Start at the end

… and plan everything backwards

(Backward planning – Backward design – Backward mapping)


Lesson EIGHT


Getting to the supermarket.

Imagine yourself arriving at the supermarket.

You pull into a car space, get out of the car, and lock it for safety.

What happened before that?

You drive from your home to the supermarket.

What happened before that?

You got into your car with everything you need for the trip.

Before that?

You checked you have everything for the trip.

Before that?

You planned what you needed and got the items together.

Now, we put our plan “backwards plan” into “forwards action”:

  1. Plan what is needed and get the items together;
  2. Check before leaving that you have everything;
  3. Drive to supermarket;
  4. Park and lock the car.

Nobody would normally need to “backwards” plan such a simple exercise of course, but let’s see what happens when we apply it to something slightly more complex . . .


Box of tricks

Your target is to teach a child how to pick up their toys and put them in a large toy box in an orderly fashion.

You should involve the child in the “backwards” planning so that they understand the plan and the steps along the way.

What needs to happen just before all the toys are tidy, in the box, and in order of priority?

The child needs to put the toys in order of their importance/demand so that toys of least demand go to the bottom.

What needs to happen just before that?

All of the pieces of the toys are assembled and gathered together so that they go into the toybox complete.

What needs to happen before that?

The child needs to get all the toys and various pieces together.

What needs to happen before that?

The child needs to understand what we are trying to do and to be made enthusiastic about the project by describing the ultimate outcome.

Now, with our “backwards” plan in place, let’s move forward with the child:

  1. We start by engaging the child’s imagination as we describe a tidy bedroom and well-organized toy box with easy access to the toys in greatest demand, and with the least required toys being at the bottom of the box; all the pieces of each toy assembled correctly;
  2. Next, you ask the child to gather all the toys together making sure there are no bits and pieces missing or left out. You help the child assemble everything, but as much as possible, give ownership of the process to the child;
  3. Next, help the child to lay out the toys in order of preference, checking to make sure that all the pieces have been found before being put away, a task the child will understand and totally enjoy;
  4. Next, you show the child that by putting the least required toys at the bottom and working up to the most “in demand” toys at the top, there is less opportunity/need for toy Armageddon in the future.

What benefits have come from this “backwards” planning exercise?

  1. The child has an ordered and structured method that they understand for tidying up their toys;
  2. The child can change their toy priority without supervision in future tidy-ups;
  3. The child will likely lose a lot less of the toys’ various components;
  4. You have imparted a creative process to the child that can easily be repeated over and over again.

A vastly superior solution. Would you agree?

Key benefits of “backwards planning”:

  • you can easily demonstrate and involve others in a strategy YOU have created;
  • we can often create superior methods and outcomes;
  • we can easily recognize if our plan is off course and quickly rectify/correct the situation.

This is a very important lesson. For those of you who read my first book, you should know that I started with the end … “The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an unintended consequence of alien contact”. You’ll understand when you finish the book.



Okay, that’s it for today. Let’s just summarize where we are up to but with a slight rearrangement of the lesson points so they flow a little better.

You can now share and discuss your understanding of the need for creativity and what it involves:

  • Creative thinking is merely the combining of two or more ideas that haven’t been combined/considered before; and
  • Our education and life experiences can often lead to a “blinkered” viewpoint.

Creative thinking/lateral thinking skills that you can now use are:

  1. Random starting points;
  2. Considering alternative viewpoints/perspectives;
  3. Challenging the status quo by asking “why?”
  4. Look off the path of dominant thinking;
  5. Provocation is a great way to start new thinking; and
  6. Backwards planning for achieving goals.


Remember to always share and discuss what you have learned. More than just discuss, try teaching others what you have learned.


Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts and experiences.


Go to lesson 9

To learn how to set EXCEPTIONAL GOALS

Check out the concise definition: What is lateral thinking?

 – – – – –

For the complete lateral thinking menuClick here


Michael Muxworthy Sci-fi Novel
Coming soon – Michael Muxworthy

2 thoughts on “8. Backward design your goals

  1. Hi Michael

    To help get me started, could you recommend a couple of simple examples to practice with? Everyday stuff that will help build up to the bigger things…


    1. Start simple. Backwards plan some activities around your domestic/home life first:
      – Build the perfect garden bed, weed free and easy maintenance;
      – A small renovation around the home;
      – Something a child wants but must work for. They will understand and achieve the desired result if there is a clear path forward with measurable benchmarks that have been clearly defined by a backwards plan.
      Next, step up to a wider circle of friends and family:
      – Set an objective with friends, family or neighbors;
      – Bring people together for something special;
      – Create an event, or organize a sporting comp/team.
      Take it to work:
      – Set a target and map it out for all to become involved;
      – Set personal and private targets of progress/promotion/payrise and clearly understand what must happen beforehand. (Agree to benchmarks with the boss);
      – Learn a new skill that will be valued and used in the workplace. Map out the integration you imagine.

      All these things involve the setting of goals, of building or creating better outcomes. First, you must decide what important things are happening, or could/should happen in your life, and then try starting where you HOPE the outcome will be and backwards plan.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s