“Failing to plan is planning to fail”.
In every person’s life, they know several behaviors are healthy but are not followed. So there is a “must” that is more or less attached to specific actions because “this is the right thing to do”. The most frequent and socially acceptable excuses for which these do not happen are: “I don’t have time”, “I don’t have money” and “I will do it later”. The most frequent truths but socially harder to accept are: “I don’t know”, “I don’t want to learn”, “I don’t care” and “I’m not in the mood”.
So, although it is correct that we don’t have enough resources to do all that we think we should do, it is just as correct that each of us obtains satisfaction and results that are perfectly proportional to how we manage the resources we have.
One of the most wrongly understood behaviors and disciplines required for success, objectively speaking, is planning. Those who have even tangentially worked in the economic field know there is no business without planning. Scalping can be achieved without planning, but businesses can’t. Each has their own experience of how planning could be rendered into real behaviors. It even becomes something that should go without saying at a particular time. However, in my consultancy activity, I am surprised (stunned) to find how many professionals who are good at what they do, have no idea about what planning really implies, and are under the impression that it is a terrifying tedious activity, that sucks the energy from life satisfaction and turns those who enforce it into robots. At the same time, their plans are very likely to go down the drain because “something unpredicted” always occurs that changes their plans.
There are many reasons why so many people are unable to plan. For instance, it may be because they haven’t learned from their own experience how to enforce a functional theory. In this article, I will only deal with a few of the most frequent myths and offer practical attitudes to be considered so that you would have a realistic and functional image of planning.
Most often, planning seems to be a habit that may be delegated to an application, software, secretary, or specialist. SupposeHowever, if we do this without understanding what it implies and without the incoming data offered to the application/software/secretary/specialist being sufficiently customized and complete. In that case, the results will most likely be disappointing.
Planning is similar to using a map to set a route on land. To get to the target, to the objective, and to the desired results, we need two alternative states and activities: a planning activity and an implementation activity. Similarly, when we produce written material, we need two states: creativity and criticism. Unfortunately, however, the map people set is often unrelated to the reality that obliges us to accept painful truths, but to the ideal world, we believe we must get to.
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Most likely, if they knew what they “signed up for”, i.e., if they knew the territory, they probably wouldn’t even start. Ignorance can often be a preference to act and become motivated by the wasted efforts spent, which have not been recorded along the way, rather than achieving a target that seems more and more remote.
One of the virtues of planning, applied even by the best strategists, is planning backup resources for what is conventionally referred to as “contingent”. For instance, Brian Tracy recommends that you only plan half of the available time. How? You set, for example, a timetable of tasks or meetings between which you spread buffer intervals or backup intervals. If one of the tasks/meetings lasts longer, it will occupy the interval allocated for contingencies. If not, then other tasks which had occurred in the meantime or were planned later but were not urgent can be achieved to increase the productivity of the allocated time.
Some people plan the activities that must be done as if, in implementation, they would be a robot that doesn’t even go to the bathroom, eat, rest, or has no emotion that would consume their time. So, the “to-do list” becomes some sort of a hammer that they would use to hit their heads, which, when built by the individual, makes him think with a guilty feeling: “I have so much to do” and “I must do them all as soon as possible”. In the implementation, it is thought: “I wonder what I was thinking to hallucinate that this will only take this little?” and “why don’t I finish faster?”. The solution is for each to consider their needs: physiological, entertainment, significance, socializing, assertion/expression, development, contribution, etc. In the case of a planning session that only considers a restricted level of needs, frustrations are pretty likely to occur because a person has more needs than he/she allows himself/herself to admit, especially when these are emotional, take time and space, and are important enough to burst when you have something more urgent to do. Speaking of which, those you work with also have their needs – which may occur irrespective of whether you have planned them.
Another severe disability that most businessmen cause themselves is dependent on the virtualization of planning. Usually, when somebody plans something, they need a general perspective that would include several elements. These elements are typically written on paper. On many papers. Finally, in a large notebook. I don’t know how precise the big picture can be on a smartphone’s display when it comes to business planning. Also, I don’t know if they realize how ridiculous some people look when setting a future appointment for a meeting, and they start fussing through the electronic wildwood of the virtual buttons of an electronic device that seem to be an extraterrestrial object in their hands. I also don’t know how professional the image of somebody can be who gives as an excuse the sentence, “I don’t have my notebook with me”. So, the time dedicated to planning must also consider how these plans will be accessed during implementation. There’s no point in taking a map with you in the woods if you can’t read it when you need it, right? Planning is useless if you cannot clearly see where you are, what you have done, and what you have left to do at any time during the implementation.
