Keep Paddling for Successful Planning

By Jeff Doubek, Day-Timer Spokesperson

The process of adopting a planning lifestyle can be equated to surfing a wave – you paddle purposefully to catch the crest, and once up to speed the wave carries you. Planning will carry you toward success too, but you may have to paddle at first.

Making planning a habit should be a primary goal in your time management and productivity pursuit. It has clear benefits. First, it will allow you to devote less effort on staying organized and allow you to focus on your tasks at hand. Secondly, when planning becomes second nature you adopt a more productive mindset – information enters your frame of reference and immediately finds its proper channel, be it a schedule, a task sheet, or the recycle bin. A final benefit to being a habitual planner is reduced stress. You live in a place of increased confidence and harmony.

When you think about it, there exists a cruelly paradoxical nature to habits. The good ones are hard to keep and the less desirable ones are hard to lose. Planning is certainly no exception as adopting a lifestyle of habitual planning can prove challenging at times for many individuals.

The dictionary defines habit as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.”

If you read the definition above again, two key words should jump out: “pattern” and “involuntary.” These are two of the cornerstones for establishing a positive transition into an everyday planning way of life. An involuntary planning behavior is your desirable outcome, and setting a consistent behavioral pattern through a daily routine is how you achieve this.

Here are a few key guidelines to making planning a habit:

Create a schedule: Set specific times each day for your planning activities. For example, you can review your schedule over breakfast, plan a 10 am tasking session, or create a weekly review every Sunday afternoon. Sticking to a set schedule keeps you accountable and makes planning a normal everyday life activity.

Commit to a specific period: Make a goal for yourself that says you will unfailingly stick to your planning system for a period of time, like one year for example. This will allow you to feel a sense of progress, of accomplishment with each passing day. Be sure to write your one year anniversary into your planner so you can celebrate your success. Then, write a to-do for the next day: “Commit myself to another year of planning.”

Be realistic: Know your limitations. Don’t attempt a planning process that may overwhelm you. Some people can’t accommodate a complex planning system, due to the individual’s job or personality type. Challenge yourself, but keep it real. Otherwise, you’re just setting yourself up for failure.

Practice: Spend time with your system during downtime at work or at home. It’s especially important during the early stages so that opening your schedule and keeping tasks in front of you becomes a familiar process.

♦ Share your success: Don’t be afraid to tell those around you about your new planning system. Be proud. Having public awareness will motivate you to continue your processes, and you’re bound to inspire others to join you in working toward better time management.

Don’t cheat: Planning itself is an act of personal integrity, so don’t allow yourself to skip a day or a planning step here or there. It flies in the face of your original motivation and it will become far too easy to cheat again. Following through when it feels like a chore is the hardest challenge, but will provide the greatest payoff toward making planning a habit. 

Tell us your tips

Do you have ways of making planning a habit we didn’t mention above? We’d love to hear what makes you successful. Please add your comments.

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