How to be successful when you can’t plan ahead

How to be successful when you can't plan aheadAlan Lakin said, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” This is the essence of why planning ahead matters. Many argue that plans do not normally work especially in this fast-paced world where everything is changing so quickly. Proper plans, however, when they are formulated ahead of time help leaders and organizations to execute projects, reach their goals, and fulfill their vision. The Chinese philosopher, Confucius said, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” Successful people and organizations are aware of this concept. Those who are successful have planned ahead, finding many benefits, including the following six points.

1. Assessing risks and opportunities

Taking risks is necessary for growth, expanding the comfort zone, and achieving success. Planning ahead gives us confidence to take the risks that others may not take and so it moves us ahead without worrying about competition. Leaders who are not willing to take risks may never fulfill their vision and their success may be short lived. However, if not identified ahead of time through proper planning, taking risks may result in loss and adversity.

By planning ahead, we can identify the associated risks, weigh and categorize them, prioritize and create a response plan. In this way we can transform risks to opportunities and experience the rewards of taking them. Unfortunately, many organizations do not succeed, especially during hard times, because they don’t anticipate risks or, if they do, they do not plan how to respond to them.

Planning ahead helps you and your organization become assertive in taking risks and saying no to either conservative or aggressive approaches.

2. Becoming proactive

Without proper planning we would not be ready to respond to challenges. Hence we become reactive. Planning ahead helps you become proactive. By becoming proactive, you will be able to take the right action in the face of challenge and adversity. As a result, you welcome change because you are ready for any type of challenge. When you are proactive, you respond to situations rather than reacting to them.

3. Improving performance

In his book, Encore Effect, Mark Sanborn noted, “Thorough preparation creates tremendous performances.” In fact, there is a direct correlation between the level of your preparation and the level of your performance. Routine plans and preparation lead to routine performances. Good plans and preparation lead to good performance. Remarkable plans and preparation lead to remarkable performance.

Planning ahead helps to improve your performance and that of your organization. By improving your performance through good planning and preparation, you will be clearer about what to do next. You will also experience less stress, be more productive, provide better service, deliver higher quality products, create a more joyful environment to work in, and become a more effective and influential leader.

4. Enough time to develop teams

Team development is vital to success, projects, and the organization as a whole. Teams suffer without plans. Unfortunately, many organizations do not plan for team development. After a while, teams experience internal and external conflict, which results in confusion, low productivity, less creativity, dissociation and failure. By planning ahead, you and the team leaders in your organization will have enough time to develop your teams. When the right plan is designed for the right team, assigning tasks to the team members can be done quickly and confidently.

5. Time for revising and updating the plan

Effective plans are revised and updated regularly. In fact, our original plans can and should evolve over time so we can stay on the right track and get to the destination. By planning ahead we give ourselves time to revise our plans based on updated information on risk, quality, resources, stakeholders, assumptions, and constraints.

6. Rewarding

By planning ahead we plan for success. As explained earlier, remarkable plans lead to remarkable performances, which lead to remarkable rewards. Therefore, spending enough time in making remarkable plans and preparing for a remarkable performance will pay off with extraordinary rewards.

If you want to learn how to plan ahead and lead your life to greater levels of success, I encourage you to get your copy my books: Leadership Soup and Get What You Want

Kamran Akbarzadeh, PhD
Founder of Dream Achievers Academy

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead
Confucius once said, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.” This means that if you don’t plan ahead, you might find yourself in trouble. Being a successful planner and organizer has a lot to do with the ability to plan ahead. Usually, the more time you spend planning something, the more successful you will be.

Sometimes, however, you have no control over the amount of time you have to complete a project. An unexpected project might come up and you’ll have to take care of it. In these cases, all you can do is make the best use of the time you have. With the exception of these unexpected projects, try to plan ahead as much as possible at work. When you plan ahead, these unexpected projects will be much more manageable.

