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How To Plan In Your Mind Without Writing Things Down

How To Plan In Your Mind Without Writing Things Down
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Many successful people would say that a goal without a plan is not really a goal, but rather a simple wish. Therefore, if you are aiming for something significant in your life, what’s equally important is to carefully plan the steps for getting there.

For some people, planning may be a daunting task and they simply choose to ‘wing it’ because it’s easier. However, as Alan Lakein is reported to have said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Planning may be tiresome and daunting since it involves a lot thinking, but if you look at in the long run it will actually save you time, money and effort. It will help you determine the things you need to do now and in the near future, and avoid the things that will bring you zero to little results.

If you are interested in learning how to plan, especially for your career, then you have come to the right place. Furthermore, although it is advisable that you write down your plans, some people prefer to store their plans in their head rather than in a document. If this is the case for you, then here is an elegant solution.

Self-Understanding

If you are planning for something, then one of the most important aspects you must give careful consideration to is yourself. What you are trying to determine are behavioral tendencies, personal interests, potential, and current abilities. Furthermore, try to prioritize the variables that are closely related to whatever it is you’re planning.

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If you want to be thorough, then you can ask significant people such as your family, close friends, professors or classmates about your self-assessments. Find out if they agree with your personal assessment and to what degree?

The primary reason for this is to gather information. The more information you have, the more informed your decisions will be. Also, you can honestly find out the things that you are naturally good at and possibly delegate or hire someone to do the things that you are not so good at.

For example, if you are a naturally good at designing a logo and are able to finish the job in an hour, then it would be a waste of time if you are doing mathematical-related work that would require three hours or more for you to finish. Play to your natural strengths, as you will get better results with the same amount of time invested.

Understand the Situation

Once you have gained a good understanding of your capabilities in relation to whatever it is you’re planning, the next step is to understand the situation or environment. Find as much relevant information as you can as this can help you tremendously in the latter steps. Do not be ashamed to ask for external advice or consult an expert.

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For example, if you are planning for a simple birthday party, then gather information such as the location of the party, the number of guests and the size of the party venue.

If you are planning a career, then gather information about the job market. Find out what kind of skill sets businesses are looking for at the moment. Take notes on the jobs that would seem to complement your natural talents, behavioral tendencies and personality.

You will not only improve faster, but you will also get more satisfaction from life in general. Do not be ashamed to ask advice from a career advisor. And remember, the Internet is a great resource worth tapping.

Goal Setting

Once you have gathered sufficient information, it’s time to set a goal. When setting up a goal, make sure that it is measurable, concise, reasonable and has a deadline. This it will make it easier for you to evaluate your performance against your goal.

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If you have a ‘Big Plan,’ then it is better that you break down your goals into smaller pieces to make it less daunting. You can then set long-term, medium-term and short-term goals.

Now that you have a goal, it is time to recall the information related to yourself and the situation. Identify the kind of job or tasks that are right up your alley. For those jobs that do not work with you very well, have a plan on how to fill the gap.

Implementation

The last step of the planning process is the actual doing. Some of the time you will not achieve your goal. In fact, if you are successful at every goal you have set, then your goals are not high enough.

Also, don’t forget to evaluate your progress against your goal periodically. Keep in mind that it is your goal and you can re-adjust things in case your overall plan needs to change.

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Mnemonics

As mentioned before, not all people are fans of writing down their plans. If you are one of these people, then you can use memory techniques so you won’t forget the plans you have just made.

One mnemonic technique is to use vivid mental images. Each mental image represents one item within your list. You can then create an animated story that links all the mental images together.

As an example, you want to remember that you have to repaint the house by June 10. You can start by picturing a big desert dune to represent the month of June. Imagine a big tornado coming and breaking down the dune into 10 smaller dunes, this represents June 10. Finally, you can imagine the dunes being covered by raining wet paint, this will represent that you need to do some repainting.

This is just an example of using a mnemonic device to help you remember the things that you have planned without the need to write them down. Here are a few more tips if you are interested in using the same memory technique:

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  • Use pleasant and positive images.
  • Make things seemingly absurd. Your brain tends to easily recall extraordinary images.
  • Give your mental image a 3D depth.

Final Word

Learning how to plan is very important for success. Hopefully, you’ve now learned a few things about how to properly make a plan, as well as some techniques for remembering your plans so you won’t have to write them down.

Featured photo credit: Saad Faruque via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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