Advance Planning to Improve Time Management

By Dirk Zeller

The planning process for a project, your workday, or even a vacation is more vexing than the execution. But few people plan their day or week with such zeal. You have to fall in love with advance planning. You are likely faced each day with tasks you would rather not do, but frequently they seem to be high priorities.

For example, most salespeople don’t wake up each morning saying, “How exciting today; I get to call people I don’t know and ask for their business!” Most moms don’t get up and say in an excited tone, “I get to remind my seventh‐grade son ten times to make sure he packs his homework before he goes to school!”

This is where advance planning brings big dividends to your life. Before your day begins — maybe the night before — plan to do the toughest but most important things first. Usually tough tasks become more challenging to complete throughout the day as more projects, deadlines, and emergency items crop up. So a good rule is to clear out the tough tasks first.

The sheer act of planning is the key to unlock your creativity, problem-solving, mental strength, and clarity. It also increases your mental and physical energy because you see the pathway to a productive day.

The better you use planning strategies and techniques, the more you can avoid procrastinating away what you don’t want to do. At its base level, planning is simply creating a list. You increase your productivity by more than 25 percent by simply writing down what you need to accomplish. The advantages of creating a list are as follows.

Achieving peace of mind

Create your life as you wind down for the day so that you’re ready to take on tomorrow. You likely are able to rest and relax more, knowing that your following day is planned. You sleep better when you don’t have unresolved issues weighing heavy on your mind. You can achieve a deeper slumber by knowing you have your time and tasks under control.

Activating your subconscious mind

You also trigger your subconscious mind while you sleep. Because you have created your list, your subconscious works on that list while you rest. Your subconscious mind turns the challenges and problems over and over like a rotisserie, and eventually it comes up with strategies and solutions.

Have you ever gone to bed with a problem or challenge only to wake up with a couple of new ideas on how to solve them? Your subconscious mind created those ideas while you slept. Always give your subconscious something to do at night by . . . handing it a list.

The 1,000 percent return

There is always a large payoff for planning. Many studies have indicated that for every minute of planning you save ten minutes in execution. That is a 1,000 percent return on your time with proper planning.

The truth is that even if you planned out everything in excruciating detail by forcing yourself to do it, you most likely would not invest more than a few minutes a day in the whole planning process. Strange as it may sound, sometimes you may need to slow down in order to speed up. Planning is the only pathway to greater productivity and quality of life.

The wasted time and mistakes you make are most likely related to a lack of planning. The most epic failures have commonality in lack of planning.

Assemble all that is needed

After you have planned out your day, a project, or even dinner, you then need to gather your materials to start and complete the project.

Before you start on anything, ask yourself these key questions:

  • What data or information would make completing this quicker?

  • Is there some information I don’t have that would save me time for this project?

  • Do I really have everything I need?

The cycle of planning, to gathering, to implementation is the cycle of success and efficiency. If you have to backtrack to gather resources after you’ve begun implementation, or go back to planning because your execution is stalled, and the waste of your time in the backtracking is a significant loss.

Handle everything — just once

In today’s technology world, you deal with less paper because of electronic documents; even with electronic documents you tend to handle and review them multiple times before acting on them. This review is as if you had paper stacked on your desk; it’s just now in your computer and email inbox. The shuffling and reshuffling just happens inside your computer, so it seems far more efficient. The truth is you can just store more stuff easily so your productivity can really plummet.

Because you can store so much in electronic files you tend to keep rather than purge. You can be more efficient with your time if you throw away documents, files, and paper that you don’t need. Anything that is not relevant to your life, family, business, or goals, throw it out. Ask yourself, “Is there a negative consequence to throwing this out now?” If the answer is no, throw it out now.

If you need this information in the future, is there another place you could easily access it? The truth in society is information is becoming a commodity. Information is readily available, so keeping it because you might need it in the future only overloads you with files, documents, and stuff.