What’s your experience of plans, and well … planning? Mine has not been so good. In fact, on closer inspection I find that it’s not so much that I don’t follow plans or that they fall apart – I’ve certainly had my fair share of those – it’s that I didn’t plan.
As I write this Dick, the voice in my head (yes voices speak to me, you too doncha know) is going, “Planning is for anal retentives, what about being spontaneous and free, going where the wind blows?”
Very tempting and while there should always be room for that in my life, I’m clear that it cannot come at the expense of planning. It’s not a straight case for me of either being a planner or a free spirit … choose. I think you can live a very happy life being a free spirit as long as you’re choosing to live this way consciously.
For me looking back at my life I’ve not really been either. I certainly did not make big plans, and I can’t say that I was a free spirit either. I simply did what was next for me. The societal and familial conversations I was immersed in all led to my next steps. Most of my education and professional achievements weren’t the result of planning, just me doing what was in front of me at the time. I’m not saying this was a bad thing, it most certainly wasn’t, I’m only describing the role planning played in my life.
Now as I’m older and wiser (big grin), I see very clearly that for me living a powerful and fulfilled life can only come from making plans and following them.
This I call the practice of planning.
Now this is not to say that your plans will not fall apart or that you won’t change them or even scrap them and start over, it’s just that the juice of life comes from the thrill of having your plans come through/true and also from having them crash and burn around you. For in the latter are the lessons and nuggets of life.
Planning as a practice is a relatively new concept for me. I started thinking about this as part of a program that I’m currently participating in and it really got me thinking of the power of looking at planning as a practice. (Note that you can make a practice of anything: reading, knitting, golf, cooking etc.) So I’ve been bringing observation to this new practice, and the first thing I noticed is that I had to plan how to go about planning! Who would have thought.
I’m not talking about making a plan or the plan. I’m talking about an entire approach of planning. A system of making the initial plan, revisiting it to make adjustments and following through till completion. I was surprised to see how much it took to find a system that works for me. Here are some things I found out about my practice of planning:
- It’s important to set up big blocks of time to create my big plans. If I’m up to big things, I’ll need big plans and this requires dedicated and uninterrupted time.
- Once the big plan is in place, focus on only one milestone at a time. The biggest trap is falling into busy mode with no focus on my end objective. Be clear on what I want accomplished each week and in fact each day.
- Make sure my plan reinforces step 2 above, otherwise I experience stress and the outcome of planning is being at peace, feeling calm that I’m on track/on my journey.
- The particular day and time I allocate to planning makes a difference. For example I had set up Friday to do my big picture planning and monitoring etc. This didn’t work for me. May sound silly, but each day has its own particular energy/vibe and Friday is just too low key and relaxed to do planning. Planning for me requires a high energy state, where I’m alert and I know what’s at stake. Monday is just the right energy level for me to do that. As for time of the day, I’m most alert in the mornings so Monday mornings from 10 till noon is when I revisit my plans/projects etc.
- Follow the plan. In the past this is where I would break down. I would not look at the plan again for months. On Monday I make sure the actions to hit my next milestone are scheduled for the coming 6 days.
- Revisit my scheduling every day. It’s important for me to know what’s scheduled for the very next day.
Above is not comprehensive, just some things that I noticed were important to my practice. I’d love to hear your take on your practice of planning.