To be successful in the education world, planning is everything. It has been said that teachers make more minute by minute decisions than a brain surgeon. Having solid plans drafted out ahead of time can alleviate some of the stress associated with having to make even more last minute decisions. Adjusting a lesson plan on the spot is one thing, but coming up with a complete lesson plan off the top of your head is an entirely different monster.
A quote from the Ari Wallach's TED Talk, 3 ways to plan for the (very) long term, really stuck with me. He said, "The future, we treat it like a noun. It's not. It's a verb. It requires action. It requires us to push into it." Everything we're teaching is in the future, whether it be tomorrow or the end of a unit. We have to actively plan, or else we're going to go no where in our teaching. How we approach the short- and long-term planning though, can be taken two completely different ways.
Short: When I think of short-term planning, I think of a daily lesson. A daily lesson for me this year will be approximately 90 minutes. (Last year it was about 50.) This is when I really hammer out the details of what I want to accomplish and take into consideration what and how my students need to learn. My district is a Learning Focused School (LFS) and uses an EATS format for planning. I use that format when making my daily plans.
Long: When planning for the long haul, I always like to use a Backward Design approach. I like knowing from the start that my end goal is clear. Having a clear end constantly in sight while planning allows me to make sure I'm hitting all of the standards included in the end assessment, as well as making sure every concept is covered within the unit I'm teaching. I usually try to map a unit out using a calendar with a rough idea of where I want to be in the unit when.
With any long-term plans, I always leave room for the uncontrollable - snow days, surprise fire drills and/or assemblies, weird special bell schedules, and even, freak power outages. Of course the day you have a really awesome, totally technology based lesson plan ready, the whole building (and surrounding area) loses power for the rest of the day during your lunch period. True story.
Just like we do for students, creating lesson plans for ourselves is building the scaffolding for our teaching. If we can prepare ourselves enough before the lesson begins, the rest will come easy. But when all else fails, flexibility is key.