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Success Tips: Have a plan for every job, no matter how small

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

A job worth doing is worth doing well. Some jobs, even the small stuff, deserve our full attention and promise of quality throughout. All too often we can find ourselves rushing in to complete a task, only to discover later that there is a flaw in our approach. Know what I mean?

Over the years, I’ve learned that having a plan for our work, no matter how easy it is, pays off. A plan brings focus and guides us from the start of a job to the finish. Great if you are not a natural completer-finisher (like me!)

Planning can feel overkill for small activities. Guess it depends on what you mean by a plan. Not all plans need a full-blown gantt-chart. A plan can be as simple as deciding how best to approach a piece of work and the conditions we’re working in, the logical order in which we will be most efficient, and the timing of the activities. These can be written down, or kept in our heads. I scribble the plan down as it helps me commit it to memory.

Here’s an example of where I used a plan recently, and saved myself a lot of bother…

At the weekend, I replaced the fences around my house. The weather forecast told me it would be sunshine both days, but with rain on Saturday afternoon. The job required me to paint the new fences to weatherproof them – so my immediate thought was to avoid painting them before the rain washed the paint away! So with that in mind, my plan became a 4 step-process:

  1. Remove all old fences
  2. Prepare the metalwork
  3. During the rain, install the fences
  4. Paint the fences

Once I had formulated my plan – and here is the critical step – I paused.

procrastination

I paused to rehearse my plan in my head. I pictured myself taking each step, factoring the time it took to complete each, interspersed with breaks for a cuppa and trips to the loo. Then I discovered the flaw. If I paint the fences once installed, I would miss weatherproofing the sides as they butt up against the fence-posts. So I needed to re-work my plan:

  1. Remove all old fences
  2. Paint the fences and leave to dry
  3. Prepare the metalwork
  4. Install the fences

Again I paused. And again I rehearsed my plan – only to discover another issue (dang it!). If I painted the fences that early in my plan, my hard work could be ruined by the rain (I don’t have space in my garage to paint the fences inside.)

So I re-worked my plan again so that the painting came later:

  1. Paint the sides of the new fences (and let dry before the rain arrives)
  2. Remove all old fences
  3. Prepare the metalwork
  4. Install the new fences – even if it is raining
  5. Paint the new fences after the rain is over and sufficient time has passed for them to dry out

Bingo! A workable plan that overcomes the challenges. This didn’t take a lot of time. In fact it probably saved a lot of time because I would have realized soon enough that the sides of my fences aren’t protected from the weather, and be forced to un-install them to give them a lick of paint.

Planning saved me time

If I had rushed into my original plan and not rehearsed it in my head, I would have made a mistake, and done a sub-standard job of it. And here is a picture of the results of my labor…

ss-fences

The fences look almost black here, but in fact they’re painted ‘Urban Slate’ from the Cuprinol range

It might not look like much, but I am proud of it! What do you think?

Every job deserves a plan

The above is just one example of where I have used a plan. I had a plan for this post – a plan that I re-worked a couple of times to get it to satisfaction. A little bit of planning ahead creates a valuable opportunity to think of the ‘what-ifs’, fine-tune our approach and deliver quality.

We can use this approach to planning for everything we do, and it takes only a few moments to create a draft plan, rehearse it in our heads, and spot the flaws. The critical point is the pause – the brief time we allow to make sure that the approach we are taking is sound. This is a habit worth forming.

This works even with jobs we do regularly, almost without thinking. It is not unreasonable to expect that some of the jobs we have done, over and over, are not optimized. When was the last time you sat back and looked at a regular task to identify improvements? What could re-planning a job like this do for your productivity?

Could this work for you? What do you think of my fences? Please share a comment below, or start a discussion in my forum.

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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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