Written by Nina Grunfeld Monday, 23 September 2013 08:39
September has that wonderful back to school planning feel about it plus it’s halfway through most of our tax years so a great time to stop and think, either about the rest of the year in a ‘let’s get organised before Christmas’ way or a ‘how much more money can we earn before April’ way.
Many years ago I wrote a book all about list-making, The Complete Book of Household Lists, and today we’re going to think about how to make planning easier.
As my book was about lists, let’s start with them. Lists are great ways of emptying your head and putting everything down on paper. If you not only write your lists but prioritise them (see post-its below) and then decide on three things from your list you can do each day, I’d say you were well on the way to having a plan you can easily execute.
2. Spider Diagrams
If I’m working on a big project, before I even make a list I create a Spider Diagram. It’s a wonderfully free-form way of dumping down everything you might have to do. You start by writing the end result you want to achieve in the middle of a horizontal piece of A4 and then have lots of lines coming out of the centre (like the legs of a spider), each of them with a different thing on them that is part of the plan. For example, if I want to write a book, I’ll put ‘Write a book’ in the centre and then the legs might be ‘Topic’, ‘Research Competition’, ‘Research Subject’, ‘Chapters’, ‘Agent’, ‘Publisher’. Then on each of the legs I put little hairs. So, for example, on the ‘Research Competition’ leg, I might put ‘Go to library’, ‘Go to bookshop’, ‘Google’, ‘Ask friends’, ‘Ask colleagues’ and so on. Each hair can be one of the items on your list.
Flowcharts also have their uses when planning. My lawyer husband uses them to plan his arguments in court. ‘If s/he says this… I’ll say that’ and on and on the flow goes. I’ve used several flowcharts recently to plan our new website. They’re very useful for creating a heirachy, for planning alternatives, for working problems through.
At the risk of sounding like school, a timetable is essential – especially for those of us who are prone to procrastination. I don’t call it a timetable, but instead use my diary, with an end-date (when something has to be finished) and entries for when I’m going to do things towards the end date.
Post-its are a brilliant tool to use when planning and I use them in conjunction with all the four methods above. Instead of writing straight onto your list or your plan, if you write everything you want to achieve on post-its you can move them around easily and then write the plan. And then, of course, there are some not so structured tools, like an egg timer (to get you started, as in ‘I’ll just do five minutes’), pen and paper (for things like Spider Diagrams – works better than online) and, best of all, your intuition. Use your intuition to prioritise, to know what you could be doing right now and to know when you’ve done enough planning.
I’ve done enough thinking about planning for now. I’m off to have a walk
(spontaneous, of course).