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How To Plan In Your Mind Without Writing Things Down

How To Plan In Your Mind Without Writing Things Down

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:

  • 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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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