How to make a plan: step by step for everything from one day to all life
How often do you plan before you start? If never, because you have no idea how to make a plan, then you’re on the right track. If you’ve planned a few times, but neither worked out, you’ve come to the right place. If planning is your favorite activity, and your bookshelves are full of notebooks and planners, you’re in the right place too.
There are only two possible scenarios for any project/dream/goal implementation:
- You get an idea, you set a goal, you make a plan, you start implementing it, and you get the desired results.
- You get an idea, you set a goal, you put all of your energy into reaching it, you get stuck, you get lost, you find yourself in the opposite direction from where you were supposed to be. You need to start all over again.
Which one seems more attractive to you? And which one is what usually happens to you?
Knowing how to make a business plan, or how to make a workout plan, or budget, a lesson, or a marketing plan is half of success. Without a well-thought-out and structured plan, any of your goals is no more than a wish.
You belittle your ideas without creating a plan for their implementation. So, let’s build an effective plan together.
What benefits will I get if I start planning?
Except for helping you reach your goal and make your ideas come true, planning is a useful habit that brings many benefits to your life. Once it becomes a part of your usual behavior, you will become more focused and determined.
However, if you have never planned your future actions in detail or if your previous attempts were unsuccessful, you may need more information to understand what exactly planning will bring to your life.
Here is a short list of benefits you may get. Also, please, note that everyone is different and every case is different, so besides some general benefits many people experience, you may also find some specific advantages according to your way of living.
1. A plan will clarify your goals and objectives
New ideas and strong impulses make us feel unbeatable. It may seem there are no obstacles ahead of you, and even if there are some, they will be a piece of cake. However, this feeling is usually misleading. Those obstacles and blockers you can’t see may have significant consequences.
When taking your time to make a plan before heading to action, the first impression loses its effect on you, and you can see clearer. Maybe you will need to slightly change your goal in order to make it realistic or more suitable for your needs.
When you plan regularly, the ability to analyze your goal and objectives becomes the most natural thing you can do.
2. A plan will improve your decision-making skills
Generally speaking, there are two types of people when it comes to making decisions. Those who are scared of nothing and are ready to risk without giving it a second thought and those who will give a decision ten second thoughts before starting and then still be hesitant. None of these styles of making decisions is better than the other. They simply are.
The first ones need the second ones to contemplate the idea, and the second ones need the first one to get that project finally started.
If creating a plan always precedes actions, you will have little or no problem making decisions because you have the whole picture ahead of you.
3. A plan will increase your efficiency
How many of your ideas didn’t make it to the finish? Have some thoughts on what exactly went wrong? Were the ideas or goals bad, unsuitable, or weren’t at the right time?
9 out of 10 times, the lack of planning leads to failure, or you leave your intent in the middle of the road. Having a structured plan motivates you to start and continue, and a motivated person is an effective person.
In other words, having a plan decreases your chances of quitting your goal.
4. A plan will help you reduce or avoid risks
When an idea only flashes into your mind, it’s almost impossible to see what risks it may bring. If there’s no plan, every risk or obstacle you will face during the process will be a surprise. Usually, not pleasant ones.
When you start your action by contemplating your idea and coming up with a detailed step-by-step plan, you protect yourself from risks that might bring losses.
Sometimes, risks and how you overcome them are an essential part of the development process and may transform your idea into something even more interesting.
Tip #1: You may also use the xTiles SWOT Analysis Template to define possible threats and opportunities of your idea.
5. A plan will increase your productivity
If you know what to do and have your time scheduled around your goals, you can manage more tasks without getting overwhelmed and distracted.
Having the skill of planning polished, you get the ability to manage a couple of plans at the same time. You juggle many tasks easily and efficiently without asking yourself, “What’s next?” every time you’re in doubt or finish one of the milestones.
6. A plan will improve your self-confidence and self-awareness
You just finished something great. How would you feel about yourself? Probably, like you have won this life or like you’re on top of the world. Now imagine that one of your ideas gets implemented successfully after another. Will there be something you can’t do? Doubtfully.
The ability to plan strengthens your self-confidence hugely by giving you a positive experience.
Planning is about asking yourself many questions. It teaches you to be in alignment with yourself, your energy, and your desires. If you plan all of your actions regularly, you become more self-aware.
7. A plan will enhance communication
If you work on a team and many people are involved, how well you communicate and understand your main goal will define how well you all will work together toward this goal.
If you keep asking your teammates or your managers, “What is next?” “What should I do?” or “What is relevant right now?” then you lack established communication. A well-structured plan shared with every team member answers tons of questions and saves hours of time.
8. A plan will promote accountability
When you have some ephemeral task ahead of you, it may be hard to feel attached to it and whether it will be or not be accomplished. An established plan leaves you no ways to escape, or at least less of them.
A plan will help you understand why your actions are important and why you can’t stop. It will connect with your consciousness, helping you remember why it’s critical to continue.
Please note that if your plan puts you under a great deal of stress, maybe there’s something wrong with it, and it’s better to revise it until it’s not too late. I believe a plan (no matter what its final intention is) should be comfortable and non-traumatic.
You don’t have to create a plan that will lead to burnout. Just don’t do anything and rush into action without analysis and preparations, and you most likely will get the same results.
How to make a plan to succeed
Planning effectively may be challenging, especially if you have no positive experience. Very often, people consciously limit their planning skill development by learning how to make a birth plan or how to make a study plan, etc. If planning is yet to learn, it’s better to start from general matters and slowly move towards more specific ones.
The approach I want to discuss is suitable for a wide variety of cases. It doesn’t matter whether you want to learn how to make a business plan step by step or a 5-year plan. This guide will come in handy.
