In this article, you will read about common misconceptions about planning, why many people fail to plan strategically, and how to avoid these common mistakes.
I recently talked with a friend who struggles with creating a healthy planning habit. After organizing everything logically and putting it in his agenda he realized that he feels like failing with its executions.
There are a few common mistakes that make us feel that we’re failing in implementing planning into our daily life. But it doesn’t have to be the case. Being a freelancer not only taught me to plan more strategically but also showed me what to avoid. So let me share these few lessons with you.
Note! I’m aware that planning is a very individual thing, and the tactics that plan for one doesn’t necessarily have to work for the other. That’s why I’m focusing here on a common mistakes. I feel that we have more in common in what doesn’t work than what works for us.
Planning mistake #1: Over-planning
Many of us think that deciding to introduce strategic planning to our life, means planning every single move. But let’s be blunt: not everything can be planned and not everything should. I guess there are some people who feel safe and secure knowing that every minute of their life is detailed planned, but let’s not focus on these few exceptions.
Keeping in mind that you can not predict everything, there are things you can not control, will make the whole process much more enjoyable and stress-free.
Planning is a perfect way to make you more productive at work, it’s perfectly understandable that there are aspects of your life where you prefer to be spontaneous. And this is totally cool as well.
Over-planning can make you feel trapped and out of breath. So spend some time to understand where to put the boundaries and where planning push you forward instead of making you miserable and blocked.
Planning mistake #2: Being too specific
Breakfast at 8:00, emails at 8:20, Meeting at 8:35 – that looks like a marathon. So many people plan every single task, not giving enough time to catch a breath.
A much better idea is to create the categories for your tasks and put them in blocks. Blocking the time helps you to stay more flexible and build your agenda around recurring (lunch, picking up kids from school, online course) or fixed planned events (meetings).
Very important is to understand how much time you really spend on each task, so you can not only be more accurate, but you can also give yourself some safety margin (hey! We all have worse days sometimes). You can use one of the tracking apps and run a test for a week or longer. Based on that you can schedule your tasks more accurately in the future.
I usually divide my day into two phases. The first half of a day is dedicated to smaller tasks that don’t require much creativity (answering the emails, chatting with the clients, making minor corrections in the projects), the second is when the deep focus kicks in. I don’t plan every single task (especially for the first part of the day). Rather I create a to-do list where I highlight my priorities. Depend on the day, I go with the flow.
Planning mistake #3: Changing your natural flow
You probably heard or read many tips on planning and you tried to implement them all – workout in the morning, doing laundry and cooking after work, playing with your kids after dinner. Well, all these sound good in theory, but many times we fail of following these ready-made routines and plans, for one simple reason – it’s not ours.
In my belief, to make it work, we have to build our plans around our natural flow. Don’t go against the current at all costs. Sure, it’s good to modify and experiment with what works the best (including the ready-made solutions), but make sure it all feels natural.
If you are the most productive in the evening, probably you will fail by switching to a morning schedule. If you (regularly) feel sleepy and unproductive at noon, make sure to take a longer break. You won’t be able to do anything anyway.
I usually take 2-3h lunch breaks and besides cooking, I take my dog on a long walk. Midday is usually less productive for me and I make a prominent line between morning (when I work on shallow tasks) and afternoon (when I switch to more creative mode and focus on deep work). Sometimes I even clean during my break, so I prepare my mind and space for much deeper focus.
Planning mistake #4: Putting too much on your plate
This is one of the planning mistakes that can easily make you unmotivated. When you put too much on your to-do list you are physically unable to hit all the marks. This is how you are left with the feeling that you haven’t accomplished anything. Try to divide your to-do list into two groups – ‘priorities’ and ‘other’. Minimize the first one and push all the tasks that can wait to the ‘other’ list.
So if you already failed a few times with implementing planning to your daily life, make sure you avoid these mistakes. Remember planning is a tool that should serve you and make your life easier.