Benjamin Franklin said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” On the flip side, Robert Burns told us, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men, Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!”
Clearly, we all have very strong feelings about whether or not we should take time to plan. I think time spent planning is extremely worthwhile, but I’ve heard a lot of excuses (and made some myself) to avoid planning.
Here are my favorites:
1. I don’t have time for that! When we’re running at a million miles a minute, it’s totally laughable to slow down and plan. It doesn’t matter if we’re moving in the wrong direction. We’re getting there quickly! Usually it feels like there are so many things to do that “wasting time” on planning seems unreasonable. We just need to get stuff done. WRONG! Actually, I find that taking 5-10 minutes to set priorities or put together a to do list makes me far more effective and efficient. I will get more accomplished and magically have more time, if I’ve just spent a little time planning.
2. I just don’t want to! Motivation for planning can also be low. Creating a strategic plan, or even a prioritized “To Do” list can take a lot more brain power than scrolling through Facebook or mindlessly clearing your email inbox. Planning is an activity that requires both big picture thinking as well as looking at the small details. You need to keep in mind your long-term goals as well as line up short-term goals, or steps, toward those bigger goals. That can feel exhausting when your brain feels used up for the day, the week, the month, and/or the year. If you can take the choice out of planning, by making it a ritual either at the end of the day (planning for the next day) or first thing in the morning – it takes the motivation element out of it. Don’t decide whether to plan, have the practice in place just like you do for brushing your teeth (I hope…).
3. I don’t know how. Prioritizing, identifying what steps to take when, and making sure that your small goals line up with the big goals – these are all learned skills. If you’ve not been taught to proactively make decisions (rather than responding or reacting to crises), it can seem like a completely foreign exercise. Reading a book, attending a workshop, or hiring a coach can help you shore up these skills and get you on the right track.
4. I feel stuck. Whether you have no ideas or too many ideas – it can be hard to see anything else. Maybe you don’t know where you’re going or you’re not sure what to pursue. It can be hard to step out of your brain to identify what steps to take next. I get it – I’ve been there. This is when I recommend seeking out a trusted advisor or consultant. Having a thinking partner, an objective sounding board, or even just another set of eyes can help you to get past your stuck points.
5. We can’t predict how it will turn out. When you make a plan, it can seem likely that you’re going to be thwarted with a crisis or something that will derail you. Why plan? Nothing ever goes the way we want to. If we have a plan, we might fail at the plan or, even worse, might not be able to actually use the plan. I call HOGWASH! If you haven’t planned, you don’t have any options prepared to manage crises when they come up. Also, if you’re frequently facing crises – managing these crises is part of your plan. If situations frequently evolve – plan the parts that are important to your values, mission, etc. Make sure you’re getting done what’s truly important to you by putting a plan in place.
6. We won’t follow it anyway. I’ve heard this excuse as a reason not to create an annual Strategic Plan for businesses. Why waste the time on a strategic plan? We’re just going to put it in a drawer and not revisit it until next year. That could be true, but it doesn’t have to be. If you create a plan, that is only the first step. You must put accountability in place to insure that you actually follow through. If you’re self-motivated – awesome. If you know you won’t hold yourself accountable, build that in through structured meetings with your team or scheduled sessions with a coach or consultant. The plan does not end at writing down the plan.
Have I convinced you? What steps are you going to take today to move past your excuses and plan for success?
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Contact me to learn more: 424.241.3205 or firstname.lastname@example.org.