The Power of a Plan

It’s time for the next step in getting shit done as the end of the year approaches (don’t kill the messenger!).

As a refresher, over the last two weeks we’ve talked about:

Leveraging the second-January-feel of September, and The Power of Intention.

Now that you have an idea of the “why” behind your “what,” let’s explore the “how.” This week, it’s time to get planning.

A major obstacle in getting anything done is the struggle of how to begin. Too often we wonder if we’ll ever finish when we should be thinking of how to start.

The only way to complete anything is by getting good at getting started, and a plan is just what you need.

Planning allows you to allocate your resources wisely and to clearly determine where your priorities lie. As you schedule projects and tasks in the finite amount of time you have each day and week, you’re forced to ask yourself “What’s more important here?” and direct your energy, time, and money accordingly. Without a plan, you can easily get side-tracked by things that seem important in the moment but are really not conducive in getting to where you want to be.

Also, when you plan, you become better aware of how long things take and how much you are able to do in one day. When you first start planning, you’re likely to think you can get a whole lot more done than is realistic. Just because you have, say, six hours available to you on any given day does not mean you have six hours of energy or bandwidth available.

This is why I like to under-promise so I can over-deliver. If I think something will take me one hour to do, I schedule 90 minutes in my calendar.

Another important aspect of planning is that it can help keep your resistance in check. If you keep things ambiguous by saying you’ll get such-and-such done “this week” instead of specifically when you’re much more likely to blow it off. If the task or project doesn’t feel like a priority, your resistance or procrastination will win.

As you get in the habit, you’ll likely need to tweak your plan here and there. Just be careful not to change it drastically mid-way. When you’re planning, your best thinking is at the forefront. You’re behaving proactively instead of reactively, so once you’ve made a plan, trust it.

A friend of mine was training for a road race and went out for a long run. She was really scared going into it so her husband went with her to be her pace-setter — all she had to do was follow behind him and let him set how fast or slow they were running.

Her pace-setting husband essentially was her plan. She still had to do the hard part (the run itself) but the “think work” was taken care of. She just had to put one foot in front of the other, trust the pace-setter (and the plan) and follow it. Even when she was tired, she just kept running. Left to her own devices (without a plan or without trusting her pace-setter) she would have stopped and walked a few times. But she didn’t. She just focused on the doing and ended up having a great run.

That’s the power of the plan. Once all the thinking is done and the plan is set out, you only need to worry about working the plan.

And guess what? The more you plan, the more time you reclaim!

Instead of wasting minutes, hours, or days wondering what you should work on next, just look to your plan for guidance. And planning stops the “I should be working on this or I should be working on that” dance because those “shoulds” are being handled by already being scheduled.

“Wait, so I’ll actually get to enjoy my downtime instead of feeling guilty about it?”

Yes!

When you know something is on the docket for another day, you can relieve yourself of thinking about it today.

I often refer back to this quote by Bill Gates, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.” A plan is your best resource to counteract that tendency and get more done in less time, leaving you fulfilled and replenished.

(To see the specifics about how I plan my week for optimum success, check out my blog post, “How to Kick Overwhelm’s Ass.“)

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