Having been in the event business for my entire adult life and most of my teens…hosting an event does not hold the typical anxiety for me that I hear so many people talk about. It really has nothing to do with the fact that I have most elements of an event at my fingertips (although admittedly that does help)! The lack of anxiety doesn’t necessarily come from years of practice either. My ability to throw an event worry free comes from the simple philosophy of backwards planning.
I assure all of the readers out there that if you can master the art of backwards planning and stick to it, you will also be the host of many an event without much concern. In fact, I believe you can take this concept and apply it to the simplest of tasks and cut down on stress. Getting ready to go on vacation, having too many things to get done in a day, cooking dinner for your family… all of these can be simplified by backwards planning.
Here’s out it works in its simplest of forms. Let’s say you are planning a party for your son’s birthday. Twenty kids have been invited for an afternoon at the park starting at 1 pm. Instead of thinking of all the things you need to get done before the party, you start with the party itself. Let’s say you’ve decided you want the party to end at 3. Start there. You know that by 3 pm, you want to have fed the kids cake and ice cream, opened presents, broke the piñata and played your three party games. Create a schedule with those goals in mind. (Of course, it’s for kids and everything that can go wrong will go wrong…so don’t set this schedule in stone!)
Backwards Party Plan
3 pm – Parents arrive to pick up kids
2:30 pm – Piñata breaking, playground playing
2:00 pm – Gift opening
1:45 pm – Cake and Ice Cream
1:15 – Begin games
1 pm – Kids arrive/playground play
Now, you have a party planned! But here is where backwards planning can really take the stress out of your day! Consider from here what time you will need to arrive at the park to get the decorations up and the games set. Perhaps it’s 12 pm. Continue backwards from there. How long does it take to get to the park? When do you need to leave? Let’s go with 11:45 am. Do you need to run any errands beforehand? Maybe a cake pickup? Back up your time even further from there. If you have times in mind it sets goals for you and it will help to take the rushing out of your day. In addition, you can use the model to set your own deadlines that will ensure stress free execution! Decide what will fit into your schedule and set goals. Have the cake ordered the week prior. Research games and pickup prizes three days prior. Every piece of your event that you can organize and plan ahead for will allow you to host your party with ease.
This process is especially helpful for large, important events. For example, I’m currently in the middle of helping to plan my oldest daughter’s wedding. We started with her wedding date and then backwards planned to set important deadlines. We decided to send invites out two months prior, which meant that we need to have them ordered three months prior. This meant that somewhere around four months prior to the wedding we needed to start gathering addresses, researching invite designs and putting an order in to the printer. We used the same plan to set deadlines for booking the DJ, photographer and florist. As the day approaches we will use the model to create a timeline for the wedding. Beginning with the departure of the bride and groom, we will work backwards through the events that we want to have included in her big day and we will create a timeline. We will use this to create individual deadlines and goals to help us accomplish the reception without stress and worry.
Consider how many times you can apply this concept. It can be applied to all sorts of everyday events such as getting your kids out the door on time for soccer practice or getting the house cleaned for a big family gathering. If you start with the conclusion of your event (or any activity) and plan backwards from there, you will be surprised at how much your anxiety can decrease!