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10 Planning Tips

By Donna Birk
Posted Saturday, October 2, 2004

Everybody plans. When you decide to do something and then do it, even if it’s at the spur-of-the-moment, that's planning. Most of us can decrease the level of stress in our day to day lives by improving our planning habits.

Here are ten tips to help you move toward more effective planning.

1. Keep all of your planning tools and forms together in one place. This way, you’ll know where to go to check on anything and when you check on one item, the others will be there, reminding you that they might need to be reviewed, too.

2. Plan ahead of time, however frequently you plan. If you plan daily, decide on your daily plan at the end of the previous day; if you plan weekly, decide on your weekly plan at the end of the previous week, and so forth. You’ll be able to go home without taking your work with you and you’ll come to work knowing exactly what you need to accomplish.

3. Separate your planning from your doing. Take time specifically to plan what you’re going to do rather than having that get mingled in with your doing. You’ll just get more done if you plan it and then do it instead of "planning on the go." The very first item on any to-do list should be "plan my day, week, month, etc." Start simple and keep it as simple as you can.

4. Don’t try to imitate the people who deal with all kinds of complicated calendars, schedules, matrixes, flow charts, PERT diagrams, Gannt charts, etc. Make your planning a natural process for yourself by choosing things that you understand and can easily implement.

5. Stretch yourself on an ongoing basis and try out something new. If, after giving it a fair shot, it doesn’t work, you can and should leave it out of your repertoire. You only grow and increase your effectiveness, however, by moving out of your comfort zone.

6. Quiz other friends, colleagues, and co-workers about how they plan and what works for them. I’ll be each one will have at least one great idea for you to try!

7. Remember that planning is an ongoing process. None of us maintain it absolutely 100% of the time with 100% effort. Try for 80%, knowing that there will be times when you pass and others when you are absolutely diligent.

8. Make being proactive a personal priority for you. This means taking charge of your life by taking action and utilizing your personal planning style. Avoid being reactive, or waiting for things to happen to which you then respond or react.

9. Choose planning tools that help you to organize your meetings, appointments, tasks, projects, etc. in a consolidated manner. For example, find one form that serves more than one function, rather than having to deal with 6 different papers. If you’re using something that doesn’t help you feel organized, replace it with something that will.

10. Respect your time by learning how to deal with interruptions. Become an expert at distinguishing the truly important priorities from the daily crises that tend to steal your time.

About the Author
Donna Birk may be contacted at (
Donna Birk is a writer, trainer, coach, and Licensed Social Worker. She founded and operates "People Builders," an organization devoted to helping people grow. Get a FREE goal setting guide and FREE E-zine at her website: (


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