Do you hate planning? Or simply neglect it because you never seem to follow your plans anyway? Maybe your time estimates are wrong. Maybe you’ve noticed unexpected things always happen.

Would you prefer living more in the flow of what life brings you rather than creating elaborate plans that simply create resistance? Great! Find out why planning and living in the flow are extremely compatible.

Do you love planning? Maybe organizing energizes you. Sorting to-dos and color-coding projects feel productive. Yet, despite the upfront fun, do you resist following your plan? If so, don’t despair. Planning is valuable even when you don’t follow the plans.

Whether you hate or love planning, keep an open mind to this argument: The real value is creating a plan, NOT following it.

MY EXPERIENCE

I create monthly, weekly, and daily plans. And, willingly abandon these plans. I set goals. And, readily modify and question them.

But this hasn’t always been my practice.

  • First, I never planned. Instead I either lived in confusion or at the beckoning of the urgent.
  • Then, I planned obsessively and felt unsuccessful or guilty when I deviated from the plan.
  • Next, I planned less obsessively. Then less consistently. Then not so much. Then confusion and the urgent crept back in.

Now I plan as a practice in being aware, being intentional, and creating limits. It’s how I’m growing to be present in the moment. 

When planning, I’m making myself aware of my commitments—to myself and others. I’m reviewing, reevaluating, prioritizing, and recommitting.

The patterns of those future commitments become visual on my calendar and my project & task lists. Absolutely ESSENTIAL for me.

The most significant difference now is what I do WITH the plan. When living in real time, I consult the plan instead of being driven by it.

INCREASE YOUR ODDS OF SUCCESS

If you wonder what value planning has, consider that it increases the odds of success. Think of planning as creating top-of-mind awareness. With this awareness you can better steer your energy and activities in the general direction you choose.

With your energy and attention headed in the right direction, you increase the chances of doing what matters most to you.

A BACKGROUND BRIEFING, NOT ORDERS

A plan or an ambitious goal may spark motivation from a distance, but it often feels like marching orders when execution time arrives.

Rather than orders to fill or blueprints to follow, imagine plans as a background briefing, educating your future self to live and decide in the moment.

YOU RESISTED THE PLAN: STILL AN UPSIDE?

But you may be wondering, what if you plan then resist and procrastinate? What can possibly be good about willfully rejecting the plan? Definitely not ideal, yet the plan creates awareness that you’re NOT doing what you intended.

That awareness might be just what you need to start unraveling a major knot in your life that’s blocking your progress. Remember, inertia hides better when there is NO plan.

REACT RATHER THAN RESPOND

Without preparation, momentary decisions are more informed by what you’ve most recently been seeing and thinking. And that might be others’ requests and a stream of unfiltered information. What feels like making an informed choice in the moment might simply be a reaction to who’s screaming the loudest or what’s generating the greatest fear to run from.

PROBLEM WITH PLANS

A plan is a tool to serve you, not a master you serve.

The dynamics of reality, especially when many other people share in that reality, often don’t unfold as planned. When new challenges and new information appear in the moment, pay attention! If a new perspective emerges in the moment—pointing toward actions more valuable than those planned—grab the better option!

After all, plans are assumptions about the future. And life is far too complex to predict with great accuracy. Frequently, the assumptions made when planning are inaccurate or incomplete. The wise course of action can be to adjust and reconsider in light of new data or circumstances.

But don’t deceive yourself. Your choice can only be wise when you’re current on the big picture, as well as the details, of your life and commitments. A plan offers data for an informed, comparative perspective between what you intended and what now is revealing. 

IDEAL

Imagine you had the presence of mind to know at any moment when it was most valuable to listen to a colleague who needs support, answer student emails, work on committee reports, close the door and revise your article, brainstorm with a colleague, etc.

The path to living with full presence in the moment with ease and full attention begins with planning. A plan facilitates flowing efficiently from tasks to tasks, teaching to scholarship, work to family and friends. Ironically the more your planning skills develop, the more readily you can abandon your plans, but not the planning!

unsplash-logoJohn Baker