You are young at any age if you are planning for tomorrow.
In my previous post I introduced the importance of habits and life skills that should be learned at an early age. And believe me, learning good habits is much easier and quicker when you are young. At the ripe age of 68 just trying to remember my limited French is a challenge, let alone learn a new language or a new skill.
And from my experience in both education and business, as well as daily life, there are a couple of life skills that are critical for success, no matter what the profession or occupation. Last post I introduced the important life habit of Checklists. Making a daily check list of important items to accomplish, reviewing it throughout the day and reviewing progress and lessons learned at the end of the day. All of us, no matter what the age group, have hectic lives and multiple activities and commitments and the checklist is my number one success habit.
However, just because you have made a checklist doesn’t automatically spell success. You have to deliver on the items and “To Do’s” on your list.
Activity expands to fill the amount of time allotted.
And now comes the second important life skill: Backwards Planning.
I was first introduced to Backward Planning by two former US Army Rangers I hired as part of my consulting company in the 1980s. According to them, Backward Planning is the most effective tool to get a long-term task accomplished in a hectic, changing environment (kind of like most of our daily lives).
Backward planning lets you know when you need to get started, and also gives you timing points along the way to let you know if you need to adjust your plan in order to get ‘er done when you need to.
Backward Planning begins with the objective and the end date or time as fixed. Then you simply walk backwards in time and determine the actions, milestones and time frames required.
Here is simple military example:
Suppose a Patrol had to be at a certain location ready to engage at 11pm. If the end time was at 11pm, a final reconnaissance of the arrival site needed to take place an hour beforehand. Given backward planning, reconnaissance should begin at 10pm. Before that a small patrol base had to be set up in the area about 15 minutes before. This means the patrol needed to be on location at 9:45pm. It would take the patrol about three hours to get there from where they were currently located. This meant leaving at 6:45pm. It would take an hour to ready the equipment, fifteen minutes to eat, and three hours for mission planning. The patrol would start to get ready at 2:45pm.
We were mentally there and prepared long before we arrived. ~US Army Ranger
The same process can be used for delivering a term paper. Start with the subject and day and time to be handed in. Calculate the time for reviewing, revising and spell checking the final draft, say 4 hours. Step backwards again and calculate the size of the essay (number of words or pages) and how long it would take to write that, given 2-3 hours bursts of concentrated work. Then determine the amount of research required (books and articles to be read, interviews, discussions, etc.), then step backwards again to determine your overall thesis and ideas you want to explore in your essay. If all that is longer than the time frame you have, then adjust the times for research, writing, revising, etc. accordingly.
Backwards planning is the only way to deliver a quality product, on-time, without pulling an all-nighter, being horribly stressed and/or without compromising your true abilities.
If you have ever felt that there are not enough hours in a day to do everything you need to do, the habit of Backwards Planning will be a life saver for you. You will actually be surprised at how much you can accomplish using this skill. With a plan focused on the end deadline, you may find yourself getting more done each day than you usually accomplish in a week. Not only will you be more productive, but achieving each goal will come much easier as Backwards Planning becomes a habit and a routine way of working.
Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. ~US ARMY moto
Written and Posted by: John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
John also writes thriller novels!