Why you need a plan

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

When people are busy they sometimes feel as though they don’t have time to plan. Here’s why that idea is so wrong-headed…

If you work in media relations, I know you’re busy. This is not so much because I know the field to be intense and demanding, which it is. It’s because you are beholden to other people.

If you need to interact with radio reporters, well, they have hourly deadlines. TV reporters have at least twice daily deadlines. Newspapers have once-a-day deadlines. And the blogosphere or Internet-world? Nothing but deadlines all the time. If you’re the point person for these people, you can easily feel as though you’ve been locked onto a never-ending roller coaster.

And even if you work outside of media relations you can often suffer from being overly beholden to others. These people may include your boss, co-workers or the general public. What’s one of the most stressful jobs in any company? You may leap to answer “CEO,” but you’d be wrong. Being an admin assistant is actually highly stressful because you have so little control.

Communications clients often tell me they have “no time to plan.” Here’s what I say to that: The less time you have, the more you need to plan. Planning is the only thing that will allow you to retain control of your job and your life.

If your job leaves you beholden to other people, then find a time when you can get at least five minutes to plan your day. This may mean leaving for work slightly earlier so you can arrive before the phones start ringing. In really bad cases, it may mean doing your planning at home, before you even arrive at the office. (If you have kids at home or have to take them to school, you might need to find some time in a coffee shop before you get to the office. Or do your planning for the next day at the end of the previous one.)

In your plan you should identify the urgent things you need to accomplish that day. And you should also identify one to three steps you can take towards your non-urgent but important goals. This is the really important stuff that often seems to fall between the cracks. No one will complain if you don’t do it but, eventually, ignoring these tasks will have a negative impact on your life.

Here’s my latest important task for which I’m now making time: I spend 30 minutes each day reading business material. The world won’t end if I don’t do it. But when I do, I’m much better equipped for blogging five days per week.

I write it into my daily plan and treat it like an appointment. Most of all, I take about 15 minutes every day to make my plan. If you really don’t have 15, then take five. A fast plan is better than no plan at all.