Goals & Habits, Time Management

When Planning Is a Bad Idea

If you’ve read more than a handful of my previous articles, you’ll know that I simply LOVE planning. One of my core productivity beliefs is that hard work is only worthwhile if it’s underscored by purpose, and for that, you need a plan. I could probably name fifty activities which other people consider “fun”, but I’d rather sit down and work on my plan. And p-l-a-n is one of my all-time favorite verbs.

Usually, on a Sunday evening or Monday morning, I settle down happily to construct my weekly plan. I actually feel mildly anxious until I’ve done it. But this week, I know instinctively that planning is the last thing I should be doing. Here’s why.

When planning is a bad idea | Pauline Wiles

5 reasons you need to leap, not plan:

1. You know your one key task

This week, I’m up against a self-imposed book deadline for my fourth novel. I’m in the final phase of edits before the work goes to my skilled and professional proofreader, and unless my house burns down, there’s no way I’m delivering late. If you’re in the situation where one critical task must get done, and everything else can slide if it needs to, don’t make a plan. As long as you’re clear on your next key step, get on with it.

2. Your plan is a form of procrastination

This can be linked to the first reason, but if you’re fussing around with a pretty planner and colored pens when you know, more or less, what you should be doing instead, then your plan is a fancy form of procrastination. Remember, you don’t need to know every twist of your journey in order to take the first few steps. You don’t need to figure out a hundred small actions, when the first five are obvious.

This form of procrasti-planning is especially likely to creep in when you’re up against a deadline. So watch out for it, and don’t make the pressure on yourself worse.

3. You’re not clear about your overall strategy

This one is also relevant to me at the moment. Aside from finishing this novel, I’m addressing many (internal) questions about the services I offer to writers. For me to spend (lots of) time planning, when I’m not actually sure of my overall direction, would be a false comfort. If you’re in this boat, limit yourself instead to figuring out your 3-4 informative actions, in order to bring clarity to the rest.

4. You’re using your prime energy times to plan

I’m not suggesting you try to make a work plan when your energy is at its lowest, but equally, don’t allocate your brightest 2 hours of the day to making a plan, either. As mentioned above, I often plan on a Monday morning, which for me is an ideal wake-up-and-get-started activity. But I’m careful not to let this planning indulgence drift into mid-morning, which are my core productive, high energy hours. If you find your best time of day rolls around and you don’t have a great plan, use your instinct to determine what’s likely to be your highest priority activity for the day.

5. You made a strong monthly plan

I’ve written before about my weekly planning process but you won’t be surprised to learn, I have a monthly approach too. If you already have a sound 4-week plan, then you can skip the weekly planning from time to time and still have a great overall sense for your key tasks.

For many of us, planning brings not only purpose to our work, but a strong level of personal comfort too. It’s unusual for me to advocate a leap in place of a plan, but from time to time, there are good reasons why you need to do just that. Instead of spending time planning, get your nose down to work, and you’ll find you have more to show for the precious time that’s available.

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4 Comment

  1. Reply
    Jean | Delightful Repast
    July 25, 2019 at 7:28 am

    True Confession Time: Number Two. ‘Nuf said!

    1. Reply
      July 25, 2019 at 4:51 pm

      Mmm, yes, this one can really trip me up too, Jean! 🙂

  2. Reply
    April J Harris
    July 29, 2019 at 4:09 am

    I’m struggling with two and three…but things are getting clearer day by day thank goodness!

    1. Reply
      July 29, 2019 at 7:47 am

      Now I’m (almost) past number 1, 2 and 3 are top of mind for me, too!

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