4 Ways Planning Is Holding You Back

I will freely admit that my schedule book is very important to me. If I don’t write down the tasks I need to accomplish in a given week or month, I tend to forget them and this leads to a world of stress. For this reason, I like to plan out certain tasks and allocate appointments and other “to-dos” to a certain time block. This helps me to stay organized and productive.

On the flip side of this, however, I’m careful not to over-plan. I assign tasks to a certain day, week or month, but I don’t go into microscopic details. If things come up, I am able to move things around to accommodate the unexpected. I do this because I’ve found throughout the years that over-planning can actually have negative outcomes.

For just a few examples, here are four ways planning can hold you back:

You may cause yourself more stress

Excessive planning may cause more stress, especially when unexpected things come up.

The point of planning is to have less stress in your daily life, right? It’s an excellent idea, but if you overdo it, you may end up stressing yourself out more. If you try to schedule each day down to the hour (or half hour), unexpected events, deadlines, projects, family situations and scenarios of various kinds are bound to come up and disrupt that. If there’s no flexibility in your schedule, your stress may spike trying to accommodate all of these last-minute events.

Stress is no joke. If it becomes chronic, you may be subjecting yourself to inflammation. Inflammation, when left unchecked, is one big factor behind numerous diseases, including heart disease, autoimmune disorders and more. If you’re constantly stressed, your body may be constantly inflamed, and that is a dangerous cycle. This may be especially exacerbated if you do not fit any “free time” or “fun time” into your schedule. If you have to sacrifice your leisure time to finish tasks that have been pushed back, you may be making yourself anxious and miserable.

You may miss unexpected opportunities

If you follow a set schedule down to the letter, you may find yourself with no time to explore opportunities that arise. Let’s say you have your entire month planned out for maximum productivity, and then a friend invites you on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Do you reschedule the tasks in your schedule book and jump on board with the vacation? Or, do you look at your airtight, perfectly organized schedule and decide you can’t go? If you’re accustomed to sticking to your carefully organized plans, this may be a very difficult decision to make.

Even if you do decide to go, you may be stressed and distracted during your entire trip, thinking of everything that did not get done, and everything that got pushed aside in your schedule book to accommodate the trip. This may mean that you don’t fully experience your dream vacation, as your mind is not present. If you don’t decide to go, you may feel a sort of satisfaction in sticking to your plans, but part of you may deeply regret letting a unique opportunity pass you by. This goes for meeting new people, trying new things and seizing various other types of adventures that may come your way without notice. If there’s no room in your schedule for flexibility, you may end up feeling stuck in a non-rewarding cycle.

You may be sacrificing spontaneity

If your schedule is rigid, you may be unable to celebrate the present moment.

Speaking of feeling stuck, if your schedule is rigid and unalterable without a struggle, you probably aren’t finding yourself letting go and enjoying the spontaneous parts of life very much. This is a shame, as spontaneity really is where much of the spice of life is found. Part of being a human is allowing yourself to freely experience life and all it has to offer, without being completely tied down to a schedule and routine. While routines and schedules are both helpful, balance is essential.

Not convinced? Spontaneity is very healthy! Allowing yourself to be spontaneous, even once in awhile, can help you to relieve stress, sharpen your mind and celebrate the present moment — you know, where life actually happens! Going out into the day with no plan of what it may bring can help you to focus on the details around you: the beauty, the intricacies and the hidden lessons. It can also greatly boost your self-confidence to take on a day’s challenges with no road map to guide you. Embracing this outlook and seizing the day can truly boost your happiness and your health.

You may be stifling your creativity

Unless you’re specifically scheduling creative time into your day, you may not be stretching this particular muscle much if you’re an over-planner. Creativity often flows from a state of spontaneity, when the mind is free, relaxed and open. If you can’t sit down a take a breath without worrying about your next scheduled task, you’re probably not getting a lot of creative work done… or thinking very creatively, for that matter.

If you’re a creative person, whether your art is visual, audio, written, digital or an awesome mix of these, you need to allow yourself unplanned time and mental space to dive into your art. If you don’t do this, you may become depressed, lackluster or spiteful of your boxed-in life. Even if you don’t practice the creative arts, thinking creatively is still a skill that is useful in many areas of life. If you don’t take the time to be creative without limits and deadlines, you may be stifling your mind.

How to stay organized and still think outside the box

It’s simple: write down what you need to do and when you need to do it. Add time blocks if this helps you. However, designate which tasks are moveable and let yourself be okay with the fact that life may interfere with your plans. If opportunities that you want to entertain come up, be open to making time for them.

Lastly, make sure to “schedule” yourself some unscheduled time — as much as you can. Do what you love to do and explore opportunities actively instead of waiting for them to come to you. Don’t plan it, just live it.

— Tanya Mead

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