If you are anything like me, planning is an important part of your life. You may even realize you are a bit of a control freak. I am beginning to admit that myself. Or, you could be on the opposite end of the spectrum from me and consider planning the bane of your existence. Both traits have their merits and downfalls.
As a hardcore planner, I keep a very intense excel spreadsheet of our budget to track where our money goes. I work for a financial adviser who helps other people plan so we save for retirement. We have life insurance as part of our emergency plan. However, for all of that, the saying holds true, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.” Life is full of surprises, and no amount of planning can change that. This fact often leaves me angry and disappointed. On the other hand, people who prefer to take the unexpected as it comes probably feel less disappointment when thing don’t go as intended. This is a good thing, but sometimes, not having a plan can leave you in a pretty tight spot. I’ve been wondering how many things I have certainly overlooked, missed out on or given up on because I insist on planning for everything. Becoming more conscious of that, I’ve been thinking there must be some middle ground where you can make plans and still live in the moment. In hopes of meeting my foot loose and fancy-free people in the middle, I have prepared a list (planning, I know) of a few things planners and non-planners can try incorporating to meet somewhere in the middle. Like they say in sports, if you aren’t getting better, you’re getting worse. So, here’s to making positive life changes and enjoying the journey toward self-improvement.
Instead of planning every detail or nothing at all, plan for only the crucial and important things. An agenda could simply account for the major events instead of every second in between. Or if you are the kind of person to never plan, making sure you capture the must do action items can help you to not overlook or forget something needed or wanted. Leaving time open in your day, during a trip or even in a very busy schedule, could open you up to the ability to say yes to something spontaneous. I’m not talking “Yes Man” status where you say yes to everything, just being open to something new and unplanned.
Learn to be more willing to accept a change in plans. If something comes up or things vary from the initial plan, adjust on the fly. If you get so distressed over something unexpected, you may miss out on an even better opportunity. A change of plans doesn’t indicate a failure on the planner’s part. Most people struggle with change, but if we can learn to be more flexible with our plans, maybe we can learn to see change as a normal part of any plan. Sometimes it’s the things that we don’t plan for that turn out to be the best part of an experience.
Make options a part of your plan. For those inclined to stick to an agenda, seeing something penciled in could give you heartburn. Being more flexible is a good compromise because it allows you to make a plan but also has built in choices for when things change. Just think of it as upgrading from a typewriter to a word processor, easier to make changes and a lot more efficient. Plus, if you are in a mixed group for whatever you are planning, undoubtedly some will be planners and some will be spontaneous.
Stop looking at life as a series of to-dos lists. I am so bad about planning and counting down one event to the next. Most of my life happens between the big things. The daily grind, life’s monotony, holds most of our experiences. Each minute and second of the day is a gift and a moment we can never get back. Instead of living for the big things, learn to look for the joy in every small moment. It will take some conscious effort no matter how you’re wired, but we should all try to slow down and enjoy the ride.