How can you learn to plan ahead? Use these tips to help you make planning ahead your new habit:

  1. Look into the future
  2. Anticipate needs
  3. Use your calendar
  4. Ask questions
  5. Work ahead

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Look into the future

In the workplace, it’s better to be proactive than reactive. This means, if you can see what’s coming, you will be much more successful in handling it than if it sneaks up on you. Have you ever had to chase someone? It’s harder to chase someone than to be chased. Since you don’t know which way this person is going to turn next, you have to react to each movement, leaving you one step behind. The same is true for planning ahead. If you don’t know what’s coming up, you will be forced to react to projects and tasks as they come your way. Try to think about the future and prepare yourself for upcoming tasks and projects.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Anticipate needs

To anticipate needs means to see a need before it even becomes an issue. This skill is very important in planning ahead, as it allows you to be proactive in your work. As you plan your projects and tasks, think about every angle. Even though no one wants to think about this, problems do come up. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself, “What could go wrong?” If you anticipate these possible problems, you can prepare for them, and maybe avoid some of them. By anticipating or planning ahead, when a problem does occur, you’re ready to handle it.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Use your calendar

A calendar is your best friend when planning ahead. You can use it to look ahead at upcoming events, seasons and holidays that might affect your workload. You can do yourself a big favor by taking note of how the changing seasons and holidays affect your workload. Then turn ahead to the next year and mark the dates, weeks or months as something to plan ahead for. A calendar will also help you to meet deadlines and benchmark goals as you work through your projects.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Ask questions

Have you ever heard the expression, “You don’t know what you don’t know”? Although it seems like an obvious statement, if you think about it this expression really applies to planning ahead. After all, how can you plan ahead if you don’t know what’s going to happen in the future?

In the workplace, you can rely on other people who may have worked there longer than you to keep you up to speed on what’s happening next. However, you can’t always trust that your coworkers will go out of their way to keep you informed. They might assume you know this information, or they might not think to tell you, so it will be up to you to ask. Ask your supervisor and coworkers what’s coming up and see if there is anything you can help with.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Work ahead

What’s better than being on schedule? Being ahead of schedule, of course! If you can work ahead on projects, you will be prepared for new projects that come up at the last minute. For example, if your supervisor comes to you with a project that needs to be done right away, you won’t have a problem putting your current project on hold for a while if you’re ahead of schedule. Working ahead will also give you a cushion of extra time in case something comes up that you didn’t plan for. Although you should try to anticipate all possibilities, sometimes things sneak up on us that we simply didn’t think about. If you are ahead of schedule you should still be able to meet your deadline, even with the surprise setback.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Planning ahead is a common key ingredient to a successful story, no matter what the goal may be. Having a plan will not only help you reach your goal(s), but it can help you stay on track with your goal(s) a lot easier. Something that I have experienced and greatly believe in is having a plan, along with having alternative plans for those times of “just in case.” Similarly, Coach Nicole has blogged about developing a Plan B, which has helped numerous people, including myself when times get busy or tough. I’m sure many of you have experienced those times when unexpected things come up and catch you completely off guard. When you have a plan, plan B, and maybe even a plan C, you are more likely to stick with your goal(s), which will make you happier in the end and you will have given yourself a perfect recipe for success.

I have always been someone who plans out just about everything and it is something that I recommend for everyone to do, especially with weight-loss related goals. From planning my meals ahead of time to planning out my workout schedule, I know that I will continue to be successful in continuing with my healthy habits and maintaining a healthy lifestyle — no excuses. I think many other people have found this to be true as well! As I look through the Secrets of Success page on SparkPeople, I see numerous members have posted that planning ahead allows them to be successful, regardless of what their goal is.

Please click here for tips on successful planning to help you reach your goals!

Do you plan ahead? If so, how has it helped you be successful? Do you have any tips for others to help them get started in the planning process? If you don’t plan ahead, will you be giving it a try?

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How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Truly, I’m not. My Myers-Briggs type is INFP—a rather spontaneous sort, who’s not particularly good at planning ahead. I’m likely to realize I want—or need—to do something the same time minute I need to do it (or 5 minutes after I needed to do it), whether this is eating lunch, sending an email, having friends over for dinner, or making a Trader Joe’s run.

I’m particularly fond of the way the book Creative You describes the NP type: they are “an endless lightning storm of ideas, but the bolts don’t often strike the ground.”

That’s my natural type. But when I re-took the official MBTI test last year, I tested as an INTJ: the organized, methodical sort who likes to have things settled.

