Often times one of the most difficult things when it comes to programming is show organization and planing. Figuring out when and where cues need to go and what needs to be included in them often requires time to think about. Even if you have all your various pallets, groups, and effects created, figuring out where to put them can be time consuming without a plan. If you have the luxury of having to tracks ahead of time, sitting down and coming up with some kind of organized plan is a great way to deal with this. By putting your ideas down on paper you have some idea of where to start when you actually sit down and begin to program.
Here is how my planning process general works when I get to use it:
1. Listen/ Watch the material you are given to get a feel of what you may want the every thing to look like.
2. Think about how your idea works with your available and how that fits in the the scenic elements and theme of the overall show.
3. Begin listening the the specific songs one at a time. While doing this begin placing your cues. This can be done with a pen and paper or better yet an audio program where you can actually place markers. Again this is one of the huge reasons a recommend Reaper. In Reaper markers can be added by pressing the M key. If you have the SWS plugin installed each marker will show up the Marker List window.
4. After going through an placing all my markers I'll fine tune and label them from the Marker List window. Clicking and a marker will move your cursor to the locations which makes things quick and easy to go to when actually programming
5. Once I'm happy with my marker location I'll then begin moving the cue data over into my cue layout spread sheet. I'll record the cue number, label, SMPTE times, and the fade times I want to use. I also like to include all of my show elements on the sheet as well. This makes it easy to help visualize what is being used for what when. Think of it as a track sheet for developing the song. I can record what I want each group of lights to be doing in a given cue and follow the progression as I work my way through the song. This can also be done with a pen and paper but I find it harder visualize the entire song in my head and doesn't save me nearly as much time.
6. Get to the console and start programming but be flexible and prepared to make changes as things come up during programming/ rehearsal.
All of this assumes that you actually have the ability to plan and the time to actually program. Depending on what you're doing on that day of the week you may or may not get the luxury to even think about this in which case you just may have to resort to straight up busking your way through the show.