Time Management Worst Practice: Poor Planning
You’ve probably heard the saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” At the project/task levels, poor planning is one of the main reasons projects fail, fall behind schedule or miss their deadlines.
Without adequate planning, it is difficult to really understand what it will take to complete a project successfully. Lack of planning leads to inadequate preparation, unexpected problems, and poor execution.
Poor planning is a worst practice because:
- If you don’t have written plans, you are using your memory to keep track of things. Planning is an excellent tool for getting things out in the open. Good planning forces you to think about your projects before you set about doing them and to put your thoughts down on "paper" (not necessarily real paper, software works great for this too.) This alone can help you prevent many project failures and delays.
- Without plans, it is difficult—sometimes even impossible—to get a clear picture of all the things that you are working on and what still needs to be done. Planning allows you to identify all your projects and tasks and gain a much better understanding of what it will really take to complete them. Without planning, you won’t have a clear idea of what you need to do and you won’t be able to prioritize your time properly. How can you prioritize your time if you don’t even understand what you are trying to accomplish? When you don’t have clear priorities, you are much more vulnerable to distractions and unexpected events.
- Lack of preparation - Imagine that you and your friends are going on a two-week long hiking/camping/rafting trip to the wilderness. Would you do any planning? Of course you would. You plan so that you are fully prepared for the trip: you know where you are going, how to get there, how to get back, what obstacles to avoid, what type of terrain you will be facing, how many and what kind of supplies you need to make your journey, etc. Reasonable people would never venture out into the wilderness without proper planning and preparation because it could easily cost them their lives. The location and duration of the trip makes a big difference in the type and level of preparation that is required. Lack of adequate preparation in your own projects can easily cause them to fail or fall deep behind schedule.
- Lack of risk management - Without proper planning, it is difficult to anticipate and avoid major problems and risks. Without actively monitoring and avoiding these risks, they can easily sidetrack or even cause your project to fail.
Planning is one of the most important activities in time management—it has been estimated that every minute spent planning can save three in execution—and yet it is one of the least practiced.
In fact, for most people, this worst practice is not poor planning, but no planning at all.
There are many reasons people give for not planning: not enough time, don’t really need it, won’t work for me, it’s too constraining, my work is too unpredictable, I’m a creative type, etc.
All these reasons are merely excuses and rationalizations. The real reason people don’t plan is usually one of the following:
- They don’t understand the value. As I said before, many people get into a worst practice because they don’t know any better. They don’t know what their lack of planning is costing them. People who don’t understand the value of planning often claim that they don’t need to plan because they are doing well without any planning. The reality is that they are doing well despite their lack of planning, not because they are not planning. Effective planning would make them even more productive and capable of achieving even better results.
- Immediate Gratification. Planning is a practice that doesn’t provide immediate results; it takes time for your planning efforts to pay off. People that want to get their payoff now will find it difficult to escape their practice of poor planning. No planning is the path of least resistance.
- They don’t know how to plan effectively. This is probably the most common reason why people don’t plan: they just don’t know how to do it well. Planning is a skill that is learned; there are good ways to do it, and there are bad ways to do it. Just because you can make a list doesn't mean you know how to plan. People that think they know how to plan but really don’t may honestly believe that they don’t have enough time to plan, or that they don’t need to plan, or that planning doesn’t work for them. All of these statements may be true of poor planning, which can often be worse than no planning (see overscheduling worst practice). However, these statements don’t hold true for effective planning.
- They haven’t eliminated obstacles to effective planning. Other worst practices at the project/task management level may be blocking or undoing the effectiveness of your planning efforts. You need to get rid of these obstacles before you will see all the benefits of your planning.
The best way to escape the practice of poor planning is to learn how to plan effectively and to do it consistently.
The Time Management eBook contains much more information on weekly and daily planning. Get it now!
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