This result cracked me up, because I am emphatically not “neat, orderly, and established” by my nature.

I came out as INTJ because the amateur test administrator incorrectly told us to answer the questions based on what we usually do, instead of our natural preference. This skewed my result, but it also made me realize that when it comes to making and executing plans, I’ve come a long way. Organization and routine don’t come naturally to me, but I’ve worked hard—especially in these last few years—at cultivating those skills.

My fundamental type hasn’t changed: schedules still feel restrictive, and I prefer to play things by ear. But I’ve managed to improve my “J” skills to compensate for my lack of natural ability. (Do I still need to improve? Emphatically yes. But I’ve made real progress.)

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

How do you learn to organize and plan ahead when you’re not naturally a planner? This list isn’t comprehensive, but these are the things that have helped me the most:

1. Face the music. For most of us, life requires organization, deadline, and follow-through. It just does. Deal with it.

2. Don’t go all or nothing. You can’t wake up one day and decide that even though you’ve always been a Lorelai, you want to try being a Rory. If you’re spontaneous by nature, don’t try to plan every minute of the day. Prioritize where you put your planning energy.

3. Train yourself to think three steps ahead. Laura Vanderkam compares time management to chess. Master chess players don’t concentrate only on their next move; they think three moves ahead, anticipating outcomes and making contingency plans.

A few years ago, I started training myself to think three steps ahead when I schedule my time, considering possible outcomes and making contingency plans when necessary. (What if the babysitter is sick? What if the internet goes down? What if traffic is a nightmare?)

Logistics are my kryptonite, and I’m a terribly slow decision maker. Thinking through possible game plans ahead of time saves my bacon on a regular basis.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

4. Pretend you run a magazine. It blew my mind when I first realized (back in junior high, give me some credit) that the Christmas issues of my favorite magazines were shot in the summertime. Approaching my own schedule with the same long-term view gives me the perspective I need to prioritize the right things today.

If I were running Real Simple, my decisions would revolve around not only what needs to happen this week, but what needs to happen 4-6 months from now. When I’m making long term decisions, I mentally put myself in the editor’s chair. This little reframing trick helps me catch many tasks I would otherwise miss, before it’s too late.

5. Learn to break big tasks into chunks. Don’t drop a big project on your to-do list; break that project into granular steps. (Not “write term paper,” but “research chapter 1.”) This is a classic Getting Things Done move. People love GTD because it works.

6. Block scheduling is your friend. For the pantsers among us (as in fly-by-the-seat-of-your), this offers a nice blend of structure and spontaneity. Schedule the block, but don’t get too granular about what you plan to tackle during that time.

A little structure doesn’t kill creativity, it boosts it.

7. Hire (or borrow) some help. If you’re terrible at organizational stuff, hire someone to help you. This might not be convenient for a task like making dinner, but it’s extremely useful if you’re a spontaneous type who’s running her own business. Get yourself a project manager, a media manager, an accountant—whoever you need to compensate for your weaknesses. (As a homeschooling parent, this looks like buying lesson plans.)

My husband is a much better planner than I am, by nature and training. When I need help with the planning—whether it’s for a big writing deadline or an adventure with the kids—I’ll say “I need you to project manage this for me.” (I say this a lot.)

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

8. Give yourself a fake deadline. Years ago a friend who loved to cook at home told me she always decides what’s for dinner by 10:00. (Preferably 10:00 the night before, but often not till 10:00 the next morning.)

Can you still make dinner at home if you don’t decide what you’re having until 6:00 p.m.? Probably. But the early deadline builds in plenty of time to thaw the main dish, preheat the oven, or even run to the grocery for that item you’re missing, if necessary.

I use this trick for dinner, but I also lean on it professionally. If I have a busy month with several projects coming due at once, I’ll assign myself deadlines that might be weeks in advance of the actual deadlines, because I couldn’t possibly finish all the work if I didn’t begin until the deadlines were looming.

9. Pain is an excellent reinforcement. When it comes to the planning (and, importantly, the follow-through), I still screw up on a regular basis. Natural consequences are real, and they hurt. I’ve found that the pain of failure is an excellent motivation to do things differently next time.

