There is nothing magical about going through an end of the year or beginning of the year planning process. There’s no reason you shouldn’t go through it at the beginning of a school year or some time in April or any other time that makes sense to you.
But I do believe there is power when we sit down to a keyboard or notepad and consider what we’d like to see happen in a given period of time. We have a greater chance of moving from pinballing to intentionality.
The Pinball Effect
Many of us bounce around like pinballs. The bumpers can be other people’s priorities for us, our children’s commitments, family obligations, and other important things.
We bounce and bang and score points but it sometimes feels aimless and out of control.
A microcosm of this pinball effect is my work email.
When I’m working on a project, I get easily distracted by checking email. 15 minutes into a project, the siren song of the ‘send/receive’ button on my Outlook calls out to me. I consider it a win that I typically put my email offline so the emails don’t come in willy-nilly, but still… there’s the send/receive button.
Send/receive pushed, then 13 emails fall into my inbox. Each one represents someone else’s priorities on my time. There’s nothing wrong with that – I send emails too, but when I’m committed to completing a project, it’s not helpful.
When I look at one email and notice I can respond quickly and be done with it, I do it. It’s not long before I’ve responded to 6 emails, hit send/receive 3 or 4 more times and completely forgot where I was on the original project. I have to backtrack and get back into the same mind space that I was in before I hit the send/receive button in the first place.
Obviously, that email thing is something I’m working on.
The larger point is this: Much of our lives is taken up with responding. Much of this responding is absolutely necessary. But it can be very