Shedding Light: The Importance of Planning – monthly column featured in Sparks Electrical News (Crown Publications)

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I must confess that it has taken quite some time to get used to the roller coaster ride that the COVID-19 situation has brought with it. From lockdown level 1 to lockdown level 3 to adjusted lockdown level 3 then back to level 1 and probably it will be back to lockdown level 3 again before the Easter long weekend and Easter school holidays (of course, that is if they have them!) And then there is the logical threat of a third wave according to the experts.

Business has not escaped the effect either, particularly if we cast our minds back to how it was pre-pandemic.

A significant effect has been the need to adopt software and technologies to carry out business communication with branches, staff working remotely and, of course, with customers and suppliers. The use of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, ClickMeeting and other similar platforms are now in daily use.

However, they have brought with them the regular frustration of not being able to contact people, sometimes for days, because of the annoying message sometimes received on one’s smartphone: “Can’t talk now, in a meeting”.

Another negative effect of this new communication phenomenon is that when you try to make contact by email, it ends up in an overloaded inbox which frequently means that emails are not see or answered for days, sometimes never.

At BHA, we have used online e-learning and communication technology since 2013. We also use our software for project meetings, especially when the client and project managers are far beyond the borders of South Africa. Before arranging the online meeting, we always analyse to determine what needs discussion, then we list the discussion points, compile an agenda, and determine time needed and finally, when done, we arrange the online meeting. All participants in the meeting are then able to plan around the scheduled meeting for other meetings or activities both before and after the meeting. We always ensure that we only request time with a small buffer that is needed and never arrange open ended meetings.

We have all heard the expression ‘Time is money’. It was included in a Benjamin Franklin publication which was based on an essay that appeared in a book by George Fisher, published in July 1748, titled: “The Instructor: Young Man’s Best Companion” which was a popular manual at that time of English grammar and other useful content for young men who were entering business. Benjamin Franklin adopted some of the content to suit Americans at that time, entitling it “The American Instructor”, in which he wrote: “Remember that time is money, one must act and therefore use one’s time, which is not finite”. This led to the expression “there is no time to lose”.

If we remember that expression, “Time is money”, we will manage our time better, particularly for any non-income/turnover generating meetings.

At BHA, we became immensely aware many years ago, that we must be easily accessible for our students at all reasonable times. When a student needs to ask a question or needs help with content, keeping them waiting could impact on their progress and ability to keep to their own personal study plan.

I remind students who start to fall behind their own study plans about that Benjamin Franklin expression. The practise of time management goes together with the another of Benjamin Franklin’s expressions: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail”.

I was long convinced by both expressions and consider these continuously when planning, including when planning meetings.

An excellent technique that I use, and have found to be indispensable, is the use of mind-mapping. When planning any activity whether it is budgeting, business planning, project planning, content for manuals for courses, webinar content, I always make use of a mind-map. Once I have the skeleton of the mind-map, it is easy to flesh out the additional points. It makes preparation flow with ease and speeds that process.

In my opinion, we have become obsessed with the need to use technology but have forgotten the art of good planning and time management.

I hope that this article proves to be useful or, at the very least, that it reminds readers that we should not forget the importance of good planning.


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