Do you find yourself scrambling last minute, having to be reminded of deadlines, or being hunted down by others, after a deadline has passed? Or do you want to stop wasting time searching for things & feeling overwhelmed? Or do you think you do a good job of planning and being organized; however, you would like to excel at it? If you answered yes, to anyone of these questions, keep reading, as you will learn how you can more efficiently & effectively achieve your goals by proactively planning!

Everyone, even the most driven and successful people, still only have 24 hours in a day. Effective planning and organization help to optimize your time, limit waste, of both time and resources, and ensure you are doing the right work at the right time.

Exceling at planning and organization, requires making the time, as you are will likely never “find” the time to plan. However tough it may be at first, making the time, WILL save time in the end. According to U.S. News and World Report, for every hour of planning, three to four hours are saved, or returned, by preventing redundancy, time waiting for information, lack of preparation, or poorly managing tasks or resources.

If you’re ready to earn a 3-4x return on your time, the first thing you must do is begin with the end in mind. Determine the goal, objective, or the result(s) you seek by asking, “When it’s over, what will success look and feel like, and write it down!”

Next, identify the major steps required. Consider the key milestones and critical activities required to accomplish the goal, objective, or the result(s). Then, identify the tasks required. “What do I/we need to get X done?” What actions (tasks/activities) must happen to complete each major step or milestone identified. This may include securing funding, acquiring tools, conducting research, defining a strategy, etc.

Now, you are ready to identify the resources required. Estimate the resources that will be needed to complete each of the tasks. Resources may include money, people, technology, space, time (capacity), etc.

Next, create a timeline. Establish an estimate of the time required to complete the project or achieve the goal. You can do this by defining the desired or required end date and working backwards, to determine when each major step and task will need to be completed. Or you can estimate the duration of each task and subtotal those durations at the major step or milestone level, and then sum all durations to calculate the total duration.

Be sure to build in buffers to allow for “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong". Add additional time and resources to your plan, to proactively accommodate for the unexpected or unknown challenges that most likely will happen.

And increase your chances of success by considering alternative paths. Take a step back and think about other ways the goal or objectives could be met. Ask yourself/others, “Who else could complete these tasks? What other assets or resources might we use to conduct this activity?”

Now you are ready to prioritize, or determine the order of items or tasks, according to their relative importance.

Finally, be sure to build in accountability. Once you’ve determined what needs to be done, what resources will be used, and what the key priorities are, assign the tasks and milestones to appropriate owners, and gain their commitment, as well as establish (up front), regular checkpoints to review progress.

Here’s to your increased success!