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  • @Arc52Cathy

Planning tips 2. Make time for your planning

Some years ago I was joined in my department by a colleague who was setting up a new programme. It was quite a large job and she had lots of competing priorities. As is common in academia she had the additional pressure of the post being temporary. So much to do and so little time to do it! In our meetings it was obvious that she was becoming stressed. She wanted to plan but was afraid that a. she had no time and b. our boss would think that she was wasting time on planning.

This might sound a bit obvious, but you need to make time for your planning. I know I’ve already said that you can waste hours of your life to mis-directed or random planning, and I think that this was what my colleague was afraid of, but good planning takes does take time and focus. Fortunately our boss knew this and allowed us some time for a long-term planning session. I facilitated her with setting long-term goals, prioritising and creating a planning cycle. She was much less stressed after that and the programme really started to develop in the direction that she had wanted. Now I can’t promise that she was never stressed again, but I know that making time for planning was something she began to value.

I understand that some of us prefer to leave space for spontaneity. I’m quite a fan of the Japanese car manufacturer’s 'Just in time' model and really don’t like my life to be planned to the nth degree. But even the 'Just in time model' requires planning, and this is advice for you if you have decided that you want to get more organised – or, like my colleague, decide that you need to be more organised so that you can take control of your work.

So, make some space in your diary, and in your head, for planning. If you don’t use a diary (we’ll talk about managing cognitive burdens some other time) you can use whatever method works for you to ensure that you commit to making the space in your life for planning. Your needs might be greater or less than mine, but I take about 10 minutes a day, half an hour once a week, about 2-3 hours once a term, and about a day every 10 months or so to sort my life out. Not a lot of time at all, and certainly not wasted. And do remember my advice about following a process.

Next month I’ll tell you why I think you should plan on a Friday.

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