So how many times have we heard the phrase: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”? It’s a popular mantra repeated in all walks of life, work and business – network marketing, management training forums, from business entrepreneurs and self-help gurus. “You can’t hit a target you can’t see”. “A goal without a plan is just a wish”. Etc, etc, etc. And it’s absolutely true. Without a plan, how do you even know how to start, let alone achieve your goal? But is it possible that you could end up planning your way to inaction?
We all sit down dutifully with our mind-maps, our vision boards, our bucket lists, and we start to make a plan. Maybe we write a “To Do” list. We may set out our key objectives, then break them down into weekly and daily tasks, and then into an hour-by-hour action plan. Now, don’t get me wrong – I think these are all extremely useful tools, when used in the right way. But herein lies the rub. The problem is that we get so caught up in writing lists, creating strategies, fine-tuning the steps that we want to take, that we inevitably end up doing nothing more than planning our way to inaction! And trust me, I speak from a great deal of personal experience!! There have been painful lessons learnt.
Are You Planning Your Way to Inaction?
The big problem with planning is that it lulls us into a false sense of “doing”. We feel productive. We feel like we’ve achieved something when we can sit back, bathed in a sense of triumph, and look at our hard work. But what have we really achieved? And how long did it take us to unachieve it???
Being in planning mode can provide a much-needed stroking for our “accomplishment” ego; but at some point we have to admit that all we’re really doing is procrastinating! It could simply be a way of not doing something we find unpleasant, or time-consuming, or tedious. It may be that we find the task at hand difficult, we don’t trust in our abilities to achieve the end goal and therefore try to avoid the pain of failing by simply…well…doing nothing!
Perhaps embarking on this task will take us far out of our comfort zone, and the fear of what we don’t know is holding us back. Whatever the reason, it’s easy to hide behind a plan. “Feel the fear and do it anyway” says Susan Jeffers, PhD in her book of the same title. By conquering our fears, we’ll improve our life dramatically. The difficult bit (but the bit that will get us to where we want to be) is to TAKE ACTION!
The biggest mistake many of us make is trying to plan for every eventuality, every single step that may (or may not) be required to get to our goal. Rather, we should focus on planning the framework, not the detail. We can rarely anticipate every eventuality at the beginning of a plan so we need to remain open to changes along the way. When was the last time you went for a long walk and been forced to take a different path en route? Did you stop walking, or keep going till you reached your destination?
Overplanning makes us inflexible. We must recognise that some things are out of our control. If we plan within an inch of our lives, what happens when something unexpected comes along? How will we cope when blind-sided by an unforeseen occurrence? More often than not we say “oh, that plan didn’t work” and we go right back to the beginning to create a new one. Eventually we’ll discover that we have simply planned ourselves into complete inaction.
So how do we avoid the pitfalls of planning into inaction?
One key to achieving objectives is to set small goals which require the minimum of planning. Build on each result, which will then move you closer to your larger, long-term goal. Also, have a system, rather than a plan. Develop a daily method of operation – a duplicatable system – that will get you to your goals, every time…then follow it, daily! And don’t spend 3 hours planning a task that will ultimately take an hour to complete. Have a timer next to where you work, set yourself a time limit, and when the time is up…get into action.
It is action that achieves results, not planning. Plans are useful, essential even, but only to a point. So stop overthinking and just get started. As Pablo Picasso said: “Action is the foundational key to all success”. Good luck!
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