Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on March 6, 2018

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

          How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Tips From The Most Successful People Why Do I Have Bad Luck? 2 Simple Things to Change Your Destiny The 25 Best Self Improvement Books to Read No Matter How Old You Are How to Be A Genuine Expert in Your Field Seriously Stressing Out? The Complete Guide to Eliminate Work Stress

          Trending in Smartcut

          1 How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive 2 11 Google Chrome Apps and Features to Help You Get More Done with Less Effort 3 15 Productive Things to Do When You Have Extra Downtime 4 Seriously Stressing Out? The Complete Guide to Eliminate Work Stress 5 How to Make Changes to Your Life by Changing Your Habits

          Read Next

          Advertising
          Advertising

          Last Updated on September 17, 2018

          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

          How to Stop Multitasking and Become Way More Productive

          Today we are expected to work in highly disruptive environments. We sit down at our desks, turn on our computer and immediately we are hit with hundreds of emails all vying for our attention.

          Our phones are beeping and pinging with new alerts to messages, likes and comments and our colleagues are complaining about the latest company initiative is designed to get us to do more work and spend less time at home.

          All these distractions result in us multitasking where our attention is switching between one crisis and the next.

          Multitasking is a problem. But how to stop multitasking?

          How bad really is multitasking?

          It dilutes your focus and attention so even the easiest of tasks become much harder and take longer to complete.

          Studies have shown that while you think you are multitasking, you are in fact task switching, which means your attention is switching between two or more pieces of work and that depletes the energy resources you have to do your work.

          This is why, even though you may have done little to no physical activity, you arrive home at the end of the day feeling exhausted and not in the mood to do anything.

          Advertising

          We know it is not a good way to get quality work done, but the demands for out attention persist and rather than reduce, are likely to increase as the years go by.

          So what to do about it?

          Ways to stop multitasking and increase productivity

          Now, forget about how to multitask!

          Here are a few strategies on how to stop multitasking so you can get better quality and more work done in the time you have each working day:

          1. Get enough rest

          When you are tired, your brain has less strength to resist even the tiniest attention seeker. This is why when you find your mind wandering, it is a sign your brain is tired and time to take a break.

          This does not just mean taking breaks throughout the day, it also means making sure you get enough sleep every day.

          When you are well rested and take short regular breaks throughout the day your brain is fully refuelled and ready to focus in on the work that is important.

          Advertising

          2. Plan your day

          When you don’t have a plan for the day, the day will create a plan for you. When you allow outside influences to take control of your day, it is very hard not to be dragged off in all directions.

          When you have a plan for the day, when you arrive at work your brain knows exactly what it is you want to accomplish and will subconsciously have prepared itself for a sustained period of focused work.

          Your resistance to distractions and other work will be high and you will focus much better on the work that needs doing.

          3. Remove everything from your desk and screen except for the work you are doing

          I learned this one a long time ago. In my previous work, I worked in a law office and I had case files to deal with. If I had more than one case file on my desk at any one time, I would find my eyes wandering over the other case files on my desk when I had something difficult to do.

          I was looking for something easier. This meant often I was working on three or four cases at one time and that always led to mistakes and slower completion.

          Now when I am working on something, I am in full-screen mode where all I can see is the work I am working on right now.

          4. When at your desk, do work

          We are creatures of habit. If we do our online shopping and news reading at our desks as well as our work, we will always have the temptation to be doing stuff that we should not be doing at that moment.

          Advertising

          Do your online shopping from another place—your home or from your phone when you are having a break—and only do your work when at your desk. This conditions your brain to focus in on your work and not other distractions.

          5. Learn to say no

          Whenever you hear the phrase “learn to say no,” it does not mean going about being rude to everyone. What it does mean is delay saying yes.

          Most problems occur when we say “yes” immediately. We then have to spend an inordinate amount of energy thinking of ways to get ourselves out of the commitment we made.

          By saying “let me think about it” or “can I let you know later” gives you time to evaluate the offer and allows you to get back to what you were doing quicker.

          6. Turn off notifications on your computer

          For most of us, we still use computers to do our work. When you have email alert pop-ups and other notifications turned on, they will distract you no matter how strong you feel.

          Turn them off and schedule email reviewing for times between doing your focused work. Doing this will give you a lot of time back because you will be able to remain focused on the work in front of you.

          7. Find a quiet place to do your most important work

          Most workplaces have meeting rooms that are vacant. If you do have important work to get done, ask if you can use one of those rooms and do your work there.

          Advertising

          You can close the door, put on your headphones and just focus on what is important. This is a great way to remove all the other, non-important, tasks demanding your attention and just focus on one piece of work.

          The bottom line

          Focusing on one piece of work at a time can be hard but the benefits to the amount of work you get done are worth it. You will make fewer mistakes, you will get more done and will feel a lot less tired at the end of the day.

          Make a list of the four or five things you want to get done the next day before you finish your work for the day and when you start the day, begin at the top of the list with the first item.

          Don’t start anything else until you have finished the first one and then move on to the second one. This one trick will help you to become way more productive.

          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

          Read Next