Before we start, let’s assume you have a big dream that can’t come true overnight or you need to prepare a plan for your team to deliver a product on time. Our main task is definitely creating an effective plan. However, our side task is creating a plan that will be comfortable for people who will stick to it. So, let’s do it together.
1. Define your goal and motivation
You need to understand what exactly you want/need to get in the end before you start planning. Otherwise, your plan will be irrelevant, unsuitable, and misleading.
The most important thing at this stage is being honest with yourself. Listen to yourself and why you want to make this or that dream or goal come true. What will it change? What will it bring to your life? Embracing your desires and wishes will be the first move toward them becoming true.
Being honest with yourself is also about setting realistic goals. Is it possible to earn enough money in a year to buy your dream house? What are the chances you will meet the love of your life in the next month and start a family?
When a manager or a person in charge sets unrealistic goals for a team, they substitute others and start a game that will lead to failure.
Sometimes the road is more pleasant when coming to your destination, and a thought-out plan will help ensure you don’t struggle and suffer along the way.
Tip #2: You may try the xTiles SMART Goals Template to ensure your tasks are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
Tip #3: Once you’re sure about your goal, solidify it using one of xTiles planner templates. Check our Template Gallery to find the one that suits your needs.
2. Divide your dream into chunks
Small achievements rarely require a plan. You can keep the whole intent in your mind without missing anything important. However, when it comes to significant goals, it will be hard to keep the whole picture in mind only.
Large tasks can seem overwhelming and too hard to even try. They steal your motivation and make you feel devastated when you haven’t even started yet. So, breaking a task into smaller steps may be a wise idea to keep you going.
Define what stages your plan will have. You may break it down into as many small tasks as you wish. Checking boxes may have a positive impact on your mood and motivation to move.
However, a long list of tasks, even small ones, may also have a negative impact on your mood and motivation. That’s why you need to follow your personal preferences and inclinations.
Also, when you create a plan for a project where many people will be involved, you need to divide a big task into smaller ones so that people won’t need to decide on their own, turning the whole thing into chaos.
Tip #4: You may use Daily or Weekly Planners to track your progress at a smaller distance.
Tip #5: You may use the xTiles KanBan Board Template to organize your team workflow around your plan.
Now that you have a list of what you need to do to accomplish your task, you need to prioritize them wisely. It will save you from burning out during the starting phases of your project.
For one more time, you need to listen to yourself and your potential and capacities at the moment. Your plan isn’t engraved on stone. You’re free to change it. If we talk about a plan for a team, you will need to discuss it with people who will be involved. You need to ensure everyone feels alright with their role and the scope of the job they will need to accomplish.
If you’re not feeling like doing great things today, this week, or month, don’t torment yourself because of that. Choose those tasks that require little effort yet still make you closer to your dream.
When you create a plan for a team, don’t entrust the hardest tasks to the toughest person. Give them something to rest a bit too.
4. Use time management techniques
Devoting yourself entirely and every second of your time may not be the best strategy. Usually, it leads to fast burnout, or you simply become too tired of your tasks that you prefer to do anything but finish them.
Time management techniques will help you stay productive while devoting a minimum of your time. They also help you maintain a healthy work-life balance.
One of the most popular (I like to use it myself and keep recommending it to my friends and colleagues) is the Pomodoro technique. You work for a set amount of time (for me, the session usually lasts 30 minutes) and take a short break before starting again.
Also, I like the 20-20-20 rule. It’s not quite a time management technique, but it’s similar to the Pomodoro method. After every 20 minutes of focused work, you look at something 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.
5. Eliminate distractions
Plan your leisure too. If you know you’re going to watch a film this evening or going out with friends, you don’t have to look for every opportunity to relax. You simply know that there will be a certain time for relaxation.
If we talk about teams, you can’t control every team member. You can only provide them with a clear understanding of why we need this task done on time and successfully and make the whole process fun and thrilling.
Also, be ready that blockers will appear during your work without your will. You can check that meme or a TikTok video from your friend later, even though you want to know what is there badly. When I need to work, I prefer to mute my phone or at least turn off all the notifications from messengers I use. If there’s something important, a person will call me.
Some of my friends go even further. They leave their smartphones in other rooms, put them in file cabinets, etc. I think it’s too much. Having yours near you while working will help you train your will and focus. After all, if you work on something interesting, you probably won’t even see that you just received a message.
6. Review and adjust
After you have achieved some intermediate results, you may see that your plan needs to be adjusted in order to lead you to your initial goal, and that’s okay. Changes will help you stay on track and ensure you are making progress toward your goals.
When you only start, you may not see all the possibilities and threats. Something may stay unclear until you start working. That’s why adjusting your plan during the implementation makes it better, more workable, and more beneficial for the results.
If you work on a team, you may schedule regular meetings to see whether everything is working. The more side views and different opinions you get, the easier it will be to spot the breach.
The guide you’ve just read is as general and versatile as possible to become your reliable tool in all kinds of situations.
For long years, we’ve been taught that hard work is the key to success. Well, partially, it’s true. You definitely won’t succeed without doing something. However, somehow no one tells us that it’s only a part of the secret. The rest is your idea or goal, then goes your ability to plan the way toward your goal and stick to it.
While ideas or goals are mostly emotional concepts that emerge from the depth of our personalities, the skill of planning totally depends on our determination to finish what we’ve started. The best thing is that you can learn how to do it correctly.
Planning may seem unnecessary, time-consuming, exceeding, etc., at first, while in practice, a plan is your Ariadne’s Thread from a labyrinth of hard decisions, blockers, obstacles, indecisiveness, procrastination, and laziness.