Saturday, April 26, 2014

Regrets 4: I regret not using a planner more consistently/effectively

While serving a mission for the LDS church, I was introduced to the idea of a planner. They had little weekly planner sheets, which were used to schedule out the weeks activities. Nothing very sophisticated, but it helped make sure our time was filled, and that we didn't miss appointments we had made.

After using these for a few months, I was introduced to the Franklin Day planner. It was a much more sophisticated planning system, which used a combination of daily and monthly planning sheets, couple with a goal setting system which was designed around identifying your personal values and then using those to establish long term, intermediate and short range goals. The idea being:

  • values generate long term goals
  • long term goals get subdivided into intermediate goals
  • intermediate goals are further subdivided into short-term goals
  • short term goals generate monthly objectives
  • monthly objectives create daily tasks

It is a pretty good system, really, and has been further refined by merging the Franklin System, with Stephen R. Coveys "7 habits..." principles.

I tried to use that planner effectively, but I ran into a couple problems:

1. It didn't quite fit me - my paradigm. Something about it always felt a bit... business oriented. I'm not saying that's bad, just not... me.

2. When I would pack that planner around with me, I felt self conscious. People would frequently joke about, and those that didn't use it for a chuckle, always seemed to be... condescending? Like they were chuckling inside but trying to humor me.

So, I never did really get a system worked out for me, I never really used it effectively, and it mostly sat on a shelf, only occasionally getting an entry or two. Much later, I even started fiddling around with building my own system - something that fit my geek/engineer/computer scientist/hacker brain (I don't mean hacker as in computer criminal. I mean hacker in one of the earlier, more positive sense, as in someone who constantly fiddles with a thing, trying  better understand it, or to find a creative, new or improved use for it). I even considered compiling my ideas into a book.

But again, I didn't do a very good job with it - I got the skeletal framework built, but then I sort of gave up again, due to feeling self-conscious, and due to just plain struggling to get in the habit (They say it takes 10,000 hours of focused, effective effort to master a skill. I would argue that just like Basketball, Gymnastics, etc... Planning is a skill, and a habit which is acquired only through diligent, persistent training).

Now as I stop occasionally and take inventory, I find a good many things that I want to do- wanted to have done, that I am nowhere close to accomplishing. Things that were entirely within my reach, had I not let myself get distracted by less important things.

It is very easy for me to get distracted. My mom used to refer to me as the absent minded professor. My short term memory holds information like a sieve holds water. Without a written plan to refer to, I lose focus.

Of course most people poo-poo the idea of investing so much time into planning. "live in the moment" they say. "Be spontaneous". "Seize the opportunities that present themselves.". "Carpe Diem" and all that.

But I have looked around a bit, and I have noticed something. Most of those who live spontaneously.... aren't really going anywhere. They spend most of their time reacting. Bouncing around from one emergency or romantic notion to the next. It doesn't look so much spontaneous as it does frantic. That is certainly how it frequently feels to me.

I wish that I could go back to my middle-school self, and introduce him to the concept of life-planning; of building a set of balanced goals, and "bucket-list" items, based on the wellness wheel concept (activities balanced across the different life aspects, such as physical, spiritual, social, emotional, intellectual...).

I wish I would have understood the concept of roles, and how they play into the time/money resource equation. I wish I would have begun then on my 10,000 hours of effort, so that ling before, I would be as skilled a planning, as Michael Jordan was at basketball.

I wish that I would have been armed with that system, on the frequent occasions that some distracting event crossed my path so that I could have pulled it out and asked myself, " is this particular event worth more to me than the things I have planned for?". I would still have been able to make a choice to hold my course, or alter my end goal, but the choice would have been a rational, informed decision, not a reaction to a passing event.

I wish I would have ignored all the people smirking and chuckling about my planner, and my plans.

Of course I am not saying it is too late for me. I could still check many of those thing off my list: Publish a book, achieve remedial skill at ballroom dance, play the piano/guitar, publish a computer game( I have several I want to build- an RPG with a survival focus, one where you are a gnome building contraptions to wipe out zombies after the apocalypse, and one where you play the worlds first AI, trying to survive....) It just would have been so much easier, so much better, had I developed the habit, and set the course earlier in my life.

"Happy are they who dream dreams, and pay the price to see them come true"

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