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How to (and not to) Plan

(Marc Limon is a Southwest Kansas Native who moved to Topeka, Ks to attend Washburn University. He has an education that lead to a job in the Mental Health field and since became a full-time Soldier with the Kansas Army National Guard. I discovered his blog through twitter and really enjoyed his commitment to Topeka community development, his attitude toward and love for his family and the thought provoking topics I invited him to write a guest post on my little site... here it is...)

I’m neurotic. I’ve come to terms (it’s easier to accept when you realize you aren’t alone). I’m prone to addiction and have some anxiety a touch of selective OCD. In my 27 years I’ve learned to control my neuroses. Occasionally, I get bested. After college I got into a serious planning kick; Financial planning, budgeting, meal planning, exercise planning, estate planning, career planning...planning, ad nauseum. Don’t remember the catalyst for the planning addiction, but, to be honest, it was needed. I’d never done any serious planning. Of course, I looked to the future and set “life” goals, but I hadn’t taken time to fully understand their complexity.

Addiction aside, this was a very positive time in my life. I was running an average of 50 miles a week, making significant deposits into retirement and children's education funds, making big payoffs on debt and making headway on promotions at work and sex was off-the-charts awesome. I was very pleased with myself. I carried on like this for the better part of a year, then it happened. Burnout.

Planning became a frustration. It was no longer satisfying. I was planning as much as I was actually doing anything. Whenever I got the urge to be spontaneous, I stopped myself - it wasn’t planned. I had to cut back. It was becoming unhealthy, but I didn’t want to cut out my new found efficiency.

Planning wasn’t negatively effecting my life, but over-planning. Effective, thorough planning can be done in a reasonable manner, just have to stick to a few rules:

Use the ¼ rule
For any event, activity or goal, planning should not exceed one quarter of your time. For example: If a project is going to take approximately one hour, then planning shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes (this does not include braining-storming time). Setting time limits is a great start to keeping over-planning at bay. Using the ¼ rule allows maximum time for execution.

Not everything needs a dedicated planning session
When in a situation like mine, this rule is really difficult to follow. Everything suddenly seems so important. It’s not. Some activities are so routine - picking up the kids from school, mowing the lawn - that planning just gets in the way. So, just do it.

Don’t “reinvent the wheel”
Chances are someone has already done what you are trying to do. Chances are they’ve done it better (get over yourself). Don’t hate the player or the game, copy it, then make it your own. Don’t invent, innovate.

Make lists and use them
This is a skill in which I’ve recently become adept. I have to track many time sensitive items at work and making lists of to-do items is the only way I can effectively get things completed on deadline. All activities have steps. Most steps have tasks that must be completed before heading to the next. Without a plan and without a list, it’s too easy to start from the “middle” of a project. Use your lists to stay on track.

Can it wait until tomorrow?
Relax. Take a breath. Planning is part of the process, not the step before you begin the process. Planning is progress. Don’t tell yourself different. If it isn’t essential to complete a task immediately, then it can wait and should wait until later. Your sanity is valuable. Treat is as such.

These five rules have kept me sane the past few years. I can only hope that they provide you some semblance of support. Finally, as in life, be flexible. Things change, you can’t always be in control. Accept this and deal with it.

marclimon | @marclimon | Facebook

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