If you’re not naturally a planner: how have you learned to compensate? If organization comes easy to you: tell us your secrets!

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Franchise Your Business

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Definition of “planning”: A detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.

If you think about it, this could mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To me it means direction. It means identifying what I have to get done.

You gotta have a plan. How many times have you heard that before? But don’t make a plan just for the sake of making a plan. You make a plan to focus you, to move you forward. Your plan has to contain action to be any good. Otherwise, you’ll just have analysis paralysis.

To be successful, you need to know what your next step is. It should be a clearly defined process. It all comes down to your plan. Success is created by making plans for the future, then acting on that plan every day. If you have clarity, then you can move faster. This doesn’t mean that things won’t disrupt your plan or make you change them. Your plan is your guide, your blueprint.

Why do you need a plan?

1. Gives you clear direction

2. Eliminates distractions

3. Prevents scatterbrain

4. Allows you to keep yourself accountable so you are moving in the direction of your goals

As you formulate your plan, ask yourself what are your non-negotiables. What do you stand for? The actions you take on a daily and long-term basis should reflect what you value. It seems simple enough, but people can act in direct opposition to what they believe in.

There are three overall plans that you need to be successful. They will help you compartmentalize your goals and move you from one area to the next with more confidence, focus and speed. Each plan builds on the other and strengthens them.

Life Plan

Your overall purpose and goals in life. This is a big, macro look at what you want out of life. What do you want in your career? For your family? For your life? For your health?

This is the plan that gets you closer to a completed cycle of action. Goals, targets, dreams. The thoughts you think control everything, and you need to focus them. One little shift in your thinking can create a mental trigger that drives new actions. Affirming what is possible on a daily basis creates the motivation to act.

Sales Plan

This is how you attack the marketplace. This is the plan that makes all other plans possible. It feeds everything else. If you have a bulletproof sales plan, it will help you achieve your life plan. A lot of people spend 20 to 30 years with the same sales plan without changing it. If you learn to produce, then you can do anything.

Day Plan

What do you need to do every day to create your life and sales plan? What are you going to do today? Write it down. Every time you write out your day, you’ll have more direction and certainty. Planning your day gives control over your it. This then leads to control over your customers or contacts, which equals income. And this strengthens your sales plan.

If you can’t exert control, you can’t make a prediction. You have to take responsibility for your life by controlling it. Using these three plans will create certainty in your life, which leads to more confidence. When you are confident, you feel motivated — and that’s when you stop thinking and take actions. Success is a process. Follow the steps and put in the work.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Although making resolutions to improve your financial situation is a good thing to do at any time of year, many people find it easier at the beginning of a new year. Regardless of when you begin, the basics remain the same. Here are 10 key tips to getting ahead financially.

1. Get Paid What You’re Worth and Spend Less Than You Earn

It may sound simple, but many people struggle with this first rule. Make sure you know what your job is worth in the marketplace, by conducting an evaluation of your skills, productivity, job tasks, contribution to the company, and the going rate, both inside and outside the company, for what you do. Being underpaid even a $1,000 a year can have a significant cumulative effect over the course of your working life.

No matter how much or how little you’re paid, you’ll never get ahead if you spend more than you earn. Often it’s easier to spend less than it is to earn more, and a little cost-cutting effort in a number of areas can result in savings. And, it doesn’t always have to involve making big sacrifices.

2. Stick to a Budget

An important step to consider when trying to get ahead financially is budgeting. After all, how can you know where your money is going if you don’t budget? How can you set spending and saving goals if you don’t know where your money is going? You need to set up a budget whether you make thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

3. Pay off Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is the number one obstacle to getting ahead financially. Those little pieces of plastic are so convenient to use, and it’s so easy to forget that it’s real money we’re dealing with when we whip them out to pay for a purchase, large or small. Despite our good resolves to pay the balance off quickly, the reality is that we often don’t, and end up paying far more for things than we would have paid if we had used cash.

4. Contribute to a Retirement Plan

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan (or another type of employer-sponsored retirement savings program), you should consider contributing to it if you can afford to. Often, with 401(k) plans, your employer will contribute the same amount that you put toward your account up to a certain percent. This is often referred to as an “employer match.” If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, consider an IRA.

