Why Planning is Crucial
There are two important levels to the planning process:
1. Planning what to do.
2. Imagining yourself doing it.
Planning What to Do
If you don't plan what you are going to do with each day - if you don't consider your priorities and set a direction for yourself - then you will end up doing whatever floats in front of you, and you will never get done what matters most to you. You can't get where you want to go if you don't take the time to think about where you want to go and how to get there!! So set aside time to plan each day. You can do it each morning or in the evening prior, but do it!
Imagining Yourself Doing It
Imagining yourself doing each task gives two crucially important benefits:
1. It's the most effective way to break a task down into its component action steps. This is how you realize what you need to complete the task (things you need to buy or collect from other people), and what needs to be done in what order. If you try to break a task into action steps without imagining yourself actually doing the task, you'll miss stuff.
Once you have broken the task into action steps, you can create intermediate deadlines for each step by working backwards from the final deadline. This creates structure for the task and ensures you start each step early enough.
Also, when you don't think through the task before you start, you'll frequently create problems for yourself. You might not have everything you need, or you might not have considered something crucial. The project can take a lot longer than it should. Or maybe you might become so frustrated that you don't finish it. If it's something you have to do on a regular basis, you can end up with such bad associations with the task that you procrastinate starting it in the future. Thinking through the task makes the work quicker and easier.
2. Rehearsing the actions in your mind prepares you for action. Athletes make heavy use of visualization before competitions. For example, a runner will imagine herself running the race - see the track, see each curve. There are many studies that show visualization improves performance. For procrastinators, it's a powerful way to get yourself going.
So plan your work, then work your plan!