Task planning is a time management skill that offers a surefire path for getting you from where you are to where you want to be.
I’ve written about the power of chunking tasks down into bite-sized pieces, respecting your natural work rhythms, and giving yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. Whether you are writing code or organizing a closet, these time management skills help make any job much more manageable.
I’d like to explore another aspect of task planning. That’s the way that specificity can help you accomplish more.
You see, the more you know about a task before stepping into it, the more likely you are going to be successful. It’s a little like dipping your toe into the water before jumping in. Or consulting a map before driving into a new city. The more information you can give yourself ahead of time, the better off you are.
So, before you start out on a task, it helps to ask some questions about it. The questions will vary from person-to-person and from task-to-task. And that’s important, because your time needs (and therefore your time success) are unique to you. There are no one-size-fits-all answers when it comes to time management (though there are certainly basic guidelines that can be helpful for everyone).
Task Planning Steps-Some Suggestions
Chunk your Task: That’s the first step. Break it down as far as you can and list out the first (or first several) chunks that you’ll be tackling.
Add Detail: Take one chunk and ask yourself some questions about it, to define it even more fully for yourself. These questions will allow you to step quickly into the task, when you choose, and move it to successful completion. Questions might include:
- How much time do you think this will take?
- How long do you want to work on this? (Maybe you won’t be able to finish at once – if not, what time will you allot right now?)
- What do you want to accomplish? (This keeps you clear about your goal and helps with motivation.)
- What tools do you need to accomplish your task? (Make sure you have them at hand so you can stay focused and keep going.),
- Do you anticipate any problems? Can they be addressed ahead of time? How? (Be specific!)
- What will you do when your task is completed? Plan your reward or your next step to help yourself stay on track.
The above list is just a sample, because, as I said, your planning needs are going to be unique to you and to the task that’s on your plate. But you can create a list of specific questions to ask before starting a task and use that as a template for yourself – or feel free to borrow mine if it serves!
Task Planning – Integrating the Process
What happens, as time goes on, is that your list will begin to inform your thinking as you approach a task. Eventually, you probably won’t need to consciously ask yourself questions – they will just become part of your process, along with chunking and the other time tools you incorporate.
And then every once in a while, if you forget, or slide into less helpful habits, you can pull out your list of task planning questions, refresh your memory, and get yourself right back on track toward your time success!© Copyright 2014 Paula Eder, Ph.D.