The Complete Guide To Planning For Beginners

Summary – 10 Fundamentals of Effective Planning

There has always been debate between a planner and a non-planner. The planner believes that everything must be planned for it to be effective or successful. There’s some truth in that.

And the non-planner believes that to get things done, we must reduce the steps needed for it to be done. Hence, no plan is needed. This also makes sense.

I personally believe, as always, a moderation between the two ideas is the best answer. We should always plan, but the process of planning must be so organized that it can be done within minutes.

These are what you should first consider :

1) Determine what exactly you want

Getting all excited without actually having anything to be excited about is like driving endlessly around the roundabout. Yes, you are moving. Yes, you are excited, but after 5 hours of doing that, you will still be there with a big headache and no gas.

Write down what you want. Do not just make a list in your head. That never works. If you want to buy a house, write that down – “Goal : I want to buy a $100,000 house.”

2) Set a deadline

Just saying that you want to buy a house will not mean much if you are going to buy it in another century. You might as well save only a few cents per day and still manage to accomplish that in a century.

Set a deadline that actually makes the plan worthy of your time. However, do not be over excited and set the impossible. There is no way you can buy a house in 2 months. Unless of course you just inheritted several millions dollars from your uncle. If this is the case, please consider to be my best friend :) .

Write this down in your plan just under Goal – “Deadline : End of 2014”

3) Aim 10% higher for goals and 10% lower for deadline

We already know this universal truth that if you want to write a blog post with 10 points, you will usually end up with only 9. Nothing else can be squeezed out. And If you aim to finish a job in 2 days, it will usually drag to 3 days. This is slowly becoming acceptable even to the best of us.

Aim 10% higher for all your goals. If for example, you want to buy a $100,000 house, aim for a $110,000 house. I can guarantee you will end up with exactly $100,000. Set also the deadline to be 5 years instead of 6 years. Again, keep everything on the logical side. All goals must be practical. Period.

4) Start with what you have now

Zero multiply with a thousand will always be zero. This is what you get if you start working with something you don’t have. If you are unemployed, how can you save that $110K to buy the house. So you should start with getting a job. It’s that simple. Being unemployed without any income and still plans to have $110K in 5 years is not a plan, it’s day dreaming.

But of course, if getting a job is part of the plan. it will make perfect sense.

Another example just to fortify this point is to plan to be a famous singer when you hate singing. There is no love for singing to start with, so your plan however detailed will most likely fail. Start with something you have, like you have the desire to become famous. Maybe you can be a manager of a wonderful talent. Just promote her untill she become insanely famous. I’m sure people will know you too then.

5) Big Big Big Picture

I’m sorry to tell you that this is usually the hardest part in a planning process. You will have to come up with all the details of your plan here. For example, if you want to buy the house, you have to figure out how to save the money, where can you get extra income, where is the best location for the house etc. In short, this is the step where you will have to do some research and figure out how exactly to achieve what you want.

Be warned. There is a dangerous trap lurking in this very step. Some people spend days and even years trying to get the full detail of the plan. It is true we need a detailed plan, but not so detailed that the plan will always remain a plan. Sometimes we just need to have a rough idea, a few supporting ideas and proceed with it.

6) Calculate the duration & milestone

Remember the $110K house we planned just now? The next step is to come up with a proper milestone for us to measure the success of our plan. In order to save $110K in 5 years, we will need to save at least $1.8K per month. Now that we have figured this out, we can easily tell if we are making progress by the end of the month.

The problem with this step is that, sometimes a goal cannot be quantified. Meaning, you cannot put numbers or percentage of completion to a goal. Typical example is like goals to be happier, or fitter.

Unfortunately, in order for us to have a concrete achievable goal, we need to quantify the unquantifiable. Maybe for those who set their goal to be a happier person, you can count the number of smile and laughter per day. Or try to give yourself a mark at the end of the day, “How happy are you today? 1 being sad, 10 being happy”.

You will need the numbers or it will be another drive around the roundabout for you.

7) Prepare for obstacle

I was once told by a very wise man that if you encounter obstacles in your plan, it means that you are on the right track. I couldn’t agree more. When you are planning for something, you will find as if the whole universe is going against you, demotivating you in every corner.

