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How to Form a Plan

Three Methods:Planning for Your DayCreating a Life PlanSolving a Problem with a Plan

Whether you are facing a problem, trying to sort out your life, or simply want to structure your day, you are going to need a plan. Making a plan can seem daunting but with some diligence, the right tools, and a little creativity, you will be able to lay out a plan and start achieving your goals.

Method 1
Planning for Your Day

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    Sit down with a piece of paper. This can be in a journal, spiral notebook, or a blank document on your computer--whatever works best for you. List out what you need to get accomplished that day, including any appointments or meetings you may have. What are your goals for the day? Do you want to fit exercise or relaxation time in? What assignments do you absolutely have to finish?
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    Create a timetable for yourself. At what time should you be done with your first assignment, project or activity today? List each activity, starting with the earliest one, and working your way through the hours of the day. Make sure that you work around any appointments or meetings you have.[1] Of course, everyone’s days are different, so each person’s plan will be different. A basic plan could look something like this:
    • 9:00 to 10:00am: Get to the office, check email, send out responses
    • 10:00 to 11:30am: Meeting with George and Sue
    • 11:30 to 12:30pm: Project #1
    • 12:30 to 1:15pm: Lunch (eat healthy!)
    • 1:15 to 2:30pm: Review project #1, meet with Sam and discuss Project #1
    • 2:30 to 4:00pm: Project #2
    • 4:00 to 5:00pm: Start Project #3, set things up for tomorrow
    • 5:00 to 6:30pm: Leave the office, head to the gym
    • 6:30 to 7:00pm: Pick up groceries head home
    • 7:00 to 8:30pm: Make dinner, relax
    • 8:30pm: Go to the movies with Cody
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    Refocus yourself every hour or so. It is important to take a moment after each allotted amount of time to review how productive you were during that time. Did you do everything you needed to get done? Then, give yourself a minute to reset--close your eyes and relax. This way you will be able to effectively transition into the next activity you have to do.[2]
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    Review your day. When you have finished the majority of your day, take a moment to review how successful you were at sticking to your plan. Were you able to finish everything that you wanted to? Where did you slip up? What worked and what didn’t? What distracted you and how can you keep it from distracting you in the future?

Method 2
Creating a Life Plan

Part One: Assessing the Roles You Play

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    Determine what roles you play in the present. Every day we perform different roles (from student to son, from artist to biker). What you want to do is think about the roles that you are currently playing in your daily life.
    • These roles could include (among many, many others): Traveler, student, daughter, writer, drawer, employee, glass-blower, hiker, grandchild, thinker, etc.
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    Consider the roles you want to play in your future. Many of these future roles might overlap with the roles you have right now. These roles are the nouns you would want to use to describe yourself at the end of your life. Consider the roles you are playing right now. Are any of them unnecessarily stressing you out? If so, that role might not be one that needs to continue through your life. Prioritize these roles from most important to least important. This exercise will help you to determine what you really value in life and what is most important to you. Keep in mind, however, that this list is completely changeable--just as you are constantly changing.[3]
    • Your list might look something like: mother, daughter, wife, traveler, glass-blower, mentor, volunteer, hiker, etc.
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    Determine the reason behind the roles you want to play. A role is a great way to define yourself, but the reason behind why you want to play the role is what gives it meaning. Maybe you want to be a volunteer because you see the trouble in the world and want to do your part to fix it. Or maybe you want to be a father because you want to give your children the perfect childhood.[4]
    • One way to help you define the purpose of your role is to imagine your own funeral (yes this is rather morbid, but it really works). Who would be in attendance? What would you want them to say about you? How would you want to be remembered?

Part Two: Creating Goals and Creating Your Plan

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    Create broad goals you want to achieve during your life. How do you want to progress? What do you want to achieve in your life? Think of this as your bucket list--the things you want to do before die... These goals should be the ones you really want to achieve--not the ones you think you should have. Sometimes it helps to create categories for your goals so that you can more easily visualize them. Some categories you could use include (but are certainly not limited to)[5]:
    • Career/vocation; Travel; Social (family/friends); Health; Finances; Knowledge/Intellect; Spirituality
    • Some example goals (in order of the categories listed above) include: Publish a book; travel to every continent; get married and raise a family; lose 20 pounds; make enough money to afford to send my children to college; get my Masters degree in Creative Writing; learn more about Buddhism.
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    Create some specific goals with specific dates to achieve them by. Now that you have some vague goals that you want to achieve in your life, set out some defined goals. This means giving yourself a date to complete these goals by. Here are some examples that are a bit more defined than the ones listed in the previous step.
    • Send book manuscript to 30 publishers by June 2014.
    • Travel to South America in 2015 and Asia in 2016.
    • Weigh 120 lbs by January 2015.
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    Assess your reality and where you’re at right now. This means being honest with yourself and really taking a look at your present life. Using the goals you’ve listed out, think about where you are in relation to them right now.[6] For example:
    • Your goal is to publish a book and have the manuscript sent out to publishers by November 2014. Right now, you have half of the manuscript written, and you’re not totally sure you like the first half.
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    Figure out how you will reach your goals. What steps are you going to have to take to be able to achieve your goal? Assess the steps you will need to go through and write these steps down. To continue with the example of publishing a book[7]:
    • From now until Nov. 2014 you will need to: A. Re-read the first half of your book. B. Finish writing your book. C. Rework aspects of the book you don’t like. D. Edit for grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. E. Get several critical friends to read your book and give you feedback. F. Research publishers that you think would consider your book for publication. G. Send your manuscript out.
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    Write out the steps to achieve all of your goals. You can do this is whatever format you prefer--be it handwritten, on the computer, in paint, etc. Congratulations, you have just written your life plan!
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    Revisit your plan and adjust it. As with everything in this world, your life will change and your goals will change. What was important to you when you were 12 might not be as important to your when you are 22 or 42. It is ok to change your life plan, in fact it is healthy to do so because it shows that you are aware and in tune with the changes occurring in your life.

