How to Get Things Done With Visual Planning

A game plan notepad filled in with a busy schedule

You can’t rely on your mind to be your admin assistant. 

Research shows that we have about 6,000 thoughts in a day. That’s a lot of mental clutter to sort through! With all the different ideas, worries, and thoughts circling in our heads, it’s no wonder that we have so much trouble staying organized and productive. 

That’s why it’s so important to use external tools and systems to coordinate your work. And if you’re looking for a simple way to get things done, it really helps to use a visual planning method. 

We are visual creatures. And seeing information laid out on paper can help you make sense of the mental jumble and turn it into an actionable plan. 

Here’s how visual planning can help:

  • You transform abstract thoughts into clearly defined ideas and tasks. 
  • You can categorize your tasks, making planning and strategizing easier.
  • You can figure out what to do and in what order.
  • You can identify which tasks to eliminate or delegate.
  • You can create an effective schedule for your day, week, and month
  • You can line up your priorities and stick to them. 

Below, we’ll show you how to get everything in order and make a solid game plan for success. 

Create a messy list

We all know what a to-do list is. But before you can start thinking about structuring your day or creating an effective to-do list, you need to seize all the floating thoughts in your head with a “messy list.” 

The idea behind a messy list or a “brain dump” is to take what’s in your mind and get it all out on paper. It’s only when you dump everything out that you can start to see things much more clearly. This exercise will then allow you to sort through and organize all the various tasks and ideas.

Here’s how to do it: Take out a notebook or a scrap piece of paper. Start jotting down everything that comes to mind. Work assignments. Deadlines. Household chores. Meal planning. Vacation planning. Write it down. Whew! You should start to feel a sense of relief after getting it all out.

Make a game plan

Now that you’ve cleared the mental clutter it’s time to start turning your messy list into a game plan that is coherent and clear

Categorize your tasks

First, you’ll want to organize your tasks into various categories.

For example, let’s say your messy list includes tasks like: submit invoices, calculate estimated taxes, send status updates to boss. You’ll want to lump all those tasks under one category, like “admin.” 

Or let’s say you wrote down: pick up prescription, drop off dry cleaning, go to supermarket. You would categorize those tasks as “personal” or “chores”

Why does it help to categorize your tasks?

First, you can glance at a category of tasks and its sub-categories and quickly determine what to prioritize, when to schedule them, and whether or not you can delegate them to someone else.  

Second, organizing your tasks into categories can help you batch your tasks. Task-batching is a productivity method in which you work on the same category of tasks in one sitting. So you would first work on your admin category, and then chores, and so forth and so on. With this method, you can get into a good productivity groove and knock out a bunch of tasks in a row. 

Take note of your priorities

You now have a clear picture of your tasks and the categories that they fall under. By this point, you should start to get a better sense of your priorities. These are the tasks and items on your to-do list that are important to you and should be completed. 

Examples of priorities include: time sensitive deadlines, working on a dream goal, or finishing a work assignment. 

When life gets busy, designating your priorities can sharpen your focus and let you know what to work on first. 

Once you’ve chosen your priorities, use our Game Plan deskpad to manage your priorities and stay on top of them throughout the week. 

Figure out the sequence of your tasks 

In addition to identifying your priorities, you’ll want to make sure that you’re sequencing your tasks in the right order. 

Knowing what sequence to work in will help you use your time much more effectively and keep your work going smoothly.

Some of your tasks will be contingent on you completing certain tasks beforehand. For example, if you’re planning a wedding, you wouldn’t mail out invitations before booking a venue first. Or if you’re doing a house project, you wouldn’t hire the contractors before defining your budget first. 

To help you determine the sequence of your tasks, you can plot out your tasks on a deskpad or a whiteboard. A visual layout will allow you to see which tasks are connected and dependent on each other. Then, you can sequence your tasks in a way that makes sense and keeps you on track. 

Different ways to use visual planning

Feeling inspired? Here are some ideas on how to use visual planning in your personal and professional life. 

You have a client-based job. If you’re a freelancer, small business owner, or creative, you have lots of clients, schedules, and projects to oversee. A visual planning system will help you keep track of meetings, appointments, due dates, and more. 

You’re juggling work and personal commitments. Use a visual planning method to organize your work and personal obligations. When you see all the different commitments displayed in one single view, you’ll know exactly what to defer, eliminate, or assign to someone else—saving you time, energy, and brainpower. 

You’re planning a big project. Maybe it’s a wedding, house renovation, or family vacation. Use a visual layout to monitor all the various tasks, timelines, and stakeholders.

Written by JiJi Lee.

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