Whether you are planning your next task or planning a project, the idea is roughly the same. Spend the time to map out the work, so you can execute. The keys to effective planning are getting clarity on the outcomes, identifying the work to be done, prioritizing effectively, and dealing with risks and issues. The following are solutions at a glance for effective planning:
How to create a work breakdown structure
Start with the outcomes and identify the work to be done to achieve the outcomes. Make a list of the jobs to be done. Keep listing the work to be done until you can’t break it down any further. An effective work breakdown structure helps you see at a glance, the type and quantity of the work. You can also get input from somebody who has been there and done that, to help you avoid surprises.
How to estimate time
Rather than work on things until they are done, decide how much time it’s worth spending on a given task. You can always adjust, but avoid spending 20 minutes on a 5-minute problem. You can base your estimates on previous experience, and you can consult with other people who might have more experience than you. The more you estimate your time, the better you’ll get. If you consistently underestimate or overestimate, then find out why that is.
How to plan for distractions and disruptions
Stuff happens. Even the best plans have to allow for something to go wrong. If your plan is based on everything going the best possible way, that should raise a flag. Add time buffers, identify potential risks, and have a fallback plan.
How to avoid plan rigor mortis
If plans are too stiff, they tend to fail against real-world scenarios. Having flexibility in your plans will help you adjust to changing scenarios. Another issue is letting your plan get stuck in analysis paralysis. Plan, then execute. Get the feedback and adjust accordingly. Avoid overly detailed plans. Plan just enough to provide a map, while allowing flexibility.