Tips for the Planning Process
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, French writer, poet and pioneering aviator
That was a lot of information, tips and suggestions. You may have some first ideas for your later life planning – and hopefully also some motivation. Now it is time to make your initial ideas more concrete and create a real plan. In this chapter we deal with the question: How do you plan well and efficiently?
Planning is deciding in advance what needs to be done, who is going to do it, how, and when. For successful planning, you need to consider past events as well as future opportunities – and possible impending threats to your plan.
Good planning and organizing skills include five steps:
We were already talking about SMART – goals
It is crucial that the goals you set are formulated as clear and specific as possible. If they are too generic they don’t provide sufficient direction. So define precisely where you want to end up. They need to be measurable also to make successes visible. It is not enough to say “Do more sports” or “Save some money” as you would not be able to really see if you reached your goal. But take care that your goal is attainable. If you have no hope of achieving it, you will only demoralize yourself. There should be a certain challenge, so try to find the right balance. Your goals should be realistic and reasonable, make sense and bring real added value. And last but not least, you need deadlines and milestones. This brings a certain motivation and urgency. And besides, it is simply great if you know when you can celebrate success.
In order to see if your goals are attainable and realistic, have a view on your context and capabilities. What are your values and attitudes, what corresponds to your personality, how much time can you devote to a goal, how much money can you really put aside? Self-reflection is required at this point.
The ability to prioritize – or also reprioritize – goals and activities is vital to optimizing time constraints and limited resources and thus is key to good planning. Prioritizing creates order, reduces stress levels, and provides guidance. Always decide how important and how urgent a task is before scheduling it. This way you can avoid running out of time for things that may be more important. Remember the Eisenhower Matrix.
So let’s summarise:
- Write down your goals.
- Think about suitable activities and list them, define a hierarchy of tasks.
- Set the time frame, consider what resources you
- Think about where you can get
- Adapt if chances are needed, in each plan there are uncertainties and unexpected
- Regularly control the implementation of your
- Stay motivated and pursue your goal!
Planning for the future involves difficult decisions.
Decision making is the process of selecting a logical choice from the available options, weighting the positives and negatives of each option, and considering all the alternatives in order to determine which option is the best for that particular situation.
Learning to make better choices comes from seeing, listening, and doing. The following exercises will help you to develop your decision making skills. Visualizing the process is very helpful. You can make that as simple as a Pro and Con List or as complex as the 8 Steps procedure.
Pros and Cons
A Pros and Cons-list can be very useful if we want to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a particular decision when we have different options. Many of our choices are made out of habit, but just bringing these selections to a conscious level can enable evaluation, analysis, and self- reflection that can be used to improve these and other decisions. A Pros and Cons-list is particularly suited for decisions that have two options like yes or no, do or don’t. Think about a decision you have to make in the near future and take 15 minutes to make a Pros and Cons-list.
- Write down the aspects that speak for this decision (pros) and those that speak against it (cons) in one column
- Write down as many aspects as you can think
- When you are done, add a weighting to each item with a score of 5 for something of major significance and 1 for minor significance.
- Compare the total score between
When you have completed your list, give some thought to the following questions:
- Is the result what you expected? Why (not?)
- What thoughts do you now have about the decision you are considering? Does the result change anything?
- What will you do next?
You know, difficulties always appear in life. Sometimes, it would be just nice to hang out together with other adults and find some solutions, but many of us have been educated to be shy about our own doubts…”
(Comment by an interviewee from Italy, April 2021)
Please have in mind, you don´t need to solve everything on your own. It is not a sign of weakness to accept help. Start an exchange with family members, friends or also professionals in the domain that you want to deal with. Questions from others and other, more neutral perspectives help to approach a problem from different points of view and to find the perhaps better solution.
To make a good decision or effectively resolve a problem that arises, it is useful to follow a series of steps in an orderly manner. A structured decision-making process helps you make decisions quicker and with more confidence. A typical decision-making process involves: defining the problem, gathering information, identifying possible ways of action, choosing among the alternatives, and reviewing/monitoring the results – of course there are many ways to do that.
Here, we are applying the Emotional Intelligence Model. It has eight clearly defined steps that encourage you to use your head and your heart: It is necessary to use your intelligence but also the courage to put your decision into practice. The reason why this method is effective is that it is based on the achievement of a series of stages to reach a solid decision you feel confident about.
For this exercise, take about 20 minutes. If you can, reflect on your results with colleagues or friends.
There are 8 steps to follow:
- We realise that we have a decision to
- Gathering information: Once we realize the problem or the need for a decision, we will collect as much information about the situation as we can to help our decision-making.
- Analyse the information with an appropriate frame of reference: If it is a financial problem, with a financial analysis; if it is a conflict with a framework of patterns on conflicts,
- Definition of the problem: This is the key A well-defined problem is an almost solved problem. Describe the need for a decision or the problem in as much detail as needed.
- Assessment of the problem: Is this an urgent problem that requires a quick decision or not; is it important to make a decision or not; does a decision affect all or only part of my life,
- Generation of alternatives: Once we have identified the problem and its magnitude or importance, we can generate possible solutions to solve it, based on our creativity.
- Valuation of alternatives: Once we have formulated the possible solutions, we will have to assess which are the most viable to solve the problem.
- Decision: Once we have the evaluation of the alternatives, we will be ready to make a decision that is reasonable and based on a solid frame of reference.
One last advice…
There will be times when staying motivated for later life preparation can feel like a real struggle. Remember, it’s not about the perfect plan and sticking to it at all costs. It’s also not about having everything thought out in all domains. We still are living here and now. Don’t put any pressure on yourself. There are phases in life where it is difficult to take on additional tasks. Then start small, pick domains that interest you. Think about your future, your wishes and how you will develop personally – you will be glad you did later. Sometimes it is a first step to talk about later life preparation with someone familiar. It takes on a certain importance, there is then someone who can inspire us, who can ask questions, who can remind us… And maybe start doing it oneself, because together it is always easier.
We hope we gave you some inspiration and ideas for a happy later life!