Planning. Some of us love to do it, others prefer to wing it and hope for the best. But even if you feel like you’re not a natural born planner, it is a skill you can learn. Knowing what your strengths are helps — as does having the right tools.
Many people find that a written daily planner helps them to get more organized and keep their plans on track. The Panda Planner VIA goes one step further by incorporating a strengths-based approach built on the VIA Character Strengths survey. Each section — daily, weekly, and monthly — prompts you to use your own personal character strengths to become happier, more productive, and more likely to hit your goals.
So how can you put pen to paper and become a better planner? Below we’ll take a look at five ways, along with the strengths you can focus on to achieve each one.
1. Commit to your Goals on Paper
When we have unfulfilled goals they bounce around in our minds, disturbing our thoughts and taking up mental space. So what can we do about it? Research has shown that the act of committing wholeheartedly to our goals by laying down a plan for them frees up cognitive resources.
In other words, once your plan is in place, you’re free to move on and stop thinking about that goal until it’s time for you to work on it again.
How to put it into practice: Commit to a goal by putting it in writing, then sketching out the steps you need to take to achieve it. Break down these steps into small, manageable tasks and then tick the tasks off in your planner as you complete them. By getting the plans out of your head and onto paper, you’ll keep a clearer mind.
Use these character strengths: prudence, self-regulation
2. Practice self-compassion
We all fall off the wagon from time to time when it comes to pursuing our goals. The best thing we can do when that happens? Forgive ourselves. Self-compassion prevents a negative spiral and gives us the incentive to persevere. Research backs this up: For example, one study found that people who forgave themselves for procrastinating were less likely to procrastinate again in the future.
How to put it into practice: Schedule in some regular “me” time as a way of showing yourself appreciation and compassion. This time should be for doing something that you love or that makes you feel recharged. For example, you might take an hour out each week to meditate, write, play a sport, or spend time in nature. Scheduling this time into your plans means caring for yourself won’t fall by the wayside, and you’ll be actively reminded to show yourself kindness.
Use these character strengths: kindness, forgiveness, gratitude
3. Find intrinsic motivation
Making plans is one thing, but to achieve your goals you also have to stick to them. That’s where having the right type of motivation comes in. Research consistently shows that intrinsic motivations are stronger than external ones. For example, a sense of personal accomplishment at work might be a more enduring motivator than how much you earn.
How to put it into practice: When you’re making plans, think about why following them matters to you. Panda Planner VIA encourages you to define your priorities each day, which is a perfect time to dig deep and set each one according to your intrinsic motivations. This will help guide your planning toward what’s most important.
Use these character strengths: spirituality, curiosity, love of learning
4. Work with others
Sometimes the biggest barrier to planning is simply feeling overwhelmed. Why put in the effort to create a plan when the end goal seems impossibly far away? Here’s where leveraging the skills of others comes in.
How to put it into practice: What tasks in your plan can you delegate? What can be done more effectively by pulling together a team? If leadership and teamwork are top character strengths for you, the planning process is a great time to start using them.
Determine who you can work with to bring your goals to fruition, then lay down some communication strategies and include them in your plans. For example, use your planner to schedule monthly team meetings or weekly phone catchups.
Use these character strengths: teamwork, leadership, social intelligence
Regardless of whether things are going to plan or not, there’s always some lesson to be learned as you go along. That’s what makes regular reflection such an important — yet underrated — part of the planning process. And a science-backed one at that. For example, a recent study found that those who took just 15 minutes to reflect on their workday increased their performance at the office by nearly 25 percent.
By scheduling in time for reflection you can evaluate how your plans are going every step of the way, then use what you’ve learned to improve and adapt your strategy moving forward.
How to put it into practice: Include a moment for written reflection at regular intervals throughout your plan. For example, Panda Planner VIA includes a weekly review that prompts you to reflect on what went well and what could be improved. While mental reflection is beneficial, writing down your thoughts helps to focus and solidify them.
Use these character strengths: judgment, honesty, perspective
Regardless of what your highest character strengths are, you can become a better planner. Remember: even if some strengths don’t come as naturally to you, you can still focus on using them — it might just take a little more effort. Add the right tools into the mix, and getting your plans laid out and executed will be easier than ever.