I am not a planner by nature. Carefully plotting out my agenda for a day/week/next 5 years is not something I often think to do, let alone get excited about. My instinct is to "just wing it." Even though this has led to a lot of fun, spontaneous things happening in my life, it also led to a lot of irresponsible decision-making and lack of forward motion in life, to the point at which I sometimes still feel like a 17 year old in a 29 year old's body. I've gotten much better over the last 2 and a half years at planning for the future (or just tomorrow) over the last few years, though it's still a work in progress. However, since I have formed the habit planning out my days, weeks, and life a little bit, my own success and satisfaction has improved in so many areas: I have more money in savings, my relationship is happier, and my achievement and success at work has improved tenfold.
Here are a few ways that making a plan can help you, too:
- Planning forces you to think about your goals. You can't write directions without first knowing where you are and where you want to go. Sitting down to write any kind of a plan, whether it's for your workday or for your next vacation, causes you to examine what is most important to you. Once you know what it is you value, it is much easier to design a roadmap to get there.
- You WILL save time and frustration. When I wrote about the recent camping trip I took with my girlfriend, I mentioned how much making a simple checklist saved us from having to make unnecessary trips to the store and wasting time and money on things we could have just brought from home. Get in the habit of making a simple checklist of items you might need or steps to accomplish a goal, and you will save yourself a huge headache, and give yourself more free time to do what you love.
- Successful people are planners. Laura Vanderkam, author of the ebook "What the Most Successful People Do At Work," has found that, by and large, successful people go into their days and weeks with a plan for what they want to accomplish. If you make planning a habit, you will always be armed with information to guide you in the decisions and choices that come up.
- Other people expect you to have a plan. I was almost fired from a job a few years ago due to my lack of planning and free-spirited attitude. I had a boss who was an intense micro-planner, and I was the opposite of that. I moved to a new company where I am now much happier and more successful, but that position was rocky in the beginning as well. Because I had not yet learned my lesson about planning my workdays, I made small, stupid mistakes that put me on the same path as my previous gig. However, this time I turned it around. I started writing myself a daily schedule down to the 15-minute block of where I needed to be and when, and I stuck to it as best I could. Within 8 months, I was given 2 significant raises and a promotion, and was viewed as a go-to authority on several subjects in my district. This massive turnaround was simply due to my putting some forethought into my days, so I always knew what to do. Having a decent plan can be the difference between looking like a slacker or a rockstar in your boss's eyes.
Not everything goes according to plan. Murphy's Law will always come into effect at some point. However, if you take just a little bit of time to think about what it is you want to accomplish and how you want to do it, you will be far better armed to deal with the unexpected, so that bumps and bruises don't become train wrecks.