Planning and Organising Skills

Planning and organising are the skills we use to think about tasks and carry them out effectively. We plan and organise in order to achieve a goal.


How we plan and organise 
How a brain injury affects planning and organising skills  
What you can do: 
Steps for planning a task 
Tools that can help   
Summary of key points. 
Help and information 
Further Reading Suggestions

Publication cover - Planning and Organising Get the Print Version

You can download or request a copy of this booklet here or Read more booklets in the Brain Injury Series here

 Organiser and Planners for Download and Print

Planners and extra pages
to download and print





My Organiser


My Contact List pages


Day Planner


Task Planner


Appointment Planner



The tips and tools in this section are based on research and people’s own experiences. Because everyone’s brain injury affects them slightly differently, some of the suggestions will work for you – others won’t. Try them out and use the ones you find helpful.

We use planning and organising skills every day to get things done. We also use these skills to organise bigger events such as holidays.

In this section, we explain the brain’s role in how we plan and organise and how a brain injury can affect these skills. We also suggest some tips and tools which you may find useful. There are three downloadable resources for you to use: a Day planner, a Task planner and an Appointment planner.

How we plan and organise

We usually take the steps below when we have something we want to achieve - a goal. We carry out a task, or a number of tasks, in order to achieve this goal.

1 Planning – deciding what we need to do in order to achieve the goal.

2 Initiating – getting started on the task.

3 Sequencing – doing things in the right order.

4 Finishing the task - achieving the goal.


Task example: Cooking a meal

  1. Decide what to cook.
  2. Gather ingredients and cooking utensils.
  3. Follow the recipe step-by-step.
  4. Serve the meal.

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How a brain injury affects planning and organising skills

The Frontal Lobes

frontal lobe

The Frontal Lobes act like ‘managers’ to other parts of the brain. They are very important in helping us to get things done. The Frontal Lobes also allow us to change what we are doing when we notice something is not going according to plan. So, an injury to this area of the brain, often impacts on our ability to plan and organise.

We also use a number of other thinking skills when completing tasks, as well as the specific planning and organising skills mentioned above. For example, if your brain injury has affected your attention or memory, this can also impact on your ability to get tasks done.

For further information on Attention and concentration and Memory, see the relevant booklets in this Brain Injury Series. Frontal Lobe

The Frontal Lobes of the brain play an important role in our ability to plan and organise. We have two frontal lobes, one left and one right.

Common difficulties with planning and organising

After a brain injury, many people experience problems with:

  • Planning meals, shopping and cooking.
  • Planning their day and getting tasks done.
  • Keeping things organised at work or at home - for example: dealing with emails, bills and other documents.
  • Bigger tasks - for example: planning a holiday or doing DIY projects at home.

Everyone’s brain injury affects their planning and organising skills slightly differently. You might find you can still get some tasks done easily, but find others are harder than before. Also tiredness or stress can make any difficulties worse.

If you would like to find out more about your particular planning and organising difficulties, a Psychologist or Occupational Therapist can advise you. They can assess a range of your thinking skills and suggest specific approaches that may help. See Help and information for contact details.

Try to keep your home or workplace tidy. This will help prevent you getting distracted by clutter. A tidy environment can also reduce the frustration of frequently having to look for things.

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What you can do

  General advice

  • Follow a routine. Try to have a regular time each day when you make plans for the next day. Use the Day planner on page 13, if you wish.
  • When you are planning your day, try to be realistic about how many tasks you can get done. You may need more time for each task than you did before your injury.
  • Do important tasks when you are at your freshest.
  • Take regular breaks.
  • Try to finish one task before starting another one.

 If a task is taking too long or it is not going well, ask yourself:

  • Do you need to take a break?
  • Do you have all the equipment and information you need?
  • Can you change the way you are doing the task?
  • Do you need to ask for help or advice?

Steps for planning a task

1. Download and print the Task planner   if you wish.

2. Think about the task and write down:

  • What goal you want to achieve.
  • What you need to do.
  • Things you need, such as equipment or information.

3. Break down the task into steps. If you are not sure what the steps are, ask for advice or do a search on the internet.

