Often the most effective productivity comes not from thorough planning, but from a distinct lack of planning (or at least less planning.) This flies in the face of traditional best practices regarding productivity and an organization. It seems counter-intuitive on the face of it, but in many instances, planning can actually be damaging. We need to be clear that we are really talking about unnecessary planning or excessive planning.

There are many times when at least a modicum of planning is extremely necessary and highly beneficial. In addition, there are many situations where planning is required, demanded, mandated as in any business or career settings. However, as with everything, when taken to excess a good thing crosses the line into harmful, or at least wasteful.

Planning perils

Out of proportion planning: Sometimes we take longer to strategize and map out a plan than the actual time the project or task actually requires to complete. I suppose there are certain situations where this makes sense, as in the adage, “measure twice, cut once.” So if you’re a member of the bomb squad and your job is to defuse ticking time bombs, please take the time to plan even if the action only takes 30 seconds. However, for the vast majority of us who do not face such dire consequences, we have to determine, based on the importance, difficulty, or link of the project, how much planning is actually required or if planning is actually advisable at all.

Time wasting planning: We need to consider the overall picture of our available time. When we engage in excessive planning, we are using precious time that could possibly be used in a more valuable manner. Determine what time opportunity is lost and whether time spent planning is worth the trade off in the long run. Many times the answer is yes, because of effective planning can prevent more work or complications later on. However, at other times the answer is no, but the habit of planning has simply become part of our routine process.

Procrastination planning: Occasionally, perhaps even frequently planning or over-planning can actually be a form of procrastination. We certainly appear to be responsible and organized, and efficient, but that’s a facade. In actuality, what we’re really doing is using planning as a way to justify deferring a task, by spending unnecessary time planning how to do the task instead of actually doing it. This is just sneaky procrastination disguised as prudence.

When planning is justified

  • When undertaking a project or task that hasn’t been done before planning may be necessary to determine the correct actions.
  • When the project is of a collaborative nature, planning is necessary for clarity of roles and accountability.
  • When the consequences of a misstep could be disastrous, planning is certainly justified.
  • When a project is extremely complex or is comprised of many steps or phases, effective planning can help ensure that each step or phase is completed in the appropriate order and according to its timetable.

Effective and efficient planning is absolutely crucial to maximize productivity, organization, goal achievement, and success. The danger is in not being clear in regards to the amount of time and effort you should be spending on planning. Use your time and energy wisely and efficiently by being honest and realistic about how much planning is actually necessary.

Exceptionally organized individuals need to be extremely wary of automatically clinging to their default habit of detailed planning. Planning can actually be an addiction for the naturally productive and organized among us. The best way to avoid falling into the over-planning trap is to determine the minimum amount of planning required, way the use of planning time against other available activities and then stop planning and start doing.

(Photo credit: Round Table Planning via Shutterstock)

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