Planning ahead is a key to living intentionally rather than reactively. But how do we make time to plan when our days are already full?
Time to plan a life that matters
When our days are full, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day, just trying to get through the days with minimal drama. The hazard is that we end up always playing catch up, being reactive instead of proactive. A little bit of forethought and planning can make a huge difference. How do we make time to make it happen?
Why is it important to plan?
The dictionary I consulted defines a plan as “any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective. See also strategy. It is commonly understood as a temporal set of intended actions through which one expects to achieve a goal.”
Plan also is a verb that means “to decide on and arrange in advance, to design or make a plan of (something to be made or built).”
For me, planning is a part of intentional living.
“Strategic thinking and planning is some of the hardest, most creative work we have to do; done right, it’s also some of the most important work we’ll do.”
What are you planning for?
- To make the best of the time you have
- To ensure progress toward the goals you care about
- Planning ensures you have the resources you need to make the most of the opportunities you have
What obstacles interfere with planning?
- Overfull schedules – The tyranny of the urgent takes up all of our time just doing what has to be done right this minute leaving us less time for preparation of the future. We react to what's coming at us instead of being proactive and looking into the future and preparing for it.
- Uncertainty of how to do it – Planning is a skill that is not necessarily intuitive, though it may come more easily to some than others.
- Indecisiveness – This often stems from perfectionism. We feel that we have to get it “right.” (If you struggle with perfectionism, revisit TPW episode 7 on that topic.)
- Unrealistic expectations – We have unrealistic expectations of ourselves, of what can be accomplished in the time available to us, of the level of performance we should be able to achieve, and this paralyzes us.
- Lack of trust in ourselves – If we haven’t kept our promises to ourselves in the past, we develop a resistance to making those promises again.
How can we overcome those obstacles and make time to plan?
- Schedule it – Add time to plan on your calendar and treat it like an appointment with the most important person in your life. We do have enough time; we choose what we spend it on.
- Do it in small bits – A leisurely planning retreat might sound heavenly, but give yourself permission to spend just 10 minutes (or 5) planning. Focus on identifying what’s most important. What are the 3 actions that will make the biggest difference, that will move things forward the most?
- Iterative planning – Instead of being paralyzed by perfectionism, make a plan and adjust it as you go,
- Learn planning skills. Take a class, find a coach, or ask one of your friends who's skilled at planning. In the meantime, the basic process is pretty simple:
- Visualize the specific end you want
- Brainstorm steps to getting there: What do you need to do to accomplish the end you have in mind? What are the resources or information needed? Sometimes the first step is to identify what you don’t know.
- More ideas and info in prior episodes
“Don’t wait for the start of a new year. There is no better time to take a proactive approach than today, so start now.”
“When you make time to make time, you can start to see that some of the things you’re already doing may not be what matters most and so can be downscaled or eliminated, or you can figure out ways to do what you’re doing better. The thing about firing from the hip or being behind is that they’re self-perpetuating habits: firing from the hip reinforces not learning how to make better shots, and being behind keeps you so far behind that you can’t figure out how to get caught up.”
What do you think?
- Perfectionism & Productivity – TPW 007
- Planning a Project – TPW060
- Sunday Routines – TPW141
- Time Management & Balance, with Susan May Warren – TPW181
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