Another relatively strong temptation, this time, during implementation, is the loss of motivation in procedural details and the sense of uselessness and boredom that occurs during routine tasks. This can be prevented when planning by relating the goals and jobs to the motivation of why you do what you intend. Thus, even if some of the tasks assigned to a goal may seem rather monotonous or unpleasant, if we consider the overall plan or the long-term perspective, they are necessary for the motivation established from the beginning.
Lack of discipline is a vice for which penalties are getting smaller and smaller in contemporary society. If 100 years ago children were severely punished if they didn’t learn to do their job according to an assumed schedule, nowadays adults no longer have to suffer negative consequences either because it has become socially acceptable to delegate, externalize task awareness, and use resources until you get to lose the cause-and-effect relation. For example, a child is taught by his/her parents that if they have morning classes at school, then he/she will have to go to sleep early the night before. On the other hand, a corporate employee who knows (s)he needs rest finds it acceptable to stay up until 1 or 2 at night on weekdays because in the morning (s)he relies on 7 alarms, on postponing breakfast and on the frenzy of “being off like a shot” at the time when about all employees in the city have the same Brownian motion. However, the effects are noticed only during the weekend, when “they should” tidy up, shop, clean, and do all the other things they don’t dare plan during the week. Why does the ordinary Romanian employee stay up until 1 or 2 at night? Probably because (s)he came back from work later, because (s)he was busy implementing while working overtime (to compensate for the faulty planning or lack thereof), or because (s)he doesn’t want to feel that the day has passed without his/her having a significant satisfaction, or because (s)he wants to compensate for his/her frustrations at work. The effect, i. e. fatigue, is separated from the cause. The cause is not necessarily the amount of work (“one works hard”) but the lack of planning (you do not work intelligently). If the effect can be overlooked, it is no longer necessary to investigate the real causes!
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Graphic copyright © Diana Andreea Bădrăgan, 2017
Another reason why planning fails is that it is not based on careful monitoring of what is usually happening. For example, if you usually spend 2-3 hours a week learning a foreign language, it is unlikely that you will reach 10 hours from one week to the next. Planning a task or a habit is based not only on what you need but on what is achievable, possible, and likely to happen, starting from what usually happens. If, after summing up all the things you have to do in a week, you get to over 168 hours, then you have a problem: you don’t have more than that in a week. Just think again!
A pretty funny habit is the equal school-like distribution of a task or results in each unit of time. For starters, this is useful in coaching to give some sense regarding the resources consumed for a particular client goal. For example, if you set for yourself to earn 100,000 Euros a year, you calculate that you should have 8,333 Euros per month, or if you have to learn for 30 hours for an exam in a month, it will be enough for you to work for an hour every day. Really? Very unlikely. First of all, to earn 100,000 Euros a year, for example, as a freelancer or entrepreneur, it is assumed that in the first month, you will only be dealing with setting up the system that is meant to get you this amount. It is unrealistic to earn such high incomes in the first month when you primarily have expenses. Then, if you think it takes 30 hours to study for an exam, you must assign at least 60 hours, based on Brian Tracy’s recommendation. To this, you have to add the probability that you will not have time to learn realistically every day, so on some days, you will have to study more, while on others, you will not have time to learn. Thus, somewhat realistic planning will get you 60 hours of looking for 20 days, i.e., 3 hours a day. To these 3 hours a day, one must also add pauses and the required order: preparing the studying environment, which means almost 4 hours a day on each of the 20 days planned. And you’d better not postpone till the last days.
- how to squeeze some other activities into an already overbooked schedule;
- how hungry, thirsty, and sleepy you are, and how much more work you have left;
- how guilty you feel because of your poor planning;
- how useless this stupid planning that you have wasted your time on is;
- how overwhelming you feel while you are implementing;
- feeling that you are not in control of your life but an outsider;
- thinking about what you would like to do while doing this activity that has become boring.
Of course, these are perspectives that bad planners often refuse to take responsibility for. Usually, if something hasn’t gone well as compared to what you have planned, it most likely means that you still don’t understand correctly what “planning” means, you didn’t learn to plan well enough, and you need to make an effort to know better, and not that planning is stupid. Hope is not a strategy.
People who seem to act like robots due to their planning are not good examples of how planning should be done. Sooner or later, they will fall under the weight of their own growing frustrations. A mature and responsible person must be able to focus on what he/she does every moment. What does this sound like, a flexibility-generating conviction?
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Text Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant 2016-present Translation by Cristiana Brezeanu of the article “Cum să te bucuri de viață în timp ce planifici“ published initially in Romanian at 31.08.2016 on Economia Online. Copyright © Marcus Victor Grant, all rights reserved
Graphic” The Reward for Work in Different Civilizations” copyright © Diana Andreea Bădrăgan, 2017
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