This piece of advice will make your freelance career much more productive, by making the planning process a lot easier to accomplish. And the funny thing is, it involves pretending that you’re someone else.
We’ve already covered the importance of a plan and how to implement it properly. So before you need to do anything, you need a plan. Problem is, it’s sometimes hard to figure out where to start. Where do we write down the plan? How should it be structured? What should it look like?
These are valid concerns, but if we let ourselves get stuck in these minor details, then it would take longer to formulate a plan. Which means we’ll have less time to accomplish a project, once we finally get around to implementing it. The trick is not to get bogged down on the little things, and concentrate on what’s really important: creating a plan that helps get the job done. There’s an easy way to keep your focus on the right place, and make planning an easier endeavor.
Pretend You’re Someone Else
The secret to easy planning is to pretend that you’ll be unable to execute your plan when it’s finished. Not due to incompetence or lack of skill of course, but simply because you’re indisposed. Let’s say you became sick for a week, and can’t even leave your bed. So you usually ask someone else to take over for you, right?
Problem is, how do you make sure that person will understand what the project calls for? Does he know what steps to take, or what adjustments to make if the situation changes? What about the objectives or the background?
If you’re trying to answer these questions, congratulations! You’ve just taken the first step of making the planning process easy. That’s because the best way to create a foolproof plan is to pretend that you’re someone else filling in for yourself. And that you absolutely don’t know anything about the project, only that you have the skills needed to accomplish it. Once you use this mindset, you’ll have an easier time crafting a specific yet effective plan that provides a good roadmap of what needs to be done.
A reason why this approach works is that you’re forced to map out every single crucial detail of the project, since you’re trying to make sure all bases are covered, figuratively speaking. The key to this planning exercise is visualization and imagination. You have to look at the project from someone else’s point of view, and other people aren’t usually familiar with all the intimate details. This outlook also works because it provides an easy way to double–check your plan. Once you’ve finished the first draft, go over each item and ask yourself: “If I had no idea what to do next, would the plan make that clear?”
In a sense, this way of planning reminds me of computer programming. Because like a computer programmer, you’re providing easy–to–understand and clear instructions for your fictional replacement. And computer programmers create instructions that account for almost any possibility—which is also something you want in your plan.
Planning in Three Easy Steps
When I ask myself the questions discussed above, I usually come up with these documents:
Project Brief – Discusses in brief the project’s Background (the reasons behind it), Objectives (what it aims to accomplish), Requirements (what’s needed for the project) and Execution (a summary of how to implement the project).
Project Timeline (List View) – A two column table that lists the project’s days on the left (Day 1 to Day x) and the tasks scheduled for each day on the right.
Project Timeline (Calendar View) – A calendar that matches the project’s days outlined in the list view with actual calendar dates. An example would be Day 1 falling under July 28, Day 2 falling under July 29, etc.
This is just a guide. Feel free to come up with your own method. But from experience, these three documents are a great way to pretend you’re not yourself.