Planning for Success

I\’m reallybad at following plans. I know they\’re important, I just have a hard time sticking to them.  So, even though I\’m not a procrastinator (normally), I still end up doing too much too late.  And, as projects and papers get harder and longer the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach starts to work less and less. Although Nathan Ward might disagree.

For my freshman year, each semester started with me buying a desk calendar and faithfully entering all of my information into it. And then it sat there, and sat there, and sat there. I never used it. For my sophomore year, I bought a huge binder with the same intention and the same result. However, as I got a little more experienced I realized that the tools I was using just weren\’t suited to my needs or my personality.
The most important breakthrough for me was understanding what made metick so that I could create something that suited me.
  • Identify your Weaknesses: We\’ve all got specific things we need help remembering, or remembering to do. Maybe you\’re terrible at procrastinating when writing papers; maybe you\’re just forgetful about assignments; maybe you need help breaking down large projects into workable sections. Whatever it is, you know what they are and your plan should take them into account.
  • Consider Solutions: If you\’re bad a procrastinating, then scheduling “due dates” for pieces of a project can help you out. For example, if you have a paper due at the end of the term, then you can schedule due dates for a beginning annotated bibliography, for the conclusion of your research, and for your rough draft. This way you have four, smaller due dates that give you an idea of when things should be accomplished. (More on actually sticking to these below!)
  • Know your Pressure Points: In the sales industry, a “pressure point” is something that you will do that make people stop listening. In our scenario, these are issues that would make you stop following the plan. In my case, missing deadlines would make me just give up following it because I\’d think it wasn\’t worth it. For you, it might be not having easy access to your plan, or it being too specific or not specific enough. Whatever would keep you from following the plan, make sure you have a way to avoid it.
  • Choose a Medium: The major distinctions here are either digital or physical. There are definite strengths to both, but ultimately you need to choose what you\’re going to use. I am a huge fan of digital tools for keeping myself on track. My wife isn\’t. For her, all of my fancy online calendars and email invites are useless and she\’s always done better with a paper list or refrigerator calendar.
  • Pick Some Rewards: You might think that “doing well in school” or “not flunking out” would be strong enough rewards for us to stick to a schedule, but they aren\’t. These goals are too far distant. Instead, we need goals that are more immediate and more tangible. Think of small rewards for yourself that you get for completing each of your due dates. Maybe it\’s just “get to eat out for dinner,” or “take the weekend off from school.” Maybe, for your larger projects, it\’d be something larger such as “When I finish my paper then I can buy a pleasure reading book.” The idea is that each time you reward yourself every time you attain a goal and therefore have more reason to attain the next goal. Don\’t be above bribing yourself; embrace your inner Pavlovian!
Next post, I\’ll let you know exactly what I\’m using and why, but for now it\’s helpful to figure out what you should consider when making your plan. After reading this, my specific examples should make a lot more sense.
So, what rewards, pressure points, or solutions have you guys identified in yourselves and how do you plan for success?

Published by Jared Saltz

Biblical Studies Faculty (Florida College). PhD candidate at HUC-JIR. Husband, father, student.

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