Planning is Dead, Long Live Planning

As is customary in the final days of December each year, many of us are reflecting on what happened over the past 12 months and are waxing poetic about the next 12.

I’m in that boat as I think about SearchWP, OrganizeWP, and this site. I’m excited for the next 12 months. The change in the year implies a new chapter which encompasses change, and change is exciting.

The theme for me in 2019 is going to be planning. If I’m honest I’ve never spent a ton of time planning because I’ve found that most of that effort goes out the window because of the season of life I’m in.

Circumstances alone have been too volatile for planning. At least that’s what I’ve told myself for a long time.

What a lazy excuse.

Planning for what I can see

To date (and this has to do with my personality) I’ve felt that making plans for myself was futile because I don’t know what life is going to look like even six months from now. For the most part that’s been true, especially over the past few years.

I’ve let that idea thwart my efforts to plan much of anything, however. That position resulted in a perpetual feeling of playing catch-up and I hate playing catch-up. Sure I’d make a plan to cover my bases for the day and maybe even the week, but it wasn’t with any sort of specific goal in mind.

My fatal flaw was trying to plan specifics too far in advance. That can look different for everyone so I’ll generalize a bit here in summing it up: I was trying to come up with the perfect plan that would carry me through an extended period of time.

I wasn’t giving myself any grace to adapt over time. When adapting came up it felt like I was going into “reaction mode” which was precisely what I was trying to avoid by making a plan in the first place.

Goals, plans, and intentionally adapting over time

We’ve read articles about goals being great, articles about goals being a waste of time, goals working for some but not for others, and everything in between.

Personally I don’t think we take goals seriously enough. We’ve lumped goal creation into what society expects goals to be instead of defining and shaping our own goals internally. We do this out of obligation to meet societal expectations, trying to impress those around us, and quite frankly to feel like we fit in.

We also have come to accept that goals can change over time. That’s an interesting thing to think about. Our desires change which can affect goals. Circumstances come up which can change everything. I’ve let that potential block me from taking goals more seriously.

The danger is allowing yourself to hold back or change your goals because things got too hard.

Defining goals is one thing, but it takes a solid plan of action to make progress toward accomplishing that goal. I want to park in that mindset and form that habit for myself.

Breaking down a goal into the steps required to achieve that goal is a great brain exercise and it brings a new aspect of reality to reaching those goals. Programmers love breaking big problems down into small pieces, and I want to apply that to my goal setting and subsequent planning.

In doing so it’s likely you’ll be better prepared for opposition along the way, and better equipped to take the next step forward when you get there.

On top of that, imposing some sort of arbitrary timeline (say… a year) might not align with every goal. In fact I think giving yourself a year to do something very often waters it down and directly decreases your drive to push forward. Think back to how many times something has expanded to fill the space you’ve given it. The same applies here. Some goals don’t even have a timeline and there’s no need to force one, but challenging yourself is a good thing.

Make it happen

As cliché as it may be, the New Year is a great time to evaluate, adjust, and re-calibrate. As cliché as it is to talk about how setting goals in the New Year is more than likely to result in backtracking, it’s no reason to abstain.

Here’s to setting goals, sure, but also to breaking down the plans behind achieving those goals and remembering that with steadfastness comes strength. We’re called to take action for the good of those around us and to persevere when challenges inevitably arrive at our doorstep.

You don’t need to know what the next year looks like to have something to work towards, but having that goal post out there in the first place (even if you decide to move it a bit when the time is right) goes a long way.