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Why Overplanning Doesn’t Work And What Does Work Instead

Why Overplanning Doesn’t Work And What Does Work Instead
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Making plans in your life is a key habit to have if you want to be successful. Plans give direction, and help you move forward in a meaningful way.

But what happens when you start overplanning? What does it even mean to overplan? It means you’re planning your life as if you lived in a movie. In a movie, you have complete control over every single variable, there are no unknowns. Everything happens the exact way it’s written in the script.

But that never happens in real life.

In reality, you can’t plan your life down to the minute and expect those plans to hold up. And trying to could cause more harm than good.

Overplanning is a pitfall that so many people make. But read on and you’ll find out what you should be doing instead to make sure your plans are ones that help, not hurt you.

Know What You Want and Work Backwards From There

You must have a big-picture, overall plan for your life. You have to think past where you’re heading right now, and start thinking about where you want to be in five years, ten years, twenty years.

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What are some major things you want to accomplish in your life?

What do you want to be remembered for?

Do you even want to be remembered?

You can’t wander through life without a real sense of purpose. Actually, I take that back. You absolutely can go through life without a real purpose, but who wants to live a purpose-less life? You want live a purposeful life.

Once you get really clear about what you want out of life and what your goals are, you can start working your way backwards to determine what you should be doing today. 

Start with your five-year goal, then ask yourself, “What do I need to do in the next year to get myself closer to my five-year goal?”

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Once you answer, ask yourself, “What do I need to do in the next three months to get myself closer to my one-year goal?”

Then you break that three-month goal down in to one month goals.

And then you work day by day on achieving that goal for month.

This is an extremely powerful exercise and I’ve used it myself to see significant progress in my life. But you can only benefit from this if you know what it is you want out of your life.

Don’t Sweat the Details

Now you’re at a point where you’ve made your plan and you know exactly where it is you want to go and what you want to accomplish, but noticed I stopped at the monthly goals. You know why?

Life is full of surprises and you’d have to be some sort of superhuman to accurately predict every single curveball life is going to throw at you.

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The only thing we can expect in life is that we can’t expect everything.

When you try to plan your day down to when you’ll use the restroom and what time you’ll brush your teeth, you’re setting yourself up for a struggle.

Such minute planning erases any chance you have of dealing with the unexpected.

And you know what happens to your psyche when you get caught off guard? You start doubting yourself. You lose confidence in your abilities. You start to question if what you’re trying to accomplish is even worth it. And eventually, you quit. I’ve been there before. Defeated. It’s not a pretty place to be, but it can be avoided by leaving a little room for the unexpected.

Take Action, and Take Notes

General Patton said it best: “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”

All that planning you did in the previous step is going to be a complete waste, unless you act on it. Consistent action is the only thing that’s going to take you from where you are right now to where it is you want to go.

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Regardless of what it is you’re trying to achieve—make more money, get a better job, find a spouse, improve your relationship, lose weight, it doesn’t matter—action is king.

A lot of people are hesitant to take action, usually for one reason. They’re afraid of failure.

Being afraid of failure is probably the worst thing you can do for yourself.

Look at any successful person and you’ll realize that their “success” is just a mountain of failures. Steve Jobs was fired from his own company. Colonel Sanders was denied 1,000 times before someone ever wanted his chicken recipe. Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team. The list goes on.

Failure is a necessary hurdle on the road to success.

You have to learn to embrace failure because it’s the best teacher you’ll ever find. When you find yourself about to face plant, realize it, and learn from. Dust yourself off and identify what went wrong. Identify what exactly lead to your failure. Then get really clear on what you’re going to do differently to make sure that failure doesn’t happen again.

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Featured photo credit: origami_potato via flickr.com

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Tony Robinson

Tony writes about mental strength, happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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