Plans Versus Planning

"I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

When I posted last month about planning and control I got an interesting comment from a loyal reader about how she too was plagued with whether or not planning was a good thing and how did it fit into her creative process?

She said:

When it's good it makes me feel like I'm in control and I know what's happening, a good thing. But often I make elaborate plans (lists broken into lists, notebooks which reference other notebooks, etc.) which I follow for a day or two and then let drift. It's as if The Plan itself is the activity, which is okay, except that it's important for me to produce objects creatively (my job), and the plans end up taking away a lot of the pleasure I used to experience when my life was less structured. I'm now trying to NOT PLAN my creative life AT ALL.

To read my original post and her whole comment, click here.

This got me thinking more about planning. And so I dug out a quote I remembered from (I believe) a corporate finance course I took at university (college). It's the Dwight D. Eisenhower quote above. At the time of course I didn't quite get it as I was much more interested in my first real boyfriend and the next keg party, and not in planning much else.

Planning is indispensible, for me, at least. Planning is what gets me thinking about things. Maybe I know what I want, but how will I get there? Like my friend, I like the process of thinking things over, coming up with ideas for how I might get to the places I want to be, learn things I want to learn and essentially just do something. If I want to actually work on my New Year's resolution (music), then I need to schedule time in to go see more live music. If I want to see my friends, then I have to organize events with them.

But plans, plans are useless. And this is the part I have some trouble with. In order to make planning alright, you have to let go. You have to see plans for what they are – a plan, and not 'how things actually went'. Plans don't take into account changes in life or the things you learn along the way. Planning is done before you know how things will actually work or how long they will take. Or that you actually wanted to head in a different direction.

I think this is a very important thing for me to keep in mind as I head into the wedding week. Things are not going to go as planned. And already I've experienced this. I was planning to buy one of those custom-made gorgeous big picture-frame seating charts with decorative ribbons etc. I know someone who had one and she totally sold me on it. And then the events woman at our venue said she would do two seating charts for me – one downstairs where the drinks reception would be and one upstairs by the tables. And I thought, what am I, crazy? – someone is offering to do something for me and ribbons or none, I'm not going to pass this up. (She did promise me it would look pretty, but even if it doesn't, at least it was one less thing I needed to do, or pay for!)

A work person told me that one thing to remember is that on the day we won't stick to the schedule and not to go nuts about it. He said, in a quick lift ride up (it's always in the lift that [elevator] I get the best wedding advice), that this woman ruined her own day because she couldn't let go of the fact that they weren't 'on schedule'.

I will have to remember that one. I'm terrible about time. I hate being late – it makes me really anxious.

Planning is great but I guess the moral of the story is that it's ok to have plans so long as you can let go of them. It will be very interesting to see how well I do with this! (I'll revert back post-wedding)

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1 comment

  1. Thanks for this follow-up to the planning discussion. It's actually very helpful. I do think I have been subconsciously considering my abandoned plans failures. I like the idea that they are simply a process, a way to bring my mind back in order, and that their object can expire when I finish making them. There is a good indicator for me though: if I am using the planning to bring my mind into a more comfortable place maybe I need to step back and address what's got me so uncomfortable in the first place. For example - constant repetitive planning about "marketing & pr" for my work (followed by a period of control, then plan-abandonment, then guilt, then a period of deliberate forgetting) is an obvious indication that I am simply not okay with that concept - I'm hung up somewhere. Or maybe I should just realize I Don't Like That and give myself permission not to do it? I'll check out the Perfectionism section for that one...


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