Drawkcab Planning

July 4, 2019

Early on in my teaching career, I started a class with the final exam. The stupefied students looked at me like I was crazy. But the test, which didn’t count, wasn’t really a test as much as a road map.

Backward Planning is not only an effective instructional strategy for school work, it’s also a great life skill. By starting out with the goal, we can work backwards to see what steps need to be taken to get to that goal, what help may be needed to achieve each step, and the amount of time it will take to take those steps. Time management never gets old.

While thinking about this, I happened to listen to a podcast of Edith Hall talking about her new book, Aristotle’s Way (highly recommended). It astounds me how often I run into that ancient Greek philosopher who never runs out of helpful things to say. Aristotle’s teleology (telos = end, logos = reason, end-reason), means that everything has a purpose or a goal that gives it a reason for being. A modern scientist would dispute this and say an effect doesn’t cause the cause, a cause causes the effect. But, it’s a perfect explanation of planning backwards. We want the effect of D (to write an essay). To get to D, we have to finish C (make an outline). To work on C, we have to first accomplish B (research a topic). Before we can start B, we have to do A (find a topic). And that’s just four out of twenty-six letters.

End-reasoning, or really goal-setting, isn’t just for school. We can apply this to any important decision in our lives. If we start by considering what we want to experience from whatever it is we’re considering (taking a class, starting a job, continuing a relationship, writing that screenplay, buying a house, raising kids, etc) we’ll have a better idea of how to work for it. As Dr. Hall said, it’s about looking in the mirror at the end of the day, your backward reflection, and saying, “well played.”

Image Credit: Andrew Hurley

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