Planning and Organizing
Productivity Secrets

9 Proven Ways To Improve Your Planning And Organizing Skills

Planning and organizing are very broad topics. How you approach them depends on how big your project is, how many people are involved, and how much time and effort your project entails.

How well you can plan and organize a venture may be the difference between success and failure. The bigger the project, the more important it is to plan and organize well.

This article covers 9 proven principles and 7 fundamental rules for better planning and organizing regardless of the size and scope of your project.

In summary, here is how to be better at planning and organizing:

  • Have clear objectives for your plan.
  • Divide your overall objective into interim steps with deadlines to be sure you are progressing on time and target.
  • Make an action plan based on these steps.
  • Prioritize effectively and discern the differences between urgent, important and unimportant tasks.
  • Plan for the resources to carry out your plan, draw up a work schedule and communicate deadlines.
  • Effectively manage your own time.
  • Accurately judge resources and time to do tasks.
  • Research to stay aware of things that affect your project.
  • Keep good records.

Here is a quick video with the top 4 Tips to improve planning and organizing.

Have Clear Objectives For Your Plan

Clearly describe and define exactly what you want to achieve and have a clear vision of the end result. For example, an objective of “increased sales” is not sufficient.

  • Instead, you need to know exactly how much of an increase in sales by numbers or by percentage.
  • You need to have dates by which you want to achieve the sales increase.
  • You must know what steps you are going to implement to achieve the sales increase.

Divide Your Overall Objective into Steps and Goals

checklist

Set incremental steps and goals along the way so you know when you are making progress to meet your final objective.

An overall sales increase of 20% by the end of the year might have quarterly goals of 5% increases.

The incremental steps must include action steps along with performance goals.

An example in sales might be to spend $X on advertising and make XX number of sales calls during this quarter. Then you can make adjustments if you see that you aren’t meeting your objectives.

Make An Action Plan and Arrange Resources to Complete It

  • Your plan should include: actions to do, when they must be finished, who will do them and what materials, expertise, equipment and financing are required.
  • You also need to plan for tracking progress and making adjustments for unexpected problems and delays.
  • You need a method to collaborate and report progress and problems without delay.
  • Draw up a work schedule and communicate deadlines.
  • Stay informed on the plans of others and how they relate to your plans and the overall project.

Here is an excellent resource for writing an action plan for your goals.

Effectively Manage Your Own Time

Prioritize your actions and work on the most urgent and important ones first.

  • Schedule important actions that aren’t urgent.
  • Delegate tasks that are urgent, but not important. 
  • Eliminate tasks that are not important or urgent.

Pay careful attention to these critical areas: 

  • Monitor tasks and their deadlines.
  • Watch the amount of work needed.
  • Beware anything that mustn’t be delayed. 
  • Mind anything that must be avoided. 
  • Make a note of it daily and see how you fare with your list.

Here is an excellent article with more Tips for managing your time.

Here is another resource about managing your time wisely.

Accurately Judge Resources And Time To Do Tasks

  • Make sound estimates for what is required to complete a task.
  • Plan tasks in a logical order, be flexible and adapt plans if you must.

Research To Stay Aware Of Things That Affect Your Project

  • Plan ahead for potential problems and take precautions to reduce or eliminate their impact. What if a supplier falls through? Plan for alternate suppliers.
  • Identify possibilities, stay up to date with information and keep abreast with developments or issues that could affect your project.
  • Interpersonal skills – Cultivate your ability to work with others to be your best at organizing and collaborating. You need good communication skills, confidence and assertiveness, without being abrasive.

Here is a great resource with Tips for staying focused on your goals.

Keep Good Records

  • Keep accurate records so you know what needs doing, when and by whom. 
  • Also record what has already been completed and agreed upon.

Fundamental Rules for Effective Planning and Organizing

Rule # 1 Prioritizing

Can you identify urgent, important and unimportant tasks and act accordingly? 

Because you can’t do everything at once, prioritizing helps you to decide which tasks to do first and which tasks can wait. Prioritize well and break up your work into smaller pieces. Then you can act on each task, one at a time, starting with the most important. 