5. Have a Savings Plan

You’ve heard it before: Pay yourself first. If you wait until you’ve met all of your other financial obligations before seeing what’s left over for saving, chances are, you’ll never have a healthy savings account or investments. Resolve to set aside a minimum of 5% of your salary for savings before you start paying your bills. Better yet, have money automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into a separate account.

6. Invest

If you’re contributing to a retirement plan and a savings account and you can still manage to put some money into other investments, all the better.

7. Maximize Your Employment Benefits

Employment benefits like a 401(k) plan, flexible spending accounts, medical and dental insurance, etc., are worth big bucks. Make sure you’re maximizing yours and taking advantage of the ones that can save you money by reducing taxes or out-of-pocket expenses.

8. Review Your Insurance Coverages

Too many people are talked into paying too much for life and disability insurance, whether it’s by adding these coverages to car loans, buying whole-life insurance policies when term-life makes more sense, or buying life insurance when you have no dependents. On the other hand, it’s important that you have enough insurance to protect your dependents and your income in the case of death or disability.

9. Update Your Will

In 2020, just 32% of Americans had a will.   If you have dependents, no matter how little or how much you own, you need a will. If your situation isn’t too complicated, you can even do your own with software like WillMaker from Nolo. To better protect your loved ones, consider writing a will.

10. Keep Good Records

If you aren’t careful about keeping thorough records, you’re probably not claiming all your allowable income tax deductions and credits. Set up a system now and use it all year. It’s much easier than scrambling to find everything at tax time, only to miss items that might have saved you money.

Checking In

How are you doing on the above checklist? If you’re not doing at least six of the 10, consider resolving to make improvements. Choose one area at a time and set a goal for incorporating all 10 into your lifestyle.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Post Updated on December 15, 2020

Tell me if you can relate to this: When a new week approaches, you feel stressed out because you’re not prepared at all. By the end of the week, you feel frustrated because you didn’t use your time in the most productive way.

We’ve all had the Sunday scaries for the week ahead. We’ve all left things until the last minute and then complained at the end of the week about not having enough time. And yes, that’s me calling you and myself out.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

This anxiety and dread usually happens when you go through the week without a plan. If you don’t know what you need to get done and when you’re going to work on it, the chances of it happening are pretty slim.

Planning your week gives you time and space to figure out how you’re going to fit everything in. If you’re trying to make progress at work and in your personal life, planning your week will help you get there. Plus you won’t feel like a chicken with your head cut off trying to do things at the last minute.

In this post, I’m sharing five steps that will help you plan your week in a more productive and efficient way!

Why you should plan your week

If I don’t have a hint of a plan for my week, I will stumble my way through my work trying to get everything done at once. Those are the kind of weeks where I feel totally unfocused and flustered, and naturally I want to avoid that as much as possible.

Planning is important because it helps you use your time in the most efficient way. You can realistically gauge how much you can get done and how much time you have to do it. That way, you can feel accomplished knowing that you did what you set out to do.

My routine these days is to sit down on a Sunday evening and review my goals and monthly plan. I’ll figure out what really needs to get done for the week ahead and what I’d like to get done. Once I have my weekly plan, I can go to bed with a little more peace of mind before the week begins.

“You have a choice in life. You can either live on-purpose, according to a plan you’ve set. Or you can live by accident, reacting to the demands of others.”

How to plan your week

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

When planning your week, you basically want to create an outline of what you’re going to do each day. This plan doesn’t have to be super detailed (that would be better for a daily schedule), but it should help you feel prepared for the entire week.

Tip: Before you begin planning your week, make sure you have all the tools you need to keep you on track. For example, I use a blank notebook for writing notes, Asana for setting deadlines, and a weekly calendar to keep track of appointments.

Step 1: Review Bigger Plans

  • Review any yearly goals you’ve set for yourself.
  • Review your monthly priorities and plans. Here’s a post on how to plan your month in advance.
  • Make note of any appointments or events that you need to plan around.

Step 2: Make A Detailed List

  • Make a list of every little thing you need and want to get done this week. This list could range from big projects to tasks like grocery shopping.
  • Go through the list and see if there’s anything that could be moved to another week if it’s not urgent now.

