When Planning Goes Wrong: How to Acknowledge (and Recover)
I’m a compulsive planner. I need to have a schedule, a to-do list for the day, a master to-do list for the week, and an idea of exactly what I’m going to be doing for the month. I know it’s excessive and ridiculous, and I try my best to keep myself in check, but it doesn’t always work out. In fact, sometimes I spend so much time planning that I end up not accomplishing any real work.
When this happens, I feel like there are angry bees in my stomach. I try to calm them by planning out EVERYTHING. I’ll plan my schedule so excessively that it’ll say stuff like “7:00-7:20 wash hair.” (I’m not lying. I honestly schedule and plan when to wash my hair.) Even though the initial feeling of peace I have after finishing this obsessive planning is nice, it’s quickly replaced by more anxiety as I try to adhere to an unrealistic schedule and over-ambitious to do list. In short, I drive myself nuts.
If you plan too much and freak out when something interrupts your plans, you’ll constantly be stressed out. You won’t be able to relax and enjoy the fun things that come up because you’re just worried about making up for lost to-do-list time. If I’ve learned one thing from my years of obsessive, over-planning, it’s that there’s no joy in that type of living.
If You Exhibit the Following Symptoms, Seek Help A.S.A.P.
You’re Turning Down Invites Because of Your To-do List
I’m not talking about important to do’s. Obviously, you should buckle down and finish that big presentation for work instead of going out for beers. You shouldn’t, however, say no because you planned to do your laundry. The chores and small daily tasks aren’t going to go anywhere, and your life will not implode if you alter your original plans.
You Spend 30+ Minutes Planning Your Day
Honestly, you shouldn’t spend more than 15 minutes unless you’ve got some major logistics to figure out. If you’re taking more than 30 minutes to write down the tasks you want to complete and places you need to be, then you’re obsessing. This is a surefire way to stress yourself out before the day has even started. Please, keep the planning to a happy 15 minutes and then go about your day.
You have More than One Planner, Calendar, To-do List…
(and use them all.) Guilty as charged over here. I’m the absolute worst about this. Even though I’m working on making a conscious effort to not over-plan, I still have my Day Designer planner on me at all times, a wall calendar next to my home desk, a weekly planning pad at my work desk, and a monthly calendar hanging on my fridge. Yes, I use/reference them all each day. It’s too much and I know that. I’m working on cutting it down, but old habits die hard. If you’re doing the same thing, you’re over-planning too.
You’re Known for Being Rigid
My family is well-versed in my need to plan. They know I still have a schedule and to-do list when I go home to visit. But they still lecture me about chilling out because I’m driving them crazy. Normally, a friend will ask you if you’re free to hang out, but when you’re known for compulsive planning you get questions like “I don’t know what’s in your planner, but could you squeeze me in?” At first, this feels like a compliment because you’re known for being organized. It’s really not. Your friends are basically bracing themselves for a raincheck in three weeks because they know you’ve already filled in all your time slots.
Here’s the Cure
Just to be clear: You might never lose the desire to plan out everything. I’ve been working on correcting my problem for a year, and I still have slip-ups. I crave a full planner like addicts crave their vices. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to keep yourself in check though.
Step 1: Take a Deep Breath
And ask yourself why you’re feeling so anxious to map it all out. For me, I typically feel anxious because I’m stressed about work or have something else in my life that I can’t control. Figure out what the real problem is so you can either find a solution to it or admit it’s out of your hands. Step 2: Decide what you absolutely have to do that day, and let the rest go.
Step 2: Decide What you Absolutely Have to Do
And let the rest go. Typically, you don’t 100% need to do everything on your to-do list that day. Aside from appointments you can’t miss, work tasks, and basic chores that keep your home running, everything can wait for a bit. Focus on getting those truly important things done during the day. If you finish them all and have time to do something else, then by all means do it. But don’t panic if you don’t complete 15 random tasks.
Step 3: Write it All Down
Then forget about it. Don’t try remember every random thing you need to do eventually. Write these tasks down in a running “master” list of random, timeless tasks you need to finish when you have free time to do so. For me, my master list has things like vacuum inside of car, reorganize laundry room, and donate old clothes. These are tasks that I’ll be glad to have finished, but they aren’t life or death. They can wait until I don’t have pressing work responsibilities or fun social events to attend.
Step 4: Life is Only fun if you Live It
Sorry, but spending all of your days creating to do lists and checking off items isn’t living. You’re just going through the motions. You aren’t experiencing anything exciting, new, or random. You have to keep some flexibility in your life so you can say yes to a spur of the moment invite to a concert. Once I started saying yes to my friends and hitting pause on the to-do list, I became exponentially happier with my life. I wasn’t grinding myself down trying to finish everything in the hopes of finding tranquility.
I’ll let you in on a little secret: there’s no peace at the end of the to-do list because the to-do list never ends.
Featured image via Parks and Recreation
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Last modified on February 21st, 2017