February 2015 / Volume 3, No. 1

Effective planning: Mapping your path to success

Whether you have a problem to solve or a goal to reach, planning is the first step to action. Planning involves setting objectives, sorting out priorities, preparing timelines, and outlining strategies to accomplish them. Without a proper plan in place, it can be difficult to stay focused on your objectives and achieve goals within the desired timeframe.

It might seem like planning only happens in certain settings, like business meetings, during team sports, or when you are thinking about going on vacation. However, most people plan on a weekly or daily basis without even realizing it. Think about going to school, for example. You have to decide when to get up, what to have for breakfast, and the best way to get there. Additionally, if you have an extracurricular activity like sports, you need to think ahead about bringing gym clothes to school that morning, what time you’ll be home from practice, and how much time you’ll set aside for homework and chores. Even if things become a part of your regular schedule or habit, you still plan your day around them.

How to plan

Set goals – What do I want to achieve?

Setting objectives is the most crucial part of planning, as these are the end result that you are working towards. Whenever possible, goals should be specific, measurable, realistic, and time-targeted. What do you want to achieve, and is it feasible in the given amount of time? How will you measure your success?

If working with a team, set your goals together so that everyone feels motivated to achieve them.

Forecast – What will I need?

It’s crucial to plan out ahead of time what you’ll need to achieve your plan: time, resources, people, expertise, etc. An effective planner always thinks ahead about the uncontrollable and controllable elements that may affect their plan, acting as barriers or facilitators to achieving your goal. A careful analysis of these possible barriers and facilitators will help you to be prepared to react to situations that may develop as you implement your plan, and whether or not you can do anything about them.

  • Choosing feasible goals
  • Good delegation: matching
    skillset with tasks
  • Motivating your team
  • Available resources*
  • Rules and regulations
  • Economic conditions
  • Weather
  • People’s preferences
  • Available resources*
  *Can sometimes be both controllable and uncontrollable

Brainstorm ideas – How can we achieve our goals?

Bring your group together and think about all the different ways that your goal could be achieved. Encourage all ideas, and empower each member to speak up. Make a note of each idea, and once they have all been written down, review each one and evaluate it for feasibility, as well as compatibility with your team’s values and policies. This will enable you to develop a solid strategy for putting your ideas into practice, while staying on the track of your team’s visions. 

Develop a timeline – When can we achieve our goals?

Develop a schedule that lists what needs to be done when. It should also take into account your barriers and facilitators and the impact they may have. Try to add a day or two’s leeway between different tasks as a buffer. If everything goes to plan, you will be finished before the deadline, if not you won’t end up seeking an extension. 

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Have alternative plans of action 

While we can try our best, things rarely ever go according to plan. Be sure to plan for other possible options to reach your goal in case the chosen strategies take too much time or are unsuccessful.

Implement the plan

Start working on the project. Team members should know their responsibilities, which member has been delegated to which tasks, where to get help and support, and the deadlines in your timeline. But also remember to be adaptable! Be sure to note any difficulties or challenges you encounter along the way, in addition to your successes.


Through regular team meetings along the way, you will be able to assess whether your team needs to make adjustments. It also makes planning future activities easier and more successful.


Celebrate reaching your goal and reward your team for helping it come to fruition. Your hard work and focus deserves to be celebrated! Even if reaching your goal proves impossible, celebrate the advances that you have made.

Long-term planning

While planning for and executing short-term projects can consume all of your time and energy, it is important to periodically consider your long-term goals. Develop medium and long-term plans to make sure that your everyday activities are helping to advance your overall goals and vision.

What's next?

Member retention
Your youth members must be interested and involved in your youth group for it to be a fun, thriving place to be. Keep reading to discover ways to keep participation and motivation high.

Team work!

Effective team work is key to your plan’s success. Take the time to involve the team in objective-setting and plan development. Making the most of everyone’s talents when planning who does what, and collecting feedback from everyone at the end of the project, ensures that each plan is even better than the last!

Questions that require an answer are marked with  *
Has your team ever planned for an event that did not come to fruition? What were the reasons for this, and were you able to find an alternative plan?