All successful time managers are good planners. They make lists and sublists to accomplish each major and minor objective. Whenever a new project crosses their desks, they take the time to think through exactly what they want to accomplish and then write out an orderly list, in sequence, of every step necessary for the completion of the project.
There is a rule that every minute spent in planning saves ten minutes in execution. The time you take to think about a task on paper before you actually begin work gives you a return on personal energy of 1,000%—ten minutes saved for every minute that you invest in first planning your work.
Once you are clear about your goal, make a list of everything you can think of that you will have to do to achieve that goal. Keep adding new items to the list as you think of them, until your list is complete. Organize your list two ways: by sequence and by priority.
First, to organize by sequence, create a list of activities in chronological order, from the first step to the final step needed to complete the goal or project. As Henry Ford said, “The biggest goal can be achieved if you simply break it down into enough small parts.”
Second, set priorities for these items. Accept that 20% of the items on your list will account for 80% of the value and importance of all the things you do. Setting priorities allows you to stay focused on key tasks and activities without getting distracted. As Goethe said, “The things that matter most must never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.”
Review your plans regularly, especially when you experience frustration or resistance of any kind. Be prepared to revise your plans when you receive new information or feedback. Remember that almost every plan has flaws in it, both large and small. Continually seek them out. When you review your plans daily, you will get new ideas, perspectives and insights about how to complete the task faster and better than you may have thought initially.
Action without planning is the cause of every failure. Resist the temptation to take action before you have planned it out thoroughly in advance.
Planning for Goal Achievement
Perhaps the most important word related to success of any kind is clarity
. Successful people are very clear about who they are and what they want in every area of their lives. In addition to written goals, successful people have written plans of action that they follow every day.
Once you have set a larger goal for yourself and your business, there are four questions that you should ask:
1. What are the difficulties and obstacles that stand between you and the achievement of your goal?
Why aren’t you at your goal already? What is holding you back? What stands in your way? What problems do you have to solve and what difficulties do you have to overcome to achieve your goal in the end?
Of all the problems you need to solve, which form the 20% that accounts for 80% of the obstacles between you and your goal?
2. What additional knowledge, skills or information are required to achieve your goal or complete your project?
Remember the saying, “Whatever got you to where you are today is not enough to get you any further.”
Where can you acquire the additional knowledge and skills that you need to achieve your goal? Can you buy the knowledge or information or hire someone who has it? Do you need to develop new skills to achieve your full potential in your work? What information is essential in enabling you to make the right decisions in the process of achieving your goal?
As Josh Billings wrote, “It’s not what a man knows that hurts him; it’s what he knows that isn’t true.”
3. Which people, groups or organizations can give you the help and cooperation you need to achieve your goal?
Sometimes, a single person can give you ideas and insights or open doors for you that help you to achieve vastly more than you ever thought possible. It’s the same reason many businesspeople enter into joint ventures and strategic alliances with their competitors in order to offer products and services to each other’s customers that each of them does not currently offer.
4. Of all the people who can help you to achieve your goal, who is the most important person of all?
What could you offer in exchange to gain this person’s help and cooperation so that you achieve your important goals even faster?
The most important projects in business, and in the world around us, are completed by people who make detailed plans of action before they begin. Make written plans for yourself and your business, and then follow those plans carefully until they are successful.
© 2013 Brian Tracy. All rights reserved.
Excerpted from Time Management
(The Brian Tracy Success Library), by Brian Tracy. Used with permission of the publisher, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association.
You can learn more about time management and meeting your goals in these AMA seminars:
Strategy Execution: Getting It Done