One of the most effective ways of planning is to imagine yourself in the future as having achieved the goal. Then, looking back, describe how you got there. Imagining yourself in the future looking back is far more effective than the way we usually plan, which is to look at the goal from the present and try to work out what steps we could take. This is treating the goal as a problem to be solved. While looking back at it from the standpoint of the future treats it as an achievement that we can describe.
Something you may not know is that many authors write the back cover of their book first. Once they’ve written out what the book is about and described why someone would want to buy it, all they’ve got to do is fill the gap between the covers with words!
A similar method is often used by software developers. The first thing they do is write the advertisement describing all the wonderful new features of the software and why it is better than anything anyone else has to offer. Then they have a clear picture of the software and can start writing the program to provide those features.
To achieve a major goal, first write a rough description of 1) what it will be like when you’ve reached your goal 2) how you reached it and 3) where you are now in relation to it.
Then at regular intervals (at least daily to start off with) come back to it and revise it. Flesh it out more and more each time. As you start to develop the goal, the plan and your present progress, your mind engages fully with the process. You may well amaze yourself with the insights that you start to get and the progress you are making towards the goal.
The process of continous revision which I am describing here is a very powerful one. It takes full advantage of the psychological effect known as maturation. This basically states that when you come back to something at regular intervals, you will be further advanced after the interval than you were before it. In other words your mind continues to process the information after you have ceased to work on it consciously. Most of us have experienced this effect by following the advice of our music or language teachers that the way to success is “little and often” rather than huge efforts just before the next lesson. If you’ve ever tried to write a report or an essay the day before the deadline, you’ll know it’s a much harder task than writing it bit by bit over a number of days or weeks.
Applying this to goal setting and planning, we can actually begin to live the process on paper. The wordprocessor is a great invention and makes this type of continuous revision extremely easy.