Backwards Planning- The Cure For Procrastination



           “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performances”©

         Backwards Planning:The Cure For Procrastination©                                                 Victoria Olivadoti

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©1995 Tori Publishing, All Rights Reserved

This book contains proprietary content and must not be duplicated or distributed without written permission. No portion of this material may be shared or reproduced in any manner under any circumstances whatsoever without advance written permission from Victoria Olivadoti.

You have received this material for your personal use with students only.


Planning a project can reduce stress and improve performance on projects and reports. Knowing the “What,” “When” and “How” of a project will make it easier to complete.  A month seems like a long time to complete a project, until other activities interfere. “Backwards Planning” helps keep students focused and prevents falling into the trap of the last minute eleventh-hour project stress. 

Many teachers create projects assuming that students have certain knowledge and skills.  Many times they are incorrect.  Either the teacher in previous grades was unable to teach the needed skills that they taught in the past, or possibly the students were ill the day the skill was taught.  When the assignment is made the teacher will make assumptions and will not know the students lack the skills needed to complete it unless a brave student will share that these needed skills have never been taught or need reteaching. 

This book will help students plan a project using the “Backwards Plan” method.  Following the steps in this handbook will surely create a different experience than ever before with projects and reports.  Teachers will be impressed with the method of organization, and will learn more of what they need to teach students to support their student’s successful project completion.

Note to Students:

I look forward to hearing about your successful accomplishments.  Be sure to email me when you get your report back with the best grade you have ever had.  Are you ready?  The hardest part is the planning, and I will guide you through the steps.  Taking the few minutes to plan this project will make the process a breeze.

                                          Step One

 Be sure you know exactly what you are expected to do to complete the assignment.  Many students turn in assignments and do the wrong assignment because they did not fully understand the directions.  Ask questions about the parts of the assignment that are not clear.   Read the directions very carefully.  Reading them aloud slowly as if you were going to sit down and complete the direction right away, will help determine if they are activities you have the skills to complete successfully. 

                                   ***Be Aware!***

This may be the first time a teacher has been asked to clarify directions.  For this reason, prepare your questions before approaching the teacher.  Avoid saying, “I don’t get this assignment.”  Be very clear about what you do not understand.  This requires a different type of reading.  Be sure that you understand all terminology.  Even if you think you know the meaning of a word or words in the directions, ask to be sure you have the same understanding as the teacher. 

Some questions to consider are offered in Appendix A.

Make a list of questions to ask about the assignment:

  • __________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________
  • __________________________________________________ 

                   Step Two

Knowing where you are going and what the end product will look like will speed your project work. If you are to do a poster, diagram, model, or diorama, sketch a picture of your plan to make sure you understand the assignment.  If the assignment is a report or speech, do an outline of what you want your report to look like and the content you want to include. 

If you are not clear enough to do this task, ask the teacher to show you a model of what he/she expects the end product to look like.

                 Step Three

Show the sample to the teacher.  Ask the teacher, “Will you look at my plan for my project and tell me if I am on the right track?” It is better to find out before you begin then at the end with a poor grade.

                 Step Four

    Learn From Past Mistakes

On the next page, make a list of any challenges you have had in the past that resulted in less than your best performance.  These are called “Goal Blocking Behaviors,” so list them under the “Goal Blocking Behavior” column on the next page.  (If you can’t remember, Appendix B offers you a list from which to choose.)

                 Step Five

    Goal Achieving Behaviors

Decide how you plan to avoid making the same mistakes.  If one of your “Goal Blocking Behaviors” was you ran out of computer ink, your “Goal Achieving Behavior” would be “have two extra ink cartridges available.” Appendix C offers some examples of “Goal Achieving Behaviors.

                    Step Six


List the steps you will need to produce an amazing product.  Next to each step, record the amount of time you will need to do your best job.

  1.       ________________________________
  2.       ________________________________
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  9.       ________________________________
  10.       ________________________________   

Add to the list as necessary.

                Step Seven

 Make a list of all the activities that you have after school and on the weekends.  Include trips that your parents are planning.  You may not know about them yet, so you will need to ask your parents if they have anything planned for you for the period of time that you will be working on your project.  Be sure to list weekly practices and chores.  This would include athletics, art classes, and instrument practice.  Consider whether you have tournaments or weekend scout outings that would take up time that you will need to plan for when doing your project.

Date Activity

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                Step Eight

                               “Backwards Planning.”

  1. Using a blank calendar (Appendix D), record all your extra-curricular activities and family responsibilities on the days you will complete them. 
  2. Using the list you created for the steps you needed to complete the assignment, decide the last thing you are going to do just before you turn in your project.
  3. Determine how much time you will need to do a phenomenal job. 
  4. Add a few days to this date to allow for surprises you don’t expect, such as tests and assignments that other teachers may assign.
  5. Count backwards from the due date and record when you will begin that part of the project. 

   (Use the calendar in Appendix D)

  1. Do the same thing with each of the activity you need to complete.  That will give you a clear idea how much time you don’t have.  Use the calendar provided.  I have provided a sample of one student’s plan to give you an idea of what to expect.

              Appendix A

      Things to Think About Before You Begin

  •   What is the due date?
  •   Can I turn in the project early?
  •   Does the report have to be typed?
  •   Do I have to do an outline?
  •   Are there size requirements for the


  •   May I use the computer to create my project?
  •   Do I have enough time to get the project   

completed?  Many times the projects teachers assign require more time than provided.

