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Planning Isn't About Results

Recently I was talking to a friend about planning and personality types. I explained that my personality type prefers to plan everything, while her type prefers to go with the flow rather than plan.


She said, "Well, I plan if I have to."


I replied, "Yeah, but you don't naturally want to or enjoy planning, right?"


She said, "That's true."


I said, "The point of personality tests is to understand our objective strengths and weaknesses. Then we work on our weaknesses to the point that they are not hindering us. And we also hone our strengths to achieve more of our potential. For me, I to need learn to be more flexible, to not get so annoyed when things don't go according to my plan. For you, your strength is adaptability, but you can improve your planning skills since you don't naturally like to plan. The best is when we are good at both planning and adapting to changes."


She said, "I just don't see the point of planning. Whenever I make a to-do list, I can never finish it. Whenever I make a plan, it never works out."


I said, "I think you can try a different perspective towards planning. I used to always focus on results too, but that's quite frustrating because, like you said, things never go according to plan. So rather than focusing on the result, focus on proper prioritization. Time is our most valuable resource. If we want to have a good conscience, we need to know that we used our time in the right manner."


She said, "Oh that's interesting. Can you explain more?"


I asked, "Have you ever reached the end of the day, and then you suddenly realized there was an important thing you forgot to do because you got distracted with less important matters? For example, I sometimes get distracted with emails, messages, or videos for a while, and then I regret not managing my time better. Other times, I get annoyed because my family wants me to do stuff, but I have so much work to do. This then creates conflict. But if I'm clear that family is a priority over work, then I wouldn't make this kind of mistake."


She said, "Yeah, I can relate."


I said, "Exactly. So planning helps us to prevent regret and feeling dumb at the end of the day because we know we did things in the proper order of priority. Now this isn't to say that I can't take breaks and watch videos at all. It's just that before I start taking a break, I know what I have to do later, so I won't get sucked into distractions. And if my family suddenly needs my help, if I know they rank higher on my priority list, I won't be stubborn about finishing my work first. Whether or not I finish everything on my to-do list doesn't matter, and I don't judge myself on that. The more important thing is that I know I ordered my tasks properly."



At this point, you might be wondering how to prioritize tasks in a proper order. I often use the time management ideas from Stephen Covey. In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he explained that there are four types of activities:

  1. Important and urgent

  2. Important and non-urgent

  3. Non-important and urgent

  4. Non-important and non-urgent


Some people feel like they are always dealing with emergencies and putting out fires all day. They then look for relief in non-important and non-urgent things. Some other people get sucked into non-important things and feel really unproductive at the end of the day.


Effective people prioritize the important and non-urgent things, which prevents emergencies and being sucked into distractions. For example, if we make time to exercise, we can prevent health emergencies. If we make time for our important relationships, we can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.


Since various people have demands for our time, another important principle is to give time to others in order of gratitude because this aligns with our innate sense of right or wrong. For most of us, we owe the most gratitude towards our parents and family, then employer, then friends.


If we, for example, neglect family because we're too busy with work, our family members will likely get upset, and we will have a guilty conscience. Obviously, if it's just once in a while, we can communicate with our family members and get their understanding beforehand. But if we frequently prioritize work above family, that might create a lot of conflict, and we'd have an uncomfortable conscience.


All in all, I don't think the fact that things rarely go according to plan is a reason to not plan. I think the result of planning and time management should be a peaceful conscience; we know that we put first people first and did first things first. Of course, our productivity and effectiveness will be better too, but that's more of a side effect.


Weekly Wisdom #278


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