How to carefully plan your work

The need to plan the whole of a task or all of its activities, ordinary and extraordinary, common or exceptional, often depends on the degree of importance that one places on the good management of his time. However, good time management involves anticipating the tasks to be carried out according to the objectives and deadlines set.

There is no one-size-fits-all method of organization, planning and management, but good organization, planning and management are based on a few simple principles that we are going to present in this article.

How to carefully plan your work?

Allow time for planning

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When you feel pressed for time, you tend to save time on the backs of organizing and planning operations. Stress naturally pushes us to take immediate action. This often leads to the opposite effect: instead of saving time, we lose a lot of it, with the psychological consequences we experience (anxiety, stress, panic, etc.)

Specify your immediate and long-term goals

Know exactly where you want to go, what goals you want to achieve. The more precise the target, the easier it is to predict and plan effectively. Thinking about the comparative value of the different goals being pursued also facilitates the setting of priorities. In the event of scheduling conflicts, we know in advance which objective will come first, which second, which will be left behind.

Have an overview and see it coming from afar

Good planning should make it possible to have both an overview of the project (to the detriment of detail) and a detailed view of each stage or component of the project (to the detriment of the overview). It allows you to see potential problems coming well in advance and react to them in time. It also ensures a good integration of the different stages and components of a project. The worst way to run a project is “emergency management”, or short-sighted management.

Plan in detail in the short and long term

Good planning begins with breaking down the project into logical steps and tasks, a description of the steps to be taken and the tasks to be done, an estimate of the time that each task will take. This division into stages and tasks, the duration of which has been realistically estimated, makes it possible to judiciously spread their completion according to the schedule of deadlines and the time available, and in the event of conflicts, to prioritize certain tasks.

Anticipate the unforeseeable: flexibility-versatility

The unforeseen are the major cause of disruption of schedules and work plans. Some tasks take longer than expected (unrealistic preliminary estimate), availability is reduced (family events, health problems), etc. It is therefore prudent not to plan too tightly and to leave yourself room for maneuver, to be very realistic in estimating the durations and of your work capacities, to allow time for the search for missing information. , and anticipate any changes in goals or objectives.

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Take into account real abilities

The human mind is not a computer. It works best under certain favorable conditions and becomes particularly inefficient with fatigue and prolonged stress. You must therefore adjust your planning and management to your motivations (tastes, availability), to your ability to concentrate (places, times, atmospheres) and to the functioning of your memory (periods of reminders and review).

Keep track of your progress

You have to be able to know where you are at all times. It is also desirable to know exactly what you have done with your time (self-assessment of your progress, justification of your schedule, development of expertise).

Principles of organization of its space and work tools

A given plan has value only according to the goal to be achieved. Its main quality is therefore to be functional. When it comes to studies, the plan chosen often reflects our conception of learning. We could summarize the two poles of this conception using two metaphors. The first, sedimentation: learning is conceived as a progressive accumulation of knowledge, layer after layer, course after course. The order chosen is that of a binder where documents and lecture notes are stacked in order of arrival, regardless of their category and utility value. The second is that of the architect: learning is seen as a questioning and constant reconstruction of concepts and matter. The order chosen will be one that allows the mobility of knowledge and their association by ever more logical sets and subsets.

Quick accessibility

A “functional” plan must allow rapid access at all times to essential information and classified documents. There is no such thing as an exemplary classification method. This must be considered according to each project. Each subject, each course has its own specific requirements. The classification of course documents and their indexing must be thought of in practical terms.

Separate information relating to the management of a course from information relating to learning content. All the documents used to manage a project must be gathered and filed separately and easily available at all times: syllabus, deadlines, schedules, instructions for the work, evaluation criteria, etc.

Estimate the time for each of the tasks and steps

This time can vary considerably depending on each person, each class and each job. This ability to fairly accurately estimate the time it takes for each task grows with the sessions, but only if we assess after the fact how long it really took us. We are often incorrigible optimists who grossly underestimate the time it takes to do a task. When faced with the unknown, it is better to plan for a more realistic range: a minimum (if everything goes well) and a maximum (if everything goes wrong).

Detect missing information

You can hardly plan everything in advance and once and for all. Some data is not known from the start: type of work, unforeseeable circumstances, new demands etc. Readjustments will be necessary throughout the project. It is desirable to double the session plan (overview and coordination of all work) with a weekly planning (detailed and readjusted view).

Produce a realistic and flexible schedule

Giving oneself deadlines to complete a work or a step, a review of material or a reading does not consist of locking oneself in the shackles of a rigid schedule, but rather to set a range and a time limit beyond that from which we know that we will start to fall behind. Unlike a schedule that we impose on ourselves with specific tasks at times fixed in advance (and that we rarely respect), the schedule leaves the freedom to move from one task to another depending on the desires of the moment and availability. It is a more flexible management tool that is more respectful of human functioning.

Determine your priorities

Unfortunately, there are times when you have to choose between several goals that are important to us, and sacrifice one or two. In the absence of sufficient availability to complete everything successfully, it is preferable to decide in advance which parts of the project are to be favored, that is to say those to which the most appropriate time slots will be granted

Frequently asked questions

What are the best tools to organize work?

Files, folders, binders, archive boxes

There are tools other than the ring binder or the school notebook to efficiently organize and manage course content and assignments. The computer has a system of classification by sets and subsets (folders, files) which greatly facilitates access to information and its manipulation. One can easily create a system of filing equivalent paper documents using “loose” sheets filed in “folders”, filed in files, filed in a filing cabinet or in archive boxes. Such a system makes it possible to distribute the documents of a course according to their usefulness and use.


There are also monthly calendars. The monthly calendar can perform the same function but with a shorter perspective (and the risk of losing sight of the coming month (s)).


Diaries exist in several forms: electronic, on computer, in notebook form. It is a short-term management tool. It is better, in the case of studies, to have a weekly agenda rather than a day-to-day. Associated with a weekly to-do list, it allows flexible management of the tasks to be performed. This tool must accompany us like a shadow wherever we go!

Task lists

To-do lists are a short-term and long-term management tool. They can be daily (in the case of many small tasks), weekly (the tasks to be done during the week, with or without day precision), global (list of projects to be carried out during a session without date specification) .

Task inventories: task by task, step by step. This inventory makes it possible to decide from week to week, which tasks or parts of tasks must be carried out, to arrive in time without compression.

A record of tasks performed. Rather than throwing away these daily or weekly lists, once the tasks have been completed, it may be beneficial to keep them in a separate file. One can easily, from these lists, reconstitute his schedule. This option offers various advantages: being able to justify the time spent on an assignment; more accurately assess how long certain operations have taken and use this to better plan a next session.

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