4. Write the steps down.

5. Tick off each step as you complete it.

6. If a task is taking too long or is not going well, stop and ask yourself why. .

7. After you finish the task, ask yourself:

  • Did I achieve my goal?
  • What went well or not so well?
  • What will I do differently next time? See an example of a task showing the above steps.
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Tools that can help

  An organiser

You can get a My organiser booklet from Headway. It contains Contacts and Personal Details sections, a Diary, and the Planning worksheets from this booklet. 

Diary and calendar

  • Put appointments and events in to your diary or phone. Note the date and time, who you are meeting and where.
  • Get in to the habit of checking every morning to see what you have planned that day.
  • Use a wall calendar, as well as a diary or phone, to keep track of your appointments. The calendar will also be helpful to other people who need to know what you have planned.

Set up a convenient place as your Home information centre . If you keep your wall calendar, notebooks, to-do lists and phone, all in the one place, you won’t have to go looking for them when you need them.

  Electronic devices

  • All smart phones and computers have electronic calendars. You can use the electronic calendar to set reminders for appointments and events.
  • Use apps for making lists or checklists. New apps are being developed all the time. Do an internet search for ‘Task planning apps’.
  • Services such as iCloud or OneDrive, store copies of your phone’s contacts and other information. So if you lose your phone, or get a new one, you can still access this stored information.

Organising your paper documents

  • Get a ring binder folder, a hole puncher and some subject dividers.
  • Use the subject dividers for each section you want in the folder – for example: ‘Medical Reports’, ‘Appointment Letters’ or ‘Bank Statements’. • Put your documents in to the relevant section of the folder.
  • When the folder starts getting too full, move older documents into a file box or dispose of those you do not need.

Managing bills

  • Set up your household bills for automatic payment by Direct Debit.
  • If you are not paying by Direct Debit, pay the bill on the day you receive it, or put a reminder in your phone or diary when to pay it.
  • When a bill has been paid, write the date it was paid, on it. Then put the bill away in a folder.


  • To-do Lists: Write down a list of things you need to do each day. Put the most important things first. Tick the items off as you finish them.
  • Shopping Lists: Keep a notepad for shopping lists handy. Then you can add items to the list as soon as you think of them.
  • Checklists: Make a list of the steps needed to complete a task. Then, tick off each step as you do them.

For example: Checklist for leaving the house Close any open windows. Lock back door. Get phone, keys and bag. Set house alarm. Lock front door.

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Summary of key points

  • Planning and organising are the skills we use to think about tasks and carry them out effectively. We plan and organise in order to achieve a goal.
  • A brain injury can affect these skills, particularly if the injury is to the Frontal Lobes of the brain.
  • Using tools like a diary, reminders in your phone, checklists and planners, can help.
  • Follow a routine. Try to have a regular time each day when you make plans for the next day.
  • Do important tasks when you are at your freshest and take regular breaks.
  • Try to finish one task before starting another.

If a task is not going well, stop and ask yourself if you can change how you are doing it.

If you have difficulty with applying for social welfare entitlements, grants or public services, contact your local Citizens Information Centre for advice and assistance with forms. Lo-call t: 076 107 4000. You can also request assistance from the Access Officer in any public organisations you are applying to. 

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Help and information

Access Officers

Ask for assistance from the Access Officers in Government Departments, the HSE, the Dept of Social Protection or your local Council, for example. The Access Officers’ job is to assist people with disabilities.


Headway offers free community-based brain injury assessment, counselling and rehabilitation in Cork, Dublin, Kerry and Limerick. t: 1890 200 278 or visit To access a public Psychologist, your GP can refer you. HSE t: 1850 24 1850 or visit

To find a registered private Psychologist, contact the Psychological Society of Ireland. t: 01 472 0105 or visit

Occupational Therapists

To access a public Occupational Therapist, contact your local HSE Health Office. HSE t: 1850 24 1850 or visit

To find a private Occupational Therapist, contact the Association of Occupational Therapists of Ireland. t: 01 874 8136 or visit

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Further Reading Suggestions

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