I have a love-hate relationship with planning. I think it all started when I had my first job when we were all introduced to the Franklin Planner. Notating priorities, deleting done items, forwarding unfinished items. All good. But my favorite part was the leather binder and the cool looking pages. Somehow into my early 20’s I was able to be fairly accomplished without ever remembering devising an elaborate planning system. I had a sense of what really mattered, what I had to do and did them, all the while fitting play in when I could. Over the last twenty years or so, I think I’ve tried or created at least 20 different planning systems. Still I never feel I’m on top of this planning thing. In fact, I always feel guilty that I haven’t quite planned enough. Perhaps my twenty-something self possessed greater wisdom.
Why do I think I was wiser then? Back then, I had a strong sense of what was important for me. And…I made them happen. Sure those days seems simpler than my days of running businesses — all I had to think about were friends, school organization activities, tests and papers. But I followed my rhythm. I always got done what I needed to get done. I always kept in my head what were the priorities. And I always did my best work right before the deadline.
But then I met the uber-planners — who had their lists that were perfectly manicured, accessible and diligently checked off. They did their work immediately when assigned. They booked their vacations a year in advance. WHAT? Who are these people? So I explored. And it’s been a uphill battle ever since. I catch myself looking over my shoulders to see if I’m planning well enough. I wonder with envy if their entire life is neatly categorized and listed. Are they living that happy life well-claimed by the planning gurus? For sure I can do better. And it’s always a futile attempt to be who I am not.
Now that I have had my own business and two children, my organic approach to planning has actually come back into personal popularity. I have my planning grids and too many iPad apps that attempt to make me better, sharper and more accomplished. But I also know what is most important in my life. I create my lists knowing some will not (or ever) get done. And while I still get into moments of self-loathing that my lists have not been neatly crossed off, I also know that the most important aspects of my life always get addressed. I always deliver for my clients. I always huddle with my children in bed when I’m home. I always choose to hang with my husband after the kids go to bed, knowing the list of things to do continue to expand by the second. Time management always has held a feeling of austerity and authoritarianism to it, where I feel every nook of my time should be accounted for. For me, time management is about affording me the opportunity to live that which is most important to me. It will differ for each of us. And we need to embrace it. Don’t look over your shoulder to see what the other person is doing because he’s not living your life and what’s important for him may be of minuscule import to you.
Let me be clear that I strongly endorse planning, planning systems and the like…if they work for you. The world is inhabited by people who love to plan and people who love to live in the moment. Neither is good nor bad. Both has its merits and downsides. As with all things, let’s take all this in moderation.
Most importantly, whether an individual, a family or a business, may we know what is truly most important for us. May we know what it is we want to experience. And may we turn that vision into a reality. There are myriad ways in which we can make that happen with more choices of apps and systems than ever before. But those are only tools. Truly effective planning has to start from inside. Here. Me.