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  • Writer's pictureBarbara J. Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Can you organize random numbers? No. Can your planning be stress-free? Yes.

A magnifying glass is examining lists of random numbers

Do you have the organizing gene?

I must because since I was a child, I have been put in charge of organizing just about everything. If something needed to be planned, guess who got the job?

Even in retirement, I am putting my organizing gene to work. As I write this blog I am also planning and organizing an art enrichment program for youth, a mental health fair for our community, a fund-raising campaign, a webinar, two college lectures, a trip to England and France, and several smaller projects.

Planning is my forte. My husband claims I can “organize random numbers.” We know that isn’t possible, but I have managed to create calm from chaos on numerous occasions. How? Planning. Careful planning.

For example, you can read about organizing a team of 57 authors to write Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide. It began with a plan and came to be by executing the plan.

You don’t need to have been born with the organizing gene to accomplish stress-free planning. Follow these 5 tips.

5 tips to accomplish stress-free planning:

1 – Start NOW

Above all, avoid procrastination in getting started. Every plan takes longer than anticipated and delaying getting started steals precious time. Roadblocks will inevitably show up along the way. Give yourself the luxury of time to handle them without panic. Begin. Now.

2 – Collaborate

Unless what you are planning is something you will do alone, involve others in the planning. They will provide ideas you might never have thought of. They will be able to do some tasks better than you and can allow you time and brain space for other work. Work well together.

3 – Think big, little, and outside the box

Planning well requires big-picture thinking and an eye for details, as well as plenty of creativity. Brainstorm lots of ideas without judgment. Then prioritize and make choices. Consider all approaches and possibilities. Create flow charts and diagrams to bring your plan to life.

4 – Create systems 

To be organized is to know where every idea, task, and detail can be found. Early on in your planning create systems and checklists to keep track of and record ideas, tasks, and outcomes. Break down what needs to be done into manageable steps with who is responsible and when.

5 – Check in often and have a Plan B

To make progress means you are taking small steps regularly. Include check-in points in your plan to assess how things are going, whether revisions are needed, and to make sure others are doing their part. Few projects go as planned and to avoid stress, have backup plans. Be flexible.

Where will your plans take you?

What projects are you needing to tackle? Prioritize your list if there are too many. What can be eliminated or delegated? Postponing is not the same as procrastinating. We can do a lot but not all at once.

Once you’ve picked an organizational project to plan, begin by asking these questions:

  • What can I do to get started?

  • Who should be involved in the planning and implementation?

  • What is the goal for my plan and how can it best be accomplished?

  • What system(s) and tools will keep me on track?

  • What task needs to be accomplished first and what is my deadline?

Stress results from indecision, a lack of productivity, losing track of the details, running out of time, and more. Each of these factors can be avoided when you follow the 5 tips.  Start NOW.

Tip Sheet 4: "5 Tips for Managing BIG Projects Without Overwhelm" provides additional guidance. Find all of my tip sheets here and get organized!

“Have a bias towards action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away.” ~ Indira Gandhi

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