One of the things I always do at the start of a research project is that I essentially write the paper before starting the project.
I write the introduction by doing the background literature review. Writing the introduction, as if I were writing the actual manuscript, forces me to think of what my specific objectives are.
I then write the methods section in a level of detail that would be expected in a manuscript. By spending time to write out the methods section in detail it forces you to organize your thoughts so you can conduct your project in an organized fashion, having a clear sense of how you want to execute the study.
I also create “shell” tables. I think in advance of how I’m going to want my tables to look. by doing this, it guides my data collection so that I am not having to go back and re-collect data that I should have collected the first go-round