when I’m on vacation. Generally, though, it’s best to have a plan.
How to Plan
Some people, I am one, use pen and paper to create their plan. Others use their electronic devices. One of the biggest reasons I like using a paper list is that I like the physical action of crossing a completed task off my list.
Another reason I like paper is because the plan seems more real to me when I can write it out. It helps me to organize my thoughts when I put them on paper. I see right away if a step is not in the correct order which allows me to rework my plan.
Sometimes, I think I have things in a logical order but after I write down my thoughts, it’s immediately apparent that I need to make some adjustments.
What to Include in the Plan?
I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. I make my list of things to do the night before. I reread my list of the day and note anything I haven’t done that I want to accomplish the next day.
I quite often have several lists going at once. One list has long-term projects. The other is a daily list. I look over the project list to see if there is room in my day to include a step or two from my project list in my daily list. If there is, I schedule time to do it.
Once I have my list it’s easy to reference. I don’t worry about my next steps, I have them in black and white.
Also, if I want to do one step or one task and then take a break I can without taxing my brain with remembering either where I was in a project or what else I wanted to do today.
My plan also lets me be flexible. I bet that surprises you. Some people are under the impression that when you have a list, a plan and a schedule you have to stick to it like glue.
This is not the case.
Arguably, some things like an appointment with someone else or your work hours cannot always be rescheduled. However, other things like going to an exercise class or completing a step in a project can easily be rescheduled. It’s much easier to move things around when you have a good understanding of what it is you want to accomplish – when you have a plan.
Work Your Plan
As the day goes on, I sometimes find that I have over-planned. I didn’t have as much time as I wanted. I’m sure you get interrupted when you’re working just as I do.
When you have a plan, you can check in with yourself to see what is being accomplished and what is not. Being flexible is important as is getting the time sensitive and important things done each day.
Read this for more information on planning your day.
When you have a plan to work you can plan to succeed in whatever it is you’re doing.
Diane N. Quintana is a Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization®, Master Trainer and owner of DNQ Solutions, LLC based in Atlanta, Georgia. Diane teaches busy people how to become organized and provides them with strategies and solutions for maintaining order in their lives. She specializes in residential and home-office organizing and in working with people affected by ADD, Hoarding, and chronic disorganization.
This is an excellent description of the value of planning and how to actually do it. The word that stuck out the most here is “flexible.” Life has its surprises- some days more than others. So in the overall scheme of planning, I factor in white space into most days. This way if I need to make a change, I have space to do that. If I schedule my days so tightly, I have no room to breathe, adjust, or explore an unexpected opportunity or challenge.
I used to be a paper planning person. While I still love my sticky notes and mini paper lists, mostly I manage my schedule and tasks digitally. I work with my electronic calendar and task app. I love 2Do. I check my daily list throughout the day and adjust as needed. It allows me to keep on track each day and also plan for the future. As you know, the system that works for you is the best system. There is no one way.
Thank you, Linda. I’m going to take a look at 2do. I love to have great options for my digital clients!
Great point about allowing your plan to be flexible. Mine is adjusting all day long. Sometimes I get sucked into a big task and realize early on that I’m not going to get some items, so I reschedule those to another day. Or, I will encounter a problem and shift things around. The key is to not allow things like procrastination or fear be the reason we change our plan. Great post!
Thank you, Seana!
Thanks for these detailed tips on why and how to plan. Having a plan really does improve productivity and make life less stressful!
Thank you, Nancy!
Having a plan is a really good idea and helpful in following through and finishing the task. I do make lists and I love tackling my list but I need to work on more long term plans. Great suggestions and motivation here.
Thank you for joining the conversation, Kim. I’m glad to know you like my suggestions!
This was a favorite saying of mine — and still so true! — from long before I was a Professional Organizer, when I was an engineering student and an Integrated Technology Planner at the phone company.
Thank you, Hazel!
I use Todoist for my task list, and I get similar satisfaction from it as you do when you cross something off your paper list. Each time I click a task as completed, I can see my list get shorter, and congratulatory messages pop up when I clear my list for the day or achieve my target (which I’ve set at 8 tasks per day).
Thank you, Janet. I’m going to add Todoist to my growing list of apps to investigate!