Why Planning Doesn't Work

Why Planning doesn’t work

Almost a year ago I wrote a post describing why I was not going to set any new year’s resolutions for 2020. Looking back it was probably one of the best decisions I took lately. 2020 was stressful enough without the added guilt of failed resolutions.

It’s safe to say that no one could have planned well for 2020. Be it individuals or organizations, everyone’s plans went down the drain with each passing month of 2020. Even those few industries who actually ended up doing well were not prepared for the unexpected changes in the market itself.

2020 showed us that no matter who we are, no matter how meticulously we plan our life, our business, our anything, we have no control over the external variables. We may prepare all we can. These plans may provide us with a safety net. But there are no guarantees in life.

Plans are just preparation. They might help us from time to time. But most of our life stays unpredictable. And I have come to realize that’s the fun part of our life. If our life follows our daily plan, then it would get boring quickly.

So, what goes wrong when we start planning our year/ quarter/month/week/day?

Firstly, we fail to account for external variables. There are so many things simply out of our control. If we fail to acknowledge them and make space in our plans to accommodate them, we are essentially planning to fail.

Secondly, we plan based on our ideal version. We plan to get up at 5AM to work out because we think that’s what we need to do. We simply choose to ignore the fact that we love binge-watching or scrolling through a maze of memes until 3AM. There is simply no way we will get up at 5AM.

There are so many things we want to want. Like we want to want to be a disciplined person. We want to want to eat healthily, sleep on time and just be an awesome person. In reality, we actually want to eat that cake and sleep till noon.

There is nothing wrong with wanting anything. The problem arises when we don’t acknowledge what we actually want and focus only on what we think we should want.

Making plans for that ideal version of ourself is not going to work because we are not that ideal person. We are normal human beings. We have our very own personal wonderful set of flaws. We need to start understanding ourselves better before we even attempt to make any grand life plans.

So, what’s the solution? If planning doesn’t work then what does?

I honestly have no clue what works. I don’t even know if there is one single answer applicable to everyone.

I just know what I am doing this year.

I identified ten broad life areas relevant to my life as of now. These include everything important right now. They vary from Career to Fun and Recreation to Health to Relationships. Over the years they will change. Some will become irrelevant, some new will get added. But at any given point of time, there will be many aspects I will need to put my efforts into.

The mistake I was making so far was failing to realize that. I was super focused on one or two areas and whenever I would spend time on other things, guilt would tighten its grip around me. I would feel like I am wasting my time and thus fail to enjoy whatever I was doing at the moment.

So this year, I will keep a very small reminder list to remind me of things I need to work on. But other than that I am not going to make any grand plans. Not going to implement any productivity system. No GTD, no bullet journal, no habit trackers. Noting to get on my nerves and push me deeper into darkness.

Every couple of weeks I would just sit and analyze how I am doing for my pre-defined life areas. What went well, what could be improved, what needs to change, analyze everything.

In effect, I have defined where I would like to go. From time to time I would stop and check if I am moving in the right direction. But I would not overly obsess about each and every step of the way. I won’t worry if I have to stop or take a detour or two.

This year instead of using a planner, I would spend more time using a journal. It’s important to keep moving forward but its also important to see clearly from where we are coming. This journey is going to change me. And I need to understand this change.

To summarize, this year I am going to declutter my planning system.

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