Just scrutinize the obstacle you encountered. Try to determine the lesson behind them so that you will know how to handle such problem in the future. If you do this, believe me, you have won half the battle.

In our specific example, there may be time when your car suddenly need a complete overhaul which will siphoned a lot from your saving. Be ready for such event. Set up your rules beforehand, what event, if happened, that will allow you take up some cash from the saving etc.

8] Address the weakest link in your plan

There will always be one weakest link in any plan. This weakest link is something that is involved in your plan, however due to its weakness, it is likely to fail and thus fails the whole plan.

For example, you want to direct a movie. If the star of your movie keep showing up late and postponing the shooting due to his personal problem, he is then your weakest link. And he alone will jeopardize the whole plan of shooting the movie. Your cost will double and most probably the movie will not be finished in time. So address this first, either give him a 2 hours lecture on responsibility or just fire him. That maybe the best decision you will ever make.

9) Stop planning and just start something

It’s true. Start working on your plan is actually a part of the plan itself. If you want to write an ebook, just take note the first 8 points listed above and immediately start with your ebook. It’s that simple. Why? Because about 50% of your plan will be actually devised during the implementation of the plan. Buying the house is started by a simple saving of a few dollars. And only after you actually start saving, you will better understand what you need to do to buy your dream house.

10) Review, Improvise, Continue

Remember the milestone we established in point 6. Make it a practice to review your milestone every month (It can be anytime you want). Ask yourself why you can’t reach the target set? what else can be improved?

And immediately after taking note of all that, continue working on your plan. If you followed all this steps, there’s no reason your plan will fail. No reason at all. Congratulation! Now that you know how to plan, isn’t it appropriate to plan something?

– I wonder –
Ever had a plan that failed? Care to share the reason why?

————– Personal Note —————-
I received the annual planner every year without fail from my suppliers. However, I never actually used them. I am more comfortable planning on an A4 paper. Over time, it will be filled with other junk so I make the effort of writing it all again on another A4 paper. Redundant, I know, but at least it keeps me reminded of the plan all year long.

Personally, I really need to see the plan for it to work. Anything that is inside a book cover or a computer will remain there forever a plan.

Photo Credit – John Althouse Cohen

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This post has 12 comments.


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  1. 01 Nov 08 10:13 am

    i love planning. when i feel disturbed, i write down my plan to overcome it. when i fail a subject, i console myself by making plans to do better in the next test. when i dream of buying somthing that’t too expensive, i plan my budget so that within a period of time, i can buy it.

    however, planning will never work, without DETERMINATION and DICIPLINE. and that’s what i lack of. my plans mostly just remain a plan. 😛

  2. 01 Nov 08 5:25 pm

    Wilda – so am I.. One of the most fun is planning the budget :) There’s so much to do with so little money.

    In the end, like you said, the determination and discipline will determine how achievable the plan is. Thanks for the additional thoughts

  3. 02 Nov 08 2:52 pm

    Planning has been the key to my success. And the Paper Assistant planner is the only planner I’ve been able consistently carry with me and keep up on my planning.

  4. 02 Nov 08 5:13 pm

    Brad Tanner:) I’m going to allow you promote the product here, since it is still related to the topic. Thanks for the recommendation

  5. 05 Nov 08 9:54 am

    I can relate to #9 the most, stop planning and start doing. It generally takes a lot for me to get off of my butt. But once I’m up and running, I have a good amount of momentum to carry me through. Your post was well written and comprehensive. Thanks!

  6. I gave you an “Uber Amazing” blog award. Pick it up at http://www.zemeks.blogspot.com

  7. banji
    06 Nov 08 12:08 am

    Steve C – Ah the momentum. That deserve another article entirely dedicated for it :) Mind sharing your methods of keeping the momentum up? Thanks Steve for sharing

    Karen – Thank you Karen for the award. Appreciate it :)

  8. 07 Nov 08 1:07 am

    fail to plan = } plan to fail

  9. 09 Nov 08 6:07 am

    @k@kPOKPEK -That quotes will always be the best way to describe the importance of planning. Thanks app

  10. jina
    15 Mar 10 4:29 pm

    why we establish a plan ??????? waste time .Do you like , what happen will happen

  11. 17 Nov 10 9:59 am

    Jina – Things that you want to happen will most likely not happen to you.

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