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I discovered the importance of planning when I learned how to write software in college: when I started, I did what most other students did. I sat down at my computer and started to create the software code... I would write for a while, then find out that I had forgotten to think about a specific case, need to go back to correct something I had written earlier, and so on. When I was finally done writing, it was time to correct all the mistakes I had made –typos, procedures mistakes. You may have heard of them as "bugs." It was a painstaking process, taking hours and hours and hours!  

Then I learned another way to create software: away from my computer, with a piece of paper, I would start by puzzling out exactly what the software was supposed to do, and how. Then I took each piece of this software and decomposed it in to very small procedures. I wrote each procedure, tested and debugged it (which was very fast, since thy were so short and simple), then go on to the next, and so on until the project was finished, and almost magically, the software was doing exactly what I wanted it to do.  

The amazing part of this process was that I ended up spending much less time creating my software than by just sitting down and "getting to work" immediately: taking the time to think the problem through (i.e. what I wanted my software to do) before diving into the work actually allowed me to save huge amounts of time in the execution of the project, so that I could finish it faster, on time, and without stress.  

What I discovered with software creation can be applied to every project in your life, whether it's a work project, planning your next vacation or writing a report. My clients usually all have the same reaction when they discover this tool: "This is so amazing!" Over and over again, they name project planning (as this process is officially called) as one of the most time-saving tools they have ever learned. To give you an example, one of my clients, who is a travel buff, used to take at least 30 hours, over the course of two to three weeks, to painstainkingly plan her vacations. After she discovered project planning – or more specifically, since she used it in her work life, that she could use it to everything – her vacation preparation time dropped down to five to six hours only.  

So, what is the process of project planning?  

It is actually quite simple: first, decompose your project in elements that are smaller, more manageable and/or easier to understand. Let's say you want to plan your vacations, since we just talked about it. Your project is "plan next vacations." The different components of planning your vacation can be: decide what your budget is; discuss with family to select 2-3 destinations; do online research on destinations; call travel agency for brochures and information on destinations; crunch the numbers to see which itineraries/destinations meet your budget; sit down again to select your destination; etc.  

Once you have all your steps on paper, take some time to look into the foreseeable challenges in making it all happen, such as: what if the family can't agree on a destination? What if your vacation ends up costing you more than you expected once you are there? Also, identify the places where you are missing information. In the case of your vacation, it's quite easy, you know that you're lacking information regarding the different lodging options at your chosen destination(s), for instance, but in other projects the "information holes" might not be as obvious.  

Finally, schedule the different parts of your vacation planning in your calendar, so that you keep having reminders to work on it, and small, manageable tasks that make it easy to work on it. Then just follow the reminders on your calendar as they come up. Your vacation planning will happen without you even thinking, much less stressing about it.  

Yours in Daily Mastery,  

Karin



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