Do You Prefer Planning Over Doing?
Back to school time is here! Walk into almost any store and the evidence greets you at the door, inviting you in with the seductive smells of fresh paper and new backpacks. Like so many others, I am an office supply addict, something I wrote about earlier this year. This means, this time of year is fun and exciting! It’s a chance to browse to see if there could possibly be something I don’t already have that I might actually use. It’s a chance to breathe in the scents, tactilely experience the new products, dream of what I could do with them. This is because it’s about more than just the supplies. Back to school time is also enticing in that it stirs up feelings of new beginnings, interesting challenges and a different “normal” routine.
The more I observe my own behavior, and that of others, regarding office/school supplies, the more I recognize that many of us have a fascination with planning. Think about it — take any new project — cleaning your garage, growing a garden, starting a home-based business — and I will bet that either you, or someone close to you does this: research the project, purchase supplies to plan out the project, get excited about the gear and how it will all be used, spend time organizing said gear, be very happy with the shiny new objects that will someday be used when you move forward with your project. The project itself may or may not ever happen, but like other things in life, sometimes, it is about the journey. In this case, the journey is the planning. Sometimes, that truly is enough, but others, it is simply self-sabotage.
Why is it so many of us enjoy planning even more than implementing?
The most obvious reason is that planning requires almost no risk. We get all the rewards of feeling good about setting a goal and planning to make it happen, but there is no potential for failure if we never step away from the planning phase.
“It’s your own fear of failure that stops you from doing things.”
The simple accuracy of that statement is beautiful. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books have been written on the topic of how our own fears, often disguised as other things, hold us back and what we can do to move past that behavior. There are all kinds of exercises and techniques to help people recognize and work through their fears, but it all comes down to this summary,
“If you have a dream, you can spend a lifetime studying, planning, and getting ready for it. What you should be doing is getting started.”
Another potential reason people stall at the planning stage works in conjunction with fear of failure, and that is being a perfectionist. The thinking goes something like this, until the plan is perfect, there is no point in starting, and even if the plan is perfect, maybe the idea isn’t quite right anyway. According to Psychology Today,
“Perfectionists are often procrastinators; it is psychologically more acceptable to never tackle a task than to face the possibility of falling short on performance.”
This introduces the next reason for never starting the project — procrastination.
Procrastination, in psychological terms, “is what happens when the value of doing something else outweighs the value of working now.” The human brain likes dealing with a sure thing now rather than a potentially good thing in the future. According to author and photographer James Clear,
“…researchers have discovered that the present self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff. This is one reason why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up you find yourself falling into old patterns. Your brain values long-term benefits when they are in the future, but it values immediate gratification when it comes to the present moment.”
These are just three reasons why some people’s projects may rarely get past the heady planning stage. If you are like me, some of these things may feel all too familiar. If so, stay with me. There is hope.
As with all problems, in order to resolve it, you need to first identify it. Carefully consider the last couple of projects you planned, but never got much further than that. Play the scenes out in your head and try to be really honest with yourself. Are you dealing with a fear of failure, are you being too much of a perfectionist, or are you a world-class procrastinator? Or maybe, you can identify a different reason why you — or someone you love — can’t seem to progress beyond planning. Once you know the nature of the beast, you can research how to overcome it. There are many articles and books on dealing with each of the three reasons I identified. Do your own research and find a method or two that resonates with you and your style of learning.
In case you were wondering, I did find two items during the back to school sales at Office Depot that I HAD to have. The first is a hybrid briefcase/backpack. (The link is not the exact one, but close.) I am also a bag addict — messenger bags, backpacks, briefcases, laptop cases, camera cases — I love them all and am in constant search for the perfect bag for whatever new occasion or gear needs accommodating. The other find was simple and filled me with joy — Ink Joy! It is a wonderfully smooth, quick drying gel pen in a perfect shade of turquoise — the PaperMate Ink Joy gel pen. Yes, I probably do have at least 30 other similar pens, but I really needed this pen. It will be perfect for planning out my next project…