Planning Basics 2: The Two Keys

I’m guessing if you’re following this blog you already know these things, but here are some of the general planning tips and key points I share with my students, most of whom are just starting out on figuring out the best system for getting things done. Regardless of your personality type, this will help you plan better.

To me there are only two things you really need to plan successfully. Everything else is just to your taste — go simple and pure bullet journalling, use a pre-made planner, go all-digital, or decorate your own. The choice is up to you, but whatever you do, here’s how to use that system effectively.

Planning has two parts: Time and Tasks
To successfully plan, you need to keep track of two things. First, time: whether that’s your appointments, deadlines, all-day events, or spans of doing something. Second, tasks: breaking the things you have to get done into manageable to-do lists.

Knowing the deadlines and commitments you’ve made help you backwards plan to get everything done; and the ability to break your projects into to-do lists helps you understand what you need to do to finish something and have small “wins” along the way.

Keys to planning success
To me there are two components to successfully getting things done: making your tasks manageable and making your planner part of your routine.

Manageable Tasks
If your tasks are things you can get done in 20-60 minute chunks you will have a much greater success rate at finishing larger projects. Take time at the beginning of a project (as well as once or twice in the middle of the project, too!) to think about what the components of a project are. Then you will have a bigger picture of what needs to get done, you can schedule them for the allotted time slots you know you have to work on them, and you can backwards plan more effectively.

A Planning Routine
The only way the above works, though, is if you make your planner part of your routine. I like to take time once a week (usually on a Sunday because I find planning and crafting my layouts very calming and fulfilling) to prepare my to-do lists and timetables for the week. That way I have an overview of what’s happening for the week.

At work, I keep my planner next to me and add or check-off my to-do lists throughout the day. (Note: I use my timetable in my planner more as a reference/log as my schedule changes often enough that I must use my Outlook or Google Calendar for actual work meetings.) If you’re a student, when you sit down to work or study, take a minute to look at an overview of what you need to get done and prioritize what is most pressing or important before you just dive into a task.

So to me, it’s simple. It doesn’t need to be pretty (though if that motivates you, go for it! I know it motivates me). It doesn’t need to be perfected. It just needs to work for you.

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