Step 3: Set Your Priorities

  • Figure out what absolutely needs to get done this week based on your list. Label or highlight these tasks as your weekly priorities.
  • Keep your weekly priorities list to 3-7 items.

Step 4: Design Action Steps

  • Create a bulleted list of action steps for each priority on your to-do list.
  • Think about action steps that will help you get your priorities completed or even just started.

Step 5: Make Your Schedule

  • Figure out which of your priority tasks you’re going to work on for each day of the week. Assign each priority from your list to a designated day.
  • If it works for your schedule, group similar tasks together so your brain doesn’t have to switch between different types of activities.
  • For each day of the week, choose the ‘one big thing’ that must get done. This will help you to stay focused and accomplish the most important thing first.

Sidenote: Sometimes your priorities for each day will change even after you’ve planned them. That’s just life. As much as you possibly can, try to stick to the plan you’ve set for yourself. Just don’t be hard on yourself if other things suddenly have to become priorities.

What does your weekly planning process looking like?

I hope this post has given you some ideas for creating your own weekly planning process so you can set your schedule up for a super productive week. Share any weekly planning tips you recommend in a comment below!

“Life happens while we are making other plans.” While this saying holds a lot of truth, it is also true that a goal without a plan is just a wish. Without proper planning in place, the line between idea and strategy becomes unclear, blurring your map for the future. Whether you’re seeking to tame an overwhelming workload, build a new habit or create more time for fun, understanding how to plan your day out is key to taking control and getting where you want to go.

Need help planning your day efficiently?

How to plan your day out

Learning how to plan your day means harnessing your skills and time to make the most of your resources.

Plan your day out the night before

Human beings have limited willpower. When you attempt to plan your day in the morning, you deplete your supply of willpower first thing. Why do that to yourself, when you can just as easily plan your day out the night before? By giving yourself a heads up on what tomorrow will look like, you’re mentally prepared the moment you wake up – no need to waste time and energy trying to get focused when your day’s strategy is ready and waiting.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Plan your day before you turn on the computer

As helpful as technology can be, mastering how to plan your day out is a great time to go analog. Before you turn on any technology, get out a piece of paper and write down what end results would make for a successful day. Next, write down the steps needed to get there. From those steps, select the ones you can realistically get done in a day. By taking a few minutes’ break from the rush of digital information, you’re able to focus calmly on today’s plan of action.

Embrace ritual

When you’re working on how to plan your day out to reach specific goals, embracing a degree of ritual will provide the structure and discipline you need. Just like any new habit, managing your schedule takes consistency to make it second-nature. Build new habits into your schedule so you’re reminded to follow through on them on a consistent basis. By making new habits ritualistic, you’re able to build patterns that align with your values and priorities.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Make use of time-management technology

To master how to plan your day out, elevate your focus with Tony Robbins’ best-selling custom life planner, the RPM Life Planner . Unlike the majority of time management systems, which focus solely on mapping out your to-do list, the RPM Life Planner takes a holistic approach. You get all the tools you need to get organized and pursue what you truly want out of life right at your fingertips. You get an achievable blueprint for not only how to plan your day but also how to strategize and meet larger life goals. This approach saves you from the busywork of unfocused activity. You get real progress – forward movement toward your passions.

Use chunking to manage your time

When you have too much on your plate, it’s almost impossible to focus on anything, much less on how to plan your day. Enter chunking , the time-management strategy at the center of the Rapid Planning Method (RPM planning). Rather than thinking of your time as a fleeting resource that’s either “spent” or “saved,” RPM planning guides you to prioritize the outcomes you really want in life, then target your time toward those goals. By using the chunking technique, you’re able to set realistic and achievable goals with the resources you have without exhausting yourself. To practice chunking, group similar activities together and group information into bite-sized pieces. Once you start practicing chunking, everything from planning your work day to enjoying your days off becomes more natural.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Don’t be afraid of lists

You don’t want to plan your day around to-do lists, but you do want the activities that end up on your schedule to be goal-oriented. When you go to plan your day out, use it to relieve your stress by putting your thoughts on paper. With a list in place, you’re able to relax and prioritize items that fit with your larger goals and strategy.

