Advertising
Advertising

Is Planning a Kind of Guessing?

Is Planning a Kind of Guessing?

What happens before you have a big test? Someone usually asks you if you have a study plan.

What happens when you graduate from one school? Someone will want to know your plan moving forward.

At work, on a new project, bosses often want to hear about the task plan.

To many, the idea of planning is almost a superpower — it’s a concrete path to success. Without a plan, you can’t do anything.

Advertising

To an extent, this is true. But in reality, a plan is actually no more than guessing. It’s not that concrete. There’s no guarantee of success. Hundreds of plans concocted every day fail (if not millions). While planning does give you a glimpse of the future, how we think about it is misguided. We view it as a GPS that can guide you anywhere. In reality, it’s a GPS that sometimes fails to work or give you completely accurate directions.

    Sticking to the Plan Can Be Bad

    Plans reduce panic. This is a key point. All human beings have fear of uncertainty, even though uncertainty is essentially normative. When you have to do something you’re unsure of, your body reacts: sweaty palms and shortness of breath. Having a plan gives us more certainty and makes us panic less. Imagine driving in a new area. You’re nervous, and may be lost. Your friend has a GPS, though! That’s a plan. It is a direction. It will list the steps you need to reach where you’re going. Less panic.

    Advertising

      Planning is good — but aiming to always stick to the plan is bad. As President Eisenhower said during his military days,

      I’ve always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

      Now think of the same situation in a car. If you’re driving from New York to Philadelphia, most people would go on Interstate 95 South. That’s the plan. But what if, on this day, there is an overturned truck in the middle of I-95? Now you need a new plan. You need to use surface roads or other routes. The plan has to change because of conditions.

      A Plan Can Become an Illusion

      To reduce uncertainties, we worry too much about covering all the bases. We then lack action around how things actually go.

      Advertising

      There will always be a gap between the ideal world and reality — when we over-commit to the plan, it restricts the way we can solve the problem and neglects other possibilities. If the plan is bigger than you, you won’t be able to deviate from it and make the best decisions in an unexpected situation.

      Think again about GPS. Some faulty GPS devices will literally tell you to drive on water. That’s currently impossible unless you have a Hovercraft. So if you follow the GPS above all, you might drive your car into the sea.

        Planning is essentially guesswork

        Don’t get obsessed with your plan. Blindly following a plan that has a limited relationship with reality will only make things worse.

        Advertising

        Think about jazz musicians. They perform with a plan, but also go with the flow. It’s very spontaneous and improvised by the end. It’s the same with comedy or other forms of performance art. A comedian begins his set with a plan of jokes, and the order of jokes, but you need to respond to the audience. Maybe you get heckled. Maybe one set of jokes isn’t working. You need to adjust the plan.

        Now back to that GPS example, what if your friend finds a bridge far away that can cross the water? Perfect. It wasn’t part of the original plan (which was a guess, honestly), but now you have a way to cross the water in your car.

          Improvise Like a Jazz Musician

          Planning isn’t the only way to success. Rather, a plan must be reviewed continually. Review the plan to see if it aligns with the challenges faced in reality. Don’t let a plan confine you from making decisions on what’s best for the situation. Follow the base in the plan, but improvise along the way when facing different situations.

          Especially in work contexts, we tend to think planning is the be-all and end-all. We have yearly plans, strategic plans, etc. But work conditions change all the time: employees leave, new bosses are promoted, the market you compete in shifts, etc. What then? The plan needs to change. It happens at the personal level all the time too. Don’t let the plan be everything. Be prepared to improvise. We’re all jazz musicians in a way.

          Featured photo credit: Freepik via freepik.com

          More by this author

          Leon Ho

          Founder & CEO of Lifehack

          50 Motivational Quotes for Work to Inspire Success How to Increase Brain Power, Boost Memory and Become 10X Smarter 9 Millionaire Success Habits That Will Inspire Your Life 15 Effortless Memorization Tricks To Remember Anything The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life

          Trending in Smartcut

          1 7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power 2 Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change) 3 6 Important Interview Questions for Employers to Ask 4 15 Best Interview Questions to Ask Employees 5 25 Hard Work Quotes to Motivate You to Achieve More

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on January 13, 2020

          7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

          7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

          Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

          When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

          Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

          So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

          1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

          Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

          If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

          This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

          Advertising

          Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

          It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

          Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

          2. Get Enough Breaks

          Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

          Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

          Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

          3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

          There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

          Advertising

          When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

          Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

          4. Exercise Regularly

          Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

          Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

          In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

          In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

          This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

          Advertising

          5. Get Enough of the Right Food

          You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

          When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

          To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

          Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

          6. Drink Enough Water

          Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

          When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

          The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

          Advertising

          7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

          You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

          You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

          If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

          Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

          The Bottom Line

          Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

          These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

          More to Boost Your Brain Power

          Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

          Reference

          Read Next