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Planning vs. Organizing

Updated on April 14, 2018
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Monica is a busy wife, mother of 3, and 15+ year freelance Graphic Designer. She's passionate about her family, faith & functional planning.


Planning vs. Organizing… what’s the difference??

Do you Plan to Organize?

Or do you Organize to Plan?

Funny enough, most people don’t even consider this and instead often mix the two together. Think about it, how often do you say, “I plan on…,” or “I’m organizing…”? Do you plan or organize an event? Hmmm…

So what IS the difference and why does it matter?

I’ll answer the second part first. It matters because they both will enhance your life with efficiency, productivity, and less stress, among other things. Without organization and a plan, you have chaos.

Let’s explore the differences.



Merriam-Webster defines a plan as:

  • a method for achieving an end
  • an often customary method of doing something: procedure
  • a detailed formulation of a program of action
  • goal, aim

So basically planning is about making decisions, NOT taking action. These decisions can be broken down into three steps:

  1. Researching and gathering information – It’s impossible to plan anything without having all of the details. For instance, if you want to make tamales and you don’t know how, you need to find the recipe first.
  2. Next, use the information you obtained to create an S.M.A.R.T. goal. S.M.A.R.T. goals are
    • Specific (simple, sensible, significant).

    • Measurable (meaningful, motivating).
    • Achievable (agreed, attainable).
    • Relevant (reasonable, realistic and resourced, results-based).
    • Time-bound (time-based, time-limited, time/cost limited, timely, time-sensitive).
  3. Once you’ve decided what your goal will be, it’s time to decide what steps to take to achieve it.

This is your plan! Keep in mind, all of this doesn’t usually happen in one sitting, each situation is different and will require spending a different amount of time to on each step. For instance, if you’re planning on making those tamales, it’s very possible to get this done in one sitting, whereas if you were planning a weekend get-away, you probably want to spend a few days on your steps. In my opinion, the best way to make things flow is not to rush each step, and not get overwhelmed by them either. If the steps seem to be too much to handle, try breaking them down into smaller steps and then tackle them.



Merriam-Webster says that organize means, “to arrange by systematic planning and united effort.”

Did you see that word in there? Planning! Cool! Ok, let’s break this down.

The main word in this definition is not planning (aww), but it’s actually “arrange.” An Action. You will want to arrange things so they can be used to make things as functional as possible. This arrangement will create an efficient space to work in, and it will make it easier for you to achieve your goals.

For instance, when you bring your groceries home after shopping, you usually put them away designated areas (cabinets, refrigerator, freezer, etc.), right? This is organizing, the act of arranging your groceries so when you need them again you'll know how to find them.

There you have it!

  • Planning is making decisions.
  • Organizing is taking action.

Neither action is required to be done first or last. You’re in control, so you decide what works best for you.

So what does all of that mean?

It means that planning and organizing work together for the greater good of your life! That greater good is the amount of time you’re going to save so that you can spend your time relaxing and having fun!

Here's a basic example of how they work together.

Everyone does laundry, right? Let's look at how you can use planning and organizing to do laundry.



Planning is making decisions. Organizing is taking action.

Laundry Example

Planning to do Laundry:

  • Figure out which items you need to get it done. The machine, soap, bleach, fabric softener, etc., and of course sorted clothes.
  • Decide what steps you need to take to get everything completed.
  • Set a goal. Consider everything that needs to be done and the timeframe you want to get it done in, and then decide when you want to have it all completed.

Organizing to do Laundry:

  • Make sure all of the clothes are sorted and in the laundry room
  • Ensure that you have enough products to get it all done
  • Empty the washer and dryer, if necessary

Now, of course, this is very detailed and not at all what you’d probably do when you're doing laundry. In fact, you’d probably merge all of this together and do most of it at the same time. Not everyone does laundry the same way, but these are the basic steps needed to get your clothes clean.

This is how Planning and Organizing work together!

Optional Homework

Try creating a plan to do your laundry using these steps or a modified version. Compare your new plan with how you normally do laundry and see which one works better for you. Remember, although the goal is to save time, you don’t want to rush and do a sub-par job. If you do it right the first time, you won’t have to do it again!

© 2018 Monica


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