Planning can be Simple

how to plan just enough

The Design element of Impactivity is all about creating a vision and strategy for your life, and then working out that strategy with detailed tactics (projects and tasks) that will get you where you want to go.

For some of us, Design is where we shine. We love to make detailed plans, and the more details (with all their accompanying color-coding or charts) the better.

For others, the idea of creating any sort of plan at all is either terrifying or simply overwhelming.

how do we find balance


How do we find a good balance—not over-planning, but not under-planning, either?

We don’t want to waste time doing it wrong. We don’t want inefficiency. We want to “begin with the end in mind,” as Stephen Covey says. We need a destination, a vision for where our Dream might take us. All good reasons to Design.

But some of us tend to use up all of our available time that we could spend working on our Dream simply planning to work on our Dream. And others never get started because they don’t know what to do next.

a helpful metaphor

Think of your Dream, and the actions it will take to accomplish it, like a buffet of choices.

The best strategy at a buffet is to first walk around to the different stations, to see what’s available that you might like to eat.

Then you get one plate and fill up that plate with the things you want most. You don’t fill up all the plates you’d like to eat, balance them all as you head back to your table, and spread them out to tackle all at once.

You know your options, and you know the things you want to get to eventually, assuming your desire and appetite don’t change.

You only fill up one plate. Just enough that fits and can be accomplished.

Your to-do list for the day or even the week should be the same. Just plan enough to fill up that time. Don’t plan every detail for the entire month or year. Your desires probably will change in that time. You may not know the exact next thing you will do after the twentieth item on your to-do list, but if you’re planning that far in advance, you’re probably wasting time in planning.

But even though you aren’t planning every detail far in advance, you have big picture of the whole buffet – the plans, the options, the trajectory. You’re not sitting at your buffet table, wondering where to start and never even picking up your first plate.

understand the consequences

If you’re an over-planner, you worry about so many things—being unproductive, inaction, questions, things that could go wrong. In all your planning, sometimes you don’t get started at all. You try to conquer that fear by over-planning.

Ironically, the over-planning to address these fears actually brings them to pass because you are spinning your wheels in lack of productivity, inaction, and fear.

If you’re an under-planner, you worry about being boxed in, about missing out on spontaneity or creativity in your work, you fear being limited.

Ironically, the under-planning to avoid these fears brings them to pass, as you miss out on all creativity and spontaneity because in not knowing what to do next, you never get started.

get the big picture and then get busy

Planning can be consuming and overwhelming – either because you are overwhelmed by the idea of planning, or because you are overwhelmed by the length and breadth of your plan.

To Do lists are only helpful if you don’t give up on them ten min later. You must have a list that doesn’t feel so overwhelming that you want to put it away. It’s just enough to keep you motivated, on task and moving, but not so much that it’s so overwhelming and you feel paralyzed.

Finding that balance is hard and different for each person.

But if you find a balance of planning just enough, you can be more productive. You get yourself moving while retaining the freedom to stay flexible, to change gears, to pivot.

When it’s time to hit the buffet again, even if you thought you were going for the mac-and-cheese, you can change your mind and get dessert because you’re getting full.

You can’t eat all the plates full of food at once. Don’t bring them to your table all at once.

But don’t just get one scoop at a time and return to the buffet every five minutes, or eat so much of one thing that there’s no room for dessert. That’s the inefficiency or poor choices of under planning.

If you’re stuck because of over-planning or under-planning, remember that “done is better than perfect.” Not getting it done is worse than getting it wrong.

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