A Little Plan Goes a Long Way

By Johnna Edwards

Imagine this: Your boss gives you the lead on a big project, and after careful consideration, you formulate a simple idea of what you want to accomplish in your head. Before I barrel ahead with more specifics, let me backtrack with a bit more info about the imaginary assignment. The project is something you’ve been asking for—begging to do, in fact—from your boss. But when the glorification of nabbing the valued gig subsides, the hard part gives you a nice slap in the face. Why? The details, the meat of the stuff needed to execute the plan is over your head—way over. Not only that, the original idea was not thought out and properly conceived. In the end, the result was not only short of the expected outcome, but it was a borderline disaster.

Hello stress, panic and sleepless nights. And a complete do-over of the work.

Slow Down, Think Better

Poor work results can almost always be avoided. First, let me tell you that I’ve fallen into this trap many, many times, and the last time I couldn’t find my head, I finally devised a way around the stressful feeling of not knowing what I was doing. Poor time management is something that almost all of us struggle with, a bad habit that can take us down in a hurry. What I have learned from years of mismanaged time is that every company finds success by utilizing their resources in a thoughtful and well-planned out manner—deadlines are set for specific steps. More importantly, extra time is allotted in case things go wrong, and something will inevitably go wrong. When needed and used, this type of planning allows me to breathe, adapt and create good project results.

A Simple Plan

I have an easy blueprint for success, regardless of the job, that I always follow. A good plan starts with a well-thought-out idea. Here are a few simple steps to help ease project anxiety while allowing you to achieve success:

Think it through, from beginning to end.

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • How do you want to do it?
  • Who will help you?
  • What resources do you need?
  • Is there a set completion date, and is it realistic?
  • How much time do I need (with buffers) to complete the job?

Create your plan.

  • Write it all down (who, what, when, why, how).
  • Assign completion times/dates to each step. Again, allow for some buffer time.
  • Note which steps rely on help from other team members. This allows everyone to properly set their schedules.
  • Create tasks for things that you are waiting to follow-up on and add reminders to your calendar.

Execute the plan.

  • Be mindful of your completion date and where you are in relation to the expected end result.
  • Update the project calendar as steps are completed.
  • Do not lose momentum if something takes longer than expected. (Buffer time is your friend.)

Is this fool proof? Hardly. While no project is without stressors, they can be significantly reduced if you are willing to think smarter at the beginning of the project rather than working harder at the end. While tackling a new project will never be as simple as “1, 2, 3,” you will find that when properly planned, hitting the desired end result is worth the few additional hours of planning.

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