  •   How do I site quotes?
  •   Do I need to provide a bibliography?
  •   Is there a format that I must follow?
  •   Are there a minimum number of resources I       

      must use?

                   Appendix B

  1. I didn’t have enough time to finish the work.
  2. I did the wrong assignment.
  3. I didn’t have the supplies I needed.
  4. My computer crashed just as I was finishing my project.
  5. I lost the book I was doing my report about.
  6. I couldn’t remember my speech.
  7. The other people in my group did not do their job.
  8. My printer ran out of ink.
  9. A drink spilled on my poster and ruined it.
  10. My outline was not done properly.
  11. I didn’t write the 5 paragraph essay properly.
  12. I waited until the last minute to do the work.
  13. I couldn’t find resources to do my research.
  14. My speech wasn’t prepared.
  15. I couldn’t remember my script.
  16. I didn’t have time to get props for my speech.
  17. I couldn’t find a shoe box for my diorama.
  18. I had many spelling errors.
  19. My report had many grammar errors.
  20. I didn’t know how to do parts of the assignment.
  21. The cat went to bathroom on my project.
  22. My saving disk crashed.
  23. I didn’t know the due dates because, I was absent the day the assignment was assigned.
  24. I didn’t look at all the requirements and only did some of them.
  25. I had many spelling and punctuation errors.
  26. I didn’t keep to theme of the paper.
  27. I never reread my essay. There were many mistakes and some of the sentences were missing words.
  28. I made many mistakes citing sources in research papers.
  29. My teacher was a harsh grader.
  30. I let other more entertaining things distract me from working on my paper and then only put in the minimum on the report.  My grade showed that I didn’t give it enough effort.
  31. I procrastinated until the night before the assignment was due and then I didn’t understand the directions.  It was too late to get help.
  32. In a group project, my teammates did not do their part, and I had to do their part at the last minute.
  33. I was sick and missed three days of class.  I wasn’t able to work on my project because I was so ill.
  34. My grand parents came to visit.   Had to do things with them and we never got home before 8pm.
  35. My soccer coach assigned extra practices and told us that if we missed them, we could not play in the game.
  36. Every day after school my mom drags us around doing errands an I can’t get started on my work until after 6 pm.

Appendix C:  Goal Achieving Behaviors


Flipping your “Goal Blocking Behaviors” into “Achieving Behaviors” will help improve your performance. 

  1. I will schedule each part of the project as soon as the teacher assigns it and do a backwards plan.
  2. I will read the assignment before I begin and make sure that I understand how to do each part as soon as the teacher assigns the work. If I don’t understand how to do a part, I will ask the teacher to show me an example of what he/she would like the work to look like.
  3. I will make a list of supplies I will need the first day I receive the assignment.  I will ask my mom to take me to the store, so I can have what I need before I begin.
  4. I will pretend that my report is due a few days earlier, and I will save my report after every paragraph on the computer and a flashdrive.
  5. I will keep an envelope of all the supplies I need including books that I will use.  I will put my supplies in this envelope when I am done using them.
  6. I will practice my speech three times a day for five days so I am comfortable saying it in front of my classmates.  I will practice in front of family members or friends until I feel confident.
  7. As soon as we get the assignment, I am going to sit with my project partners and do a backwards plan and assign due dates so we all know what to do.  I will make the dues dates a few days early, in case my friends flake.  I will find out what parts my teammates feel most comfortable doing, and let them do that part, so I don’t have to later on. 
  8. I will make sure I have extra paper and ink for my computer, before I begin my project.
  9. I will work in an area away from food.
  10. I will complete my outline three days early and have the teacher check it to see if I am doing it correctly.
  11. I complete my essay three days early and have the teacher check it to see if I am doing it correctly.
  12. I complete a backwards plan and calendar all my assignments before I begin my project.  I will look at my plan everyday.
  13. I will let the teacher know
  14. Since I know that I will be doing a speech at the end of my research, I am going to jot down notes as I research.  I will write my speech as soon as my research is complete, so I have enough time to practice.
  15. I will decide on props for my project right away, so I have time to get them.
  16. If I need a shoebox, I will go to a shoe store and ask if they have extra ones I could buy to use for my project.
  17. I will read my paper backwards to find spelling errors.  I will read it a few days after I have written it.  The final time I correct it, I will read it aloud.
  18. I will use spell check and grammar check for my report.  I will read the paper aloud to make sure it makes sense.
  19. I will read the assignment as if I am going to do it right then to make sure that I understand every part.  I will ask the teacher to clarify anything I do not understand.
  20. I will put away my project when I am not working on it. 
  21. I will save my project in two places; on the hard drive and on a flash drive.  I will save after every new paragraph.
  22. If I am absent, I will ask the teacher what I missed and the due dates for new assignments I might have missed. 
  23. I will create a checklist for items that need to be completed and check them off until they are all checked as completed.
  24. I will read each paragraph to make sure that each one is about the topic.
  25. See number 18
  26. I will ask the teacher to review my citings to be sure that they are done correctly a week before I turn the report in to the teacher.
  27. My teacher was a harsh grader.
  28. I will treat myself to some fun activities after I complete parts of my project.  I will set a time limit and set a timer to remind me to get back to my project.
  29. I will use the backwards planning procedure.
  30. Refer to number 7.


Be sure to look at your “Goal Achieving List" every morning before you leave for school.