“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” — Albert Einstein
Planning is one of the most crucial aspects of self-directed learning, project management, and life. Unfortunately, it is also one of the things I struggle with the most in my day-to-day life.
American society has completely bought into the idea of hustle culture — more is better — and while intellectually I understand how problematic this narrative can be, emotionally, I often feel as if I am walking backward if I am not staying busy.
While being busy can help streamline focus and eliminate distractions, doing busy work that fills the calendar but adds no value to anyone is completely unproductive. This is where plans come in.
As we can see in Einstein’s quote, taking a significant amount of time to understand priorities and clarify direction is one of the most vital parts of learning, and today, I am going to share with you 3 reasons why setting aside time to plan has helped me in my recent projects and learning journeys.
ONE… Plans Allow for Exploration Whenever I begin to execute a project without having a plan beforehand, I lose out on the opportunity to explore additional ideas and directions that I might be interested in following.
But instead, whenever I take the time to discuss my goal with friends, peers, and family members, new ideas begin to form around the different ways to accomplish that goal. Sometimes, brainstorming sessions can even allow me to change my goal entirely to something more exciting and engaging.
Let me give you an example: My sister has been interested in theater for a while. Her goal was to learn more about the world of acting and she had decided that she would just act in a couple of school plays and local youth plays each year.
But after a couple of years of participating in crappy plays, my sister realized that she really wasn’t making progress. So, she decided to sit down and brainstorm with my dad additional ways she might be able to reach her goal.
Out of that planning time together, my sister realized how many more ways there were to explore acting. She began to audition for roles at more prominent theaters in the city, networked her way into a couple of crew and costume design internships, and even landed her first paid role as one of the leads in a performance about Joan of Arc (she played Joan). All in all, by spending time planning how she wanted to accomplish her goal of learning more about acting, she gained the space she needed to explore all of the intriguing ways in which she could proceed.
TWO… Plans Give Direction The title of this blog is “Ready, Aim, Fire.” That was intentional.
When a competitive archer or rifle shooter prepares to shoot, it is only logical that they would ready their bow or gun, aim toward the target, and then shoot.
Now imagine you are watching an archer, but instead of aiming at the target before they shoot, they fire blindly and randomly. It would be pretty crazy to watch, right?
Unfortunately without a plan, we become like archers who shoot before they have aimed.
Once a goal has been decided on, plans allow for the space to create systems and structures. And once the systems and structures have been created, they help streamline the direction of the actions taken toward the goal.
Using the archer analogy again, plans allow for the archer to aim in the right direction. And while it is possible (though highly improbable) for an archer to hit the target while shooting blindly, the best chance they have to make a bull’s eye is by maintaining the precision of the arrow’s direction.
Let me give you another scenario to think about: imagine you are watching a team of archers all trying to hit the same target but each archer is aiming in a different direction. What are the odds that all, much less any, of the archers, are going to hit the target? Very, very low.
Plans give direction to both individuals working on life undertakings, and organizational teams working on complicated work projects.
Like with a team of archers all aiming at one target, plans help organizations manage progress and move in an effective and productive way. In practice, these plans often look like the mission or vision the organization produces to align the actions of the employees.
THREE… Plans Boost Confidence While planning is vital because it allows for the exploration of new ideas and it helps provide direction and clarity, I have also found that plans have helped boost my confidence in my ability to successfully reach my goals.
And while confidence might not seem as crucial as an exploration of ideas or clarification of direction, one of the worst feelings is the stress that comes from not knowing if the goal can be achieved.
In one of my recent projects, I decided that I wanted to learn more about videography. Trying to incorporate planning into the project process, I talked with some people to explore ideas and did some research to help streamline my direction. But even still, I was unsure of whether or not my project would be successful.
In one of my brainstorming sessions, an idea came up to talk to an expert in the field I was learning about. And so, trying to engage with the planning phase before jumping straight into execution, I decided to reach out to an expert in my network and connect.
After our conversation, I not only had a stronger plan of how my project would look, but I became much more confident in my ability to complete the video in a high-quality and timely manner.
The in-depth planning of my project allowed me to remove the uncertainty from the process of my learning, it gave me the time to focus energy on the direction and it allowed me to aim before I decided to fire.
In Conclusion In conclusion, planning is an often overlooked but crucial part of life.
And while our world encourages us to jump straight into the action, I advise you to take the time to plan.
Plans allow for the space to generate new ideas, help streamline direction, and boost confidence around the execution of the project or learning journey.
Take it from me.
You never want to fire without aiming first.