Method 3
Solving a Problem with a Plan

Part One: Defining the Problem

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    Recognize the problem that you are facing. Sometimes, the most difficult part of forming a plan to solve a problem is that you’re not exactly sure what the problem is. Often, the problem we are facing is actually causing more problems for us. What you need to do is get down to the root of the matter--the true problem that you need to solve.[8]
    • Your mom isn’t letting your go to your friend’s mountain cabin in four weeks. This is definitely a problem, but what you need to do is determine the root of this problem. The fact is, you are getting a C- in your algebra class, which is why your mom doesn’t want you spending the weekend skiing. Therefore, the problem is that you are not doing well in your math class. This is the problem you need to focus on.
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    Know what you are hoping the results of fixing your problem will be. What is your goal that you hope to reach by solving your problem? There might be more hopes attached to your main goal. Focus on attaining your goal and the other results will come with it.
    • Your goal is to raise your grade to at least a B in your math class. Along with this goal, you are hoping that by raising your grade, your mom will let you go to your friend’s cabin.
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    Determine what you are doing that is affecting the problem. What habits have you developed that may be causing this problem? Take a moment to examine your interactions with the problem.[9]
    • Your problem is that you are getting a C- in math. Look at what you are doing that is affecting this problem: you talk to your friend in that class… a lot, and you haven’t been doing your homework every night because you recently joined a soccer team and after practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays, all you want to do is eat dinner and sleep.
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    Consider outside barriers that might be affecting your problem. While a lot of your problem may be caused by your actions, there also might be outside forces working against you. Consider what these might be.[10]
    • You are getting a C- in math, which needs to change. A barrier to your success, however, might be that you truly don’t understand the concepts being taught in the class--not just because you are talking in class, but because you have never really ‘gotten’ algebra. On top of that, you don’t really know where to get help.

Part Two: Finding Solutions and Making a Plan

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    Determine some possible solutions for your problem. You can simply list these solutions on a piece of paper, or employ some brainstorming techniques like making a mind map. Whichever way you choose, you should consider solutions to both the way you personally are affecting the problem, and the barriers that you might be facing that are not of your own making.
    • Solutions for talking to your friend in the class: A. Force yourself to sit on the opposite side of the class from your friend. B. Tell your friend that you are getting a really bad grade in the class and you need to focus. C. If you have a seating assignment, ask your teacher to move you so that you can focus more.
    • Solutions for not doing your homework because of soccer: A. Do some homework at lunch or during your free period so that you don’t have as much to do at night. B. Keep yourself to a strict schedule--after practice you will eat dinner and then do homework. Reward yourself by watching an hour of TV after your homework is done.
    • Solutions for not understanding algebra. A. Enlist the help of a classmate that can explain the concepts to you (but only if you both won’t get distracted while going over the problems. B. Ask your teacher for help--approach your teacher after class and ask if you could set up a meeting with her because you have questions about the homework. C. Get a tutor or join a study group.
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    Form your plan. Now that you have figured out what the problem is and have brainstormed some solutions, pick the solutions you think will work best and write down a plan for yourself. Writing down your plan will help you visualize it. Hang your written plan somewhere where you can see it often, like on your mirror that you use when getting ready for the day. You don’t need to use all of the solutions that you listed, but you should keep some of the other solution ideas as backups.[11]
    • Your plan for raising your grade in math should look something like this:
    • Plan to raise grade in four weeks:
      • Talk to Peggy about how I can’t talk in class. (If she keeps talking to me, change seats)
      • Do homework during lunch every Tuesday and Thursday so I can keep going to soccer practice but don’t have much to do when I get home
      • Go to my school’s math tutoring center for help every Monday and Wednesday; ask my teacher if there is any extra credit I can do to raise my grade
    • Goal: By week four I will have raised by grade to at least a B
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    Evaluate the success of your plan after a week. Did you do everything you hoped you would do during that first week of trying your plan? If not, where did you slip up? By recognizing what you need to work on, you will be able to more effectively stick to your plan the next week.
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    Keep yourself motivated. The only way you will be successful is if you really stay motivated. If you work better when you are motivated, create a reward for yourself (though solving your problem may be reward enough). If you deviate from the plan one day, don’t let yourself do it again. Don’t lighten up on your plan halfway through it just because you feel like you are close to reaching your goal--follow through with your plan.
    • If you find that something you are doing really just isn’t working, modify your plan. Swap out one of the solutions you used in your plan with a different solution you came up with during your brainstorming session.


  • As you complete a goal, check it off your plan so you can see your progress.
  • When adding to the detail of your plans, try to guess out what could go wrong and develop contingency plans.
  • Congratulate yourself on your plans and be excited about your goals. Visualize how your life will be different once you have accomplished these goals.
  • Remember that planning is just the work that turns chaos into error- don't expect that just because you created a plan that it's going to work perfectly without further effort. The plan is just the starting point.
  • Have some common sense and don't show your date (i.e. Cody) how she fits in on your daily plan/timetable.
  • Give yourself time to make a plan; if you get frustrated, you might forget some important details.

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