Eight Ways to Reduce Planning

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Psychology

You have an idea how long a project will take, but then it takes twice as long. Planning, organizing and documenting suck up your valuable time.

All of that administrative work is necessary to some extent. If you don’t plan, you waste time on dead ends. If you don’t get organized, you can’t find anything. And if you don’t document your bigger projects, you won’t be able to make sense of them when you come back to them later. None of those should be big time wasters.

How can you reduce your administrative overhead?

1. Remove duplication.

You don’t need to track the same information in a spreadsheet and a written document. Pick one or the other and stick with it.

When it comes to specification documents, don’t go deeper than you need to. Don’t document what is already covered in more focused specifications. At the lowest level, your work itself has the details.

While you’re at it, take out the trash now and then. Those old versions of plans won’t be coming back to life after they’ve been ignored for a couple of weeks. Junk them.

2. Reduce documents down to one.

A series of planning files all on the same topic can keep you busy just finding where you need to make changes. Put them in one document and use the table of contents.

3. Don’t spend a lot of time planning your next step.

Create your planning documents as steps in point form. You can fill in the details when you’re done. Quickly review your task list and pick a top three. Out of those three, decide which is most important or most urgent. Do it.

If the next step is not clear, planning may be necessary. Do just enough to be able to begin work and then get at it.

4. Do your work in set chunks of time.

Ignore administrative tasks and focus on work only for set time limits. Some like 20 minute chunks, others 50. Experiment to find what works for you. If you think of some administrative task while working, jot a note about it and keep working.

5. Do what’s next.

Instead of going back to the documentation after completing each task, move on to the next logical step. Getting something done is more important than documenting it. You can play catch up at the end of your work session.

6. Focus.

If you find you get busy with documentation because you don’t like the task, change your focus. Think about the purpose of the task or what you can do after it’s done.

7. Be Accountable.

Find someone to review your work on a regular basis. Don’t include the administrative work as part of your accomplishments. This increases the importance of having more to show for your efforts.

8. Push Through.

Snags in a project can throw you off track and tempt you to “take a break” and do more planning. Don’t let that happen. Make notes about the problem and continue working. The solution to this kind of problem often shows itself as you do the work.

Administrative work isn’t the only way to procrastinate. There are many more obvious signs you’re avoiding a task. If you’re putting off an unwelcome task by cleaning or chatting with your neighbor, ease into work by doing some planning. Once you’re in planning mode, you can use the tips here to switch tracks and get some work done.

Once you finish the task you’ve been avoiding, you’ll find the rest of your day is much more enjoyable.

Article text copyright 2011 David Arthur Smith. All Rights Reserved.


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