“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Benjamin Franklin
Oh Ben, I hate it when you’re right. For some people, the mere mention of “planning ahead” or “making a plan” causes high anxiety, feelings of dread, or elicits some deep guttural moans and a sudden urge to go take a nap. Then there are some people who just love it. They live for this stuff and come equipped with planners in hand, color coordinated by activity type, with different colored pens. If you know any of these planners, you know NOT to mess with their system. They have it down to a science and they would sooner cut you out of their lives than to humor your smart remarks. It’s an easy choice for these planners.
No one way is the best way, but I’ve found that oftentimes the way to get excited about planning something is to really and truly want the thing you are planning for. No surprise there. But perhaps if you knew just how effective planning is and how efficient it makes your life, it may motivate you to start planning out your days, or smaller projects, to get you closer to your goals. There are 3 key factors that motivate me to plan ahead of time: (1) efficiency/time, (2) money and 3) lots of gushy feelings of pride and accomplishment.
Planning ahead is an extremely effective way to get you closer to your goals, whether that is to just leave the office in time and not have to open your computer until the next day, or if it is to start your own business. Yes, it takes more thought up front, but it saves you a lot more time in the long run. Roughly speaking, when tasks are unplanned 80% of the effort yields less than 20% of the outcome. You may end up spending too much time trying to make a decision (perhaps leading to poor and rushed decisions), or maybe you need to speak to other people before you are able to move onto the next step and now you’re pressed against a deadline or you’ve lost momentum. Sure, some of the obstacles you face now will be things you would have had to face even if you planned earlier, but what you have now by planning these things out earlier is something even more precious. It’s called time, and it’s not just literal seconds or minutes on the clock, but it’s the value of time itself. The 30 minutes you spent 2 weeks before a deadline to plan out any foreseeable obstacles is quite different from the 30 minutes you have before you need to submit an article. I have lots of stories on this front, just ask my law school friends (something to the tune of having to handwrite all of my final exams instead of typing them out like everyone else, showing up to mock trials without a clue as to what we would be arguing, I won’t go into it more). I’ve changed.
Here is another great reason to implement more planning into your life, if you’re not already a planner. Planning ahead is extremely cost efficient. This is in line with budgeting and having financial goals, but planning things such as your meals for the week, a vacation you want to take, or even finding a new job is a huge money saver. Planning became essential for me when I did 5 days of total clean eating. There were times when my hand just kept reaching into that snack drawer and instead of pulling out a bag of potato chips I pulled out a bag of sliced cucumbers because I had planned for my afternoon snack. Boring, yes but it kept me on track (for those 5 days anyway). A weekly challenge for me, which is also the area in which I waste the most amount of money, is grocery shopping. My husband and I bring bring our coffee, breakfast, snacks and lunch to work daily, and during the weekday we eat at home. That is a lot of meals that come straight from the kitchen and in order to execute this successfully each day we need to plan ahead. However, despite my very real love for grocery shopping and cooking, I just can’t seem to plan our meals ahead of time. Instead, week after week we go to Trader Joe’s and spend a shockingly large amount of money and end up throwing out 1/3 of our purchases. For some reason, I choose our grocery shopping time as the time I feel most inspired to drink homemade green smoothies every single morning. I never do. I do have our typical meals which account for the lunches and a few dinners, but this is a truly gluttonous habit considering all the starving people in the world. A #firstworldproblems moment, but one that I sincerely want to change. Not only is it dollars I am throwing away, but it’s a huge waste of good food. Had I planned, we would likely spend a lot less money, buy better quality food and actually eat the food before things start to look sad.
My last reason (oh, I have many, MANY reasons for planning) is centered around how it will make you feel, which is probably the most important reason of all. I don’t love to plan, although it probably seems like it since I actually do plan ahead quite often. But I do it because I know the power of planning ahead and see the benefits. But mostly, I love feeling like I’ve had a productive day. Trust me, nobody loves a good Netflix binge like I do. I am actually terrified of the person I can become if I had nothing to do. But when I have a list, and I know what needs to get done, figured out how to avoid obstacles, and addressed someone else’s needs before they even knew they had one, it feels like a good day. In fact, it feels like a great day, because I accomplished something. Sure, maybe it’s not in something I’m truly passionate about, but it’s in something that I have taken on as my responsibility and I’ve only helped myself by doing those things.
I can talk about planning forever, so keep an eye out on more articles like this on the importance of planning. I’ll try to make them fun, I promise!