3. Planning & organisation tools

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Planning comes more naturally to some personality types than others. If you’re a person that thrives on spontaneity, then maybe planning out every detail of a project or your day doesn’t appeal to you. 

In that case, try setting just one important goal that you need to achieve for the day, or setting key goalposts along the road to a long term objective, and let the rest of your plan remain fluid and flexible. The key is to work with your personality, rather than against it. 

Here are some basic planning principles to get you started:

  1. Your calendar is your new best friend

The busier you get, the harder it is to keep track of everything. Your brainspace can be put to better use than trying to remember what time your next doctor’s appointment is, or when exactly you’re supposed to follow up on that meeting. 

  1. Colour coding

if you’re a visual person, go a step further by creating a colour-coding system for your calendar, planner or to-do list – for example, based on study, work, appointments, and social events. This can help you keep track of where your time is being spent. 

  1. Set deadlines, even if they are imagined deadlines

Here’s the thing: if you give yourself a whole month to do a task, you’ll take the whole month; if you give yourself a week to do the same thing, you’ll probably get it done in a week. The idea is that we fill up the entire time we allow ourselves to finish a task. So, it’s important to set limits on how long you’re willing to spend on something.

  1. Focus on key result areas

What are the most important things you need to accomplish and why? Direct your energy in that direction, and don’t get side-tracked by shiny new projects or ideas along the way.

In the age of technology there’s no shortage of accessible resources to give you a helping hand with planning and organisation. 

Don’t get us wrong, a good old fashioned to-do list is great – when used properly. 

Did you know that 41 percent of to-do list items are never completed?

As satisfying as it is to cross tasks out, what happens too often with to-do lists is that you end up picking the easiest tasks to complete first, and keep recycling the ones you dread most for another day. This means you never actually complete those big pieces of work that require the most focus and attention. 

If keeping a good old fashioned diary or to-do list works for you, then keep at it. If not, here are just some other tools to explore: 

Toggl: This app helps you track where your time goes.

Trello: ever heard of a Kanban board? Essentially, it's where you allocate project tasks into separate columns based on what stage you're at in completing them (e.g.  'to do', 'currently doing' or 'completed'). You can do this with post-it notes, OR, Trello allows you to do it electronically, in addition to collaborating with teammates.

Evernote: An app that centralises all your planning and allows you to sync your data across your phone, laptop, iPad, etc. so that you can work off any device. 

myHomework: a cross platform student planner designed especially to help you keep track of your assignments, school projects and exams and increase study productivity.

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