  • Create a list of everything you have to do. 
  • Arrange the list in order of most importance. 
  • Begin working on the things on your list in the priority order you created.
  • Delegate less important tasks and tasks you aren’t good at.
  • Schedule tasks that are important, but not urgent.

Use the method Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, used to decide what to do.

  • Do important tasks that are urgent now.
  • Decide when to schedule important tasks that aren’t urgent.
  • Delegate urgent tasks that are not important.
  • Delete tasks that are not urgent or important.

Eisenhower box

Rule # 2 Time Management

You can’t create more time, but you can use your time more effectively to get the important things done on time. As you get better at time management and prioritizing, you’ll get more done in the same amount of time.

In addition to ruthlessly prioritizing, note an estimate of the time each task will take.

  • Research – 90 minutes
  • Meet with Will – 60 minutes
  • Write the outline – 45 minutes
  • Do your estimates total more time than you actually have? Re-prioritize.
  • What can be moved, shrunk, delegated or outsourced? 
  • Being as accurate as possible will help you plan better.

Rule # 3 Coordinating Resources

Every undertaking requires resources of some kind. Resources are everything that you need to complete a task.

  • Money to fund project expenses.
  • Labor from employees, contractors or outsourcing.
  • Expertise from employees or outsourcing.
  • Space purchased or leased.
  • Time as in deadlines for completion and man hours of labor.
  • Equipment purchased or leased.

Break your project into smaller sections and plan what resources you need. Think about people or materials you need to complete the project. Be very careful not to underestimate. Do you need to outsource for expertise you don’t have? 

Rule # 4 Delegating

delegate

Delegating is important to handle things you don’t have skills or expertise to do.

For example, you might delegate screening for hiring an expert by outsourcing to a hiring firm while you focus on things you do well.

Rule # 5 Creating Systems

Although we aren’t machines, we can create systems or processes that can help us to work automatically and efficiently like a machine.

  • Take an inventory of tasks that you do over and over again.
  • Make a checklist of the steps you take when you do repetitive activities.
  • Now, your checklist is a guide for when you haven’t done the task in a while.
  • You also now have a guide to provide to someone else when you delegate the task.

Rule #6 Planning Ahead

Your success in planning and organizing depends a lot on your ability to plan ahead. Usually, if you have more time to plan, you will be more successful. However, unexpected projects do come up and you’ll have to take care of it. 

When unexpected projects pop up, you can only do your best with the time you have. This is where honing your ability to prioritize and manage your time will pay off.

Planning

Whenever possible, plan ahead as much as you can at work. When you plan ahead, you’ll be able to manage any unexpected projects much better.

Rule #7 Be Proactive

  • It’s better to prepare for potential delays or problems than it is to wait and react after it happens. 
  • Begin at the end of today to prepare for your most important issues for tomorrow.
  • Begin thinking this week about potential roadblocks that may happen next week.
  • Make whatever preparations you can by having an idea in advance how you will respond and what resources you will need to overcome delays and problems.

Conclusion to How to Improve Planning and Organizing Skills

The key takeaways that will most impact your planning and organizing are:

  • Having well chosen and defined objectives with deadlines and measurable outcomes.
  • Prioritizing tasks and working on the top priorities while delegating less important tasks or tasks that require certain expertise.
  • Monitoring progress and adjusting as necessary to achieve objectives. 
  • Being proactive and anticipating potential delays or problems.

If you can implement only a few of the key principles here, you will significantly improve your planning and organizing skills.

Scholarly References for Planning and Organizing

Organising your time — University of Leicester. (2020). Retrieved 19 July 2020, from https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/ld/all-resources/study/time

Schmitz, M., & Schmitz, M. (2015). 6 Rules to be Effective at Planning and Organizing | The Conover Company. Retrieved 19 July 2020, from https://www.conovercompany.com/6-rules-to-be-effective-at-planning-and-organizing/

Kareska, Katerina, The Role of Planning as a Fundamental Management Function for Achieving Effectiveness in Business Organizations (August 20, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3022761 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3022761

11 Organizational Skills That Every Smart Leader Needs. (2019). Retrieved 19 July 2020, from https://www.lifehack.org/818973/organizational-ability

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