To Plan Or Not To Plan…

A Diagram of Ben Franklin’s Daily Schedule

For many, this question might have an obvious answer, but it is something I have wrestled with for years. Back in my twenties, when I was balancing college classes and a job, I was obsessive about scheduling and planning. I accumulated piles of notebooks filled with planning notes. Each day was organized hour by hour, including the exact time I would brush my teeth and eat breakfast. Life is chaotic; I firmly believed that my daily schedule was like a well-armoured tank charging through the enemy of chaos unscathed.

Well, my plans would remain unscathed for a couple days, but eventually even the most rigid armour can weaken. At some point my schedule would topple over like a flimsy wooden fence. What are the reasons for this weakening?

Some of the reasons were internal: my mood would change; I would grow weary of the constant repetition, feeling a little bit like an animatronic stuck to its programmed course. Some of the reasons were external: someone from work would unexpectedly call me to cover their shift, a friend or family member would unexpectedly stop by for a visit, or a homework assignment would take much longer than expected.

Back then I would become overwhelmed with guilt when my plans fell apart. I would beat myself up. I was lazy! Undisciplined! Or I would become frustrated and panicked about the outside world creeping through the cracks of my best laid plan. The vicious cycle would tear me down more, and sometimes I fell into a hiatus of aimless stupor.

Ten years have passed since those days, and I still believe planning to be invaluable. However, I’ve learned to look at best laid plans as a guideline, not a rigid, unbreakable code. I’ve learned to be flexible, you see?

Why do I find planning invaluable? 1) everyone needs an aim. If you want the day to be productive, if you want to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be, you need to aim at something. When you set a target of accomplishment, this also helps you to identify when you have failed, so you can return to the drawing board and recalculate your goals. 2) having a plan makes you more adaptable. When obstacles get in your way, you still have the target in your sights. Thus, you can make the proper adjustments and still hit your target, despite the turbulence. 3) planning is a launchpad. Planning is motivation to live. If we approach each day in an aimless stupor, all we will do is drift. Aimless drifting will not develop ourselves into who we are meant to be.

To plan or not to plan…that is the question. The answer seems pretty obvious to me: make a plan!

“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

One thought on “To Plan Or Not To Plan…

  1. That is almost exactly how I have viewed planning over the years. I used to be obsessive about it. Now I’m more flexible and forgiving. Flexibility in planning has made a world of difference in how I feel. It has also helped me reach my goals more often than not.

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