I myself am a major fan of planning. I like the feeling of being on top of my ideas; knowing what to expect, and being able to anticipate at every curve-ball life throws at you. People who lack this skill might have a tendency to land in sticky situations. Yet notorious planners like me – and maybe you – are making more sacrifices than they often realize by ‘simply being smart’. Getting stuck on planning is never a good idea, for several reasons.
One of the most valued assets of life I can’t do without is spontaneity. Now isn’t that weird, coming from a serial planner? I got to tell you, anticipating on every turn a sunny afternoon can take does in for every unanticipated whim. So when I find myself in a situation like that, I make sure to give myself free reign. Plan not to plan, so to speak. But what about situations where a little bit more planning is required?
Getting stuck on planning: Important life decisions
My mother once got me a little canvas with a text on it. It said “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”. Apparently this is a quote by John Lennon (which amuses me, because mom is more of a Paul McCartney gal herself). But the more I let it sink in, the more I felt this man, famous for being a bed-ridden hippie (wink), had to be right. You can plan everything you like, but making sure your plans succeed relies heavily on steady and solid factors. Luckily life is all but steady; it would make those sunny afternoons with a free agenda all the less exciting.
So what about the important decisions in life we have to make? Choosing the right partner to spend your life with, and choosing whether or not you want to have kids, to name a few. But also buying a house, moving across the country (or even to a whole different continent), choosing what to study or switching professions are all matters that can have a major impact on your life.
I, notorious planner, would feel best making those decisions after weighing all the con’s and pro’s, doing some research and if needed, calculations. But as John Lennon artfully stated earlier, sometimes the best opportunities are thrown in your lap when you haven’t had time to plan and to prepare. Loving couples make unplanned pregnancies work like a charm, getting your ideal home sometimes takes some immediate action, and your boss might not allow you to let the idea of that cross-country promotion simmer for a few weeks.
These situations have a way of speeding up your thinking. The key for notorious planners is to recognize these situations for what they are, and to switch from planning to anticipating.
Getting stuck on planning: The less important life decisions
Strangely enough it’s the smaller things in life that can get us stuck more easily. There are tons of articles for entrepreneurs describing to maintain a proper balance between planning and decision-making. I use this example because being your own boss allows you to mainly make your own decisions, while having your income at stake. You need to do your own work and planning, and suffer the consequences if you didn’t get it right. Here are some simple sums to clear things up:
A good plan + good productivity = a good product
A bad plan + good productivity = time wasted
A good plan + bad productivity = procrastination
Planning + planning = a good plan without a product
Working + working = a (bad) product without a plan
I know these sound like catchy power-terms, but to me they’re just as applicable to my vegetable patch. Every year when I start planning my garden in January, I grab last year’s journal. Which planting areas should I switch around to make sure the soil doesn’t end up depleted of nutrients? Which crops didn’t grow well, and which ones did? What would I like to harvest this year? I jut this knowledge down in a new garden journal, a new plan.
This year I’ll want to build an herb-spiral. It requires some extra planning – not to mention some new materials. Since this is unfamiliar territory for me I decide to research this concept thoroughly in my spare time. In the meanwhile, my research has given me more questions than answers and March – the start of the new season – is just around the corner.
My thorough planning yet lack of productivity resulted in procrastination. Two months later, I find out my sums didn’t add up!
Luckily I’m not a professional farmer: I just try to make the most out of every year so we can have some delicious home-grown greens. My income isn’t at stake when I don’t manage to decide on a herb-spiral, but my hard work, effort and dinner plans are. Naturally I want this to work out. So instead of spending my time planning this awesome vegetable garden, it’s time to get some materials to actually get things done. I made a plan; now it’s time to stick to it and reap the fruits of my labor.
On the other hand, it’s also important to know when to throw your planning out the window all together. I can already imagine myself on one of those spontaneous sunny afternoons, with a clear schedule and a store-bought sapling in my hand. I found it at the garden-center, it was the last on the shelf and only looking at it made me realize this was exactly what my garden missed. If a plant had eyes, these had looked at me droopily. And with a brief glance at my patch I detect where I have a little room left, or I pull out some green that isn’t growing to my liking. Because when I want to put in an unanticipated zucchini, I will.
“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans”.
Do you sometimes feel you depend on planning too much? And in what areas of your life?