This is the eighteenth installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Planning and Organizing.
When you consider Planning and Organizing, you might think it’s just about organizing and maintaining a neat filing system. But it’s actually much more than that. It’s the ability to establish a course of action to ensure that work gets done efficiently and effectively. It’s going beyond merely being well organized physically to also being well organized in how you approach and accomplish work.
Those skilled in Planning and Organizing know how to plan their work and work their plan. They take the time to break projects down so they know what to expect at each stage and what resources they will need — and when. Great planners anticipate problems that may arise and have a plan of attack in case they do. They are expert delegators who know which team members are best suited for which roles. And they are great at keeping projects on task.
Planning and Organizing isn’t just about staying organized so that you can find files and paperwork on your desk, although that is essential. Rather, Planning and Organizing is also about what you do with the information in a broader sense. How do you find what you need and then use it to effectively perform the required activities?
Great Planning and Organizing also includes anticipating potential events.
Someone who is good at Planning and Organizing will anticipate the probable effects, outcomes, and risks of their decisions. This anticipation helps them understand the potential cause and effect of their actions. They try to think through all the possible consequences of their plans to make sure that they are making the right decision the first time around.
They also work to develop contingency plans to minimize waste, error, and risk. Their anticipation of potential issues helps them be better prepared to handle those obstacles as they arise. They have already run through the scenario in their head. And therefore are better prepared to deal with the challenge.
In fact, recent research shows that people who were a little bit paranoid, such as those people who anticipate what they would do if someone tried to rob them, or if their house caught on fire, or if they had to deal with some other catastrophic event, were much more likely to survive the event because they had mentally prepared themselves for it.
Planning and Organizing is an especially useful skill to have in small business.
In small businesses, most projects touch several departments at least once. Which requires the ability to get different stakeholders to work well together. And there are often quite a few projects happening concurrently. Which requires prioritization of tasks.
A skilled planner and organizer will know how much time to allow for each portion of the project by taking everybody’s workload into account. They will create a plan with deadlines that allow for slowdowns and speed bumps. By taking the time to be more intentional about how they go about a project, they greatly increase the odds of finishing on time and under budget.
People who are good at Planning and Organizing are able to effectively see into the future. They can forecast needs and comprehend how certain situations or procedures will meet those needs. They are able to systematically and logically evaluate the components of a situation. And then utilize them effectively to produce the desired result. If you have developed your Planning and Organizing skills, you will be able to evaluate and allocate human and material resources to effectively accomplish a goal or plan.
In contrast, people who aren’t as good at Planning and Organizing may be too oriented in the now. Which may cause them to spend more time solving current problems than planning for their future successes. Because they are so focused on attaining immediate results, they can’t think in the longer term. They also may have difficulty identifying the separate, relevant components of a situation. They will be greatly hindered in reaching goals because they will have difficulty in deciding what steps to take in order to reach their goals.
If you’d like to improve your Planning and Organizing skills, you can start by creating a timeline for your next project.
First, you’ll need to break the project down into steps or stages. Then put real thought into how long you think each one will take. Consider who you’ll need to help with each stage and what resources you will need. Can you move forward alone or will you need approval at certain stages? Answering these questions will give you a better handle on how long the project will actually take.
You can also schedule weekly to-do items throughout the timeline to avoid a crisis. Scheduling as many components early on is the surest way to meet all timelines. And it will help you and others who are working on the project stay organized.
As each part of the project wraps up, analyze your initial timeline. How close was your original guess? Was there a certain step that took longer than expected? Or less time? Was it a fluke? Or did you misjudge in your initial assessment? Use this knowledge to better inform your next project timeline.
Planning and Organizing will keep you on track.
Planning and Organizing is an essential skill to have in the ever busier world that we live in. Not only will this skill help you stay on top of your to-dos, but it will also help you keep all of your priorities straight. Both at home and in the office.
Planning and Organizing will help you focus on getting the most important things done. And it will ensure that the shiny objects that float by don’t distract you. You’ll have a clear plan of how to accomplish your goals and you won’t be easily sidetracked.
No matter what life throws at you, you’ll be ready to handle each new challenge with a set process and plan. You’ll be able to efficiently and effectively respond to changes in your workflow. And you’ll be able to remain flexible in order to reach your objectives.
Being a great planner and organizer will help you excel in everything that you do.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Planning and Organizing skills, download our Planning and Organizing Rx PDF here.