Planning skills is written about and talked about more than it is done. Here are some ideas that will help you improve your planning skills.
Force yourself to plan.
If you fail to plan, you are by default planning to fail.
Schedule uninterrupted time every day to do your planning.
Anticipate possible problems you could encounter in your project because of people, material, or mechanical failures. Purposely provide preventive actions and contingency plans in important high risk situations.
When planning a project, plan in thinking time.
Plan for tomorrow, tonight. Your subconscious will help organize while you sleep.
Each day anticipate the sequence of activities that you will do to attain the objectives you are after.
Think about your entire week. How will important projects be sequenced?
Do your planning in writing to capture all of your ideas and to be sure none of them get lost. We can only work mentally with about seven pieces of information without losing some-thing. Write your thoughts down and you will be able to utilize everything you think of during your planning process.
When developing a specific plan, list the activity steps individually on small pieces of paper and then sequence the pieces of paper. Then write the whole plan out in sequential order.
If you must, leave your office and get away to do your planning in a quiet place where you can think.
Don't hurry the process. Something will get overlooked.
When things go wrong, it can generally be traced back to a poor job of planning or failing to follow an existing plan.
List key words that relate to a project. They will fit into and help you in planning. Keep records of how long it takes to do an activity. You can use this information for future scheduling.
Take the first of any time block and dedicate it to planning that block.
Schedule one weekend away each quarter and make it a top priority. Mini-vacations are refreshing.
Encourage your staff to create their own plan and then to explain it in detail to you.
Sit quietly and mentally rehearse the steps in your plan. Use your imagination to visualize the steps being taken. You will sense where additional steps need to be added and will anticipate problems to prevent.
Consider settling for 90% completion of 90% of the projects. The final 10% may not be worth the cost to attain them.
Use the first 10 minutes of each day to plan or review your plan for the day.
When starting a new project or activity, take a moment to quietly review, mentally, the steps you will follow.
Set your own due dates for projects earlier than the actual deadline.
If you cannot identify the objectives and steps to take to get to a goal, it is "unrealistic."
Put schedules in writing. Publish them and then follow up with them.
Mentally organize before proceeding.
Create and use Gantt charts.
Create and use PERT charts.
Stick Post-It-Notes on paperwork to indicate or highlight scheduling and due dates.
Remember the 6 P's of planning: Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
Schedule formal planning meetings with your staff regularly.
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