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The Perils of Overplanning

The Perils of Overplanning


    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    (Photo credit: Round Table Planning via Shutterstock)

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    Royale Scuderi

    A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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