Cut yourself off

When you’re planning your workday, give yourself a realistic window of time for each item and cut yourself off at that window. Setting boundaries with your time enables you to focus and rely on the scheduling parameters you set for yourself.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Schedule everything

As tempting as it is to leave personal needs off your calendar, the reality is that, when you get busy, those are the first tasks to get lost in the shuffle. Prioritizing your overall physical, mental and emotional health forms the cornerstone of lasting success. Schedule in everything, from daily meditation to exercise.

Regroup every hour

Set an alarm to ring every hour. When it rings, stand up and stretch to reinvigorate your state . Before getting back to work, ask yourself if that last hour was productive and plan the next hour for maximal results.

How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

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How to be successful when you can't plan ahead

Although making resolutions to improve your financial situation is a good thing to do at any time of year, many people find it easier at the beginning of a new year. Regardless of when you begin, the basics remain the same. Here are 10 key tips to getting ahead financially.

1. Get Paid What You’re Worth and Spend Less Than You Earn

It may sound simple, but many people struggle with this first rule. Make sure you know what your job is worth in the marketplace, by conducting an evaluation of your skills, productivity, job tasks, contribution to the company, and the going rate, both inside and outside the company, for what you do. Being underpaid even a $1,000 a year can have a significant cumulative effect over the course of your working life.

No matter how much or how little you’re paid, you’ll never get ahead if you spend more than you earn. Often it’s easier to spend less than it is to earn more, and a little cost-cutting effort in a number of areas can result in savings. And, it doesn’t always have to involve making big sacrifices.

2. Stick to a Budget

An important step to consider when trying to get ahead financially is budgeting. After all, how can you know where your money is going if you don’t budget? How can you set spending and saving goals if you don’t know where your money is going? You need to set up a budget whether you make thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

3. Pay off Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is the number one obstacle to getting ahead financially. Those little pieces of plastic are so convenient to use, and it’s so easy to forget that it’s real money we’re dealing with when we whip them out to pay for a purchase, large or small. Despite our good resolves to pay the balance off quickly, the reality is that we often don’t, and end up paying far more for things than we would have paid if we had used cash.

4. Contribute to a Retirement Plan

If your employer offers a 401(k) plan (or another type of employer-sponsored retirement savings program), you should consider contributing to it if you can afford to. Often, with 401(k) plans, your employer will contribute the same amount that you put toward your account up to a certain percent. This is often referred to as an “employer match.” If your employer doesn’t offer a retirement plan, consider an IRA.

5. Have a Savings Plan

You’ve heard it before: Pay yourself first. If you wait until you’ve met all of your other financial obligations before seeing what’s left over for saving, chances are, you’ll never have a healthy savings account or investments. Resolve to set aside a minimum of 5% of your salary for savings before you start paying your bills. Better yet, have money automatically deducted from your paycheck and deposited into a separate account.

6. Invest

If you’re contributing to a retirement plan and a savings account and you can still manage to put some money into other investments, all the better.

7. Maximize Your Employment Benefits

Employment benefits like a 401(k) plan, flexible spending accounts, medical and dental insurance, etc., are worth big bucks. Make sure you’re maximizing yours and taking advantage of the ones that can save you money by reducing taxes or out-of-pocket expenses.

8. Review Your Insurance Coverages

Too many people are talked into paying too much for life and disability insurance, whether it’s by adding these coverages to car loans, buying whole-life insurance policies when term-life makes more sense, or buying life insurance when you have no dependents. On the other hand, it’s important that you have enough insurance to protect your dependents and your income in the case of death or disability.

9. Update Your Will

In 2020, just 32% of Americans had a will.   If you have dependents, no matter how little or how much you own, you need a will. If your situation isn’t too complicated, you can even do your own with software like WillMaker from Nolo. To better protect your loved ones, consider writing a will.

10. Keep Good Records

If you aren’t careful about keeping thorough records, you’re probably not claiming all your allowable income tax deductions and credits. Set up a system now and use it all year. It’s much easier than scrambling to find everything at tax time, only to miss items that might have saved you money.

Checking In

How are you doing on the above checklist? If you’re not doing at least six of the 10, consider resolving to make improvements. Choose one area at a time and set a goal for incorporating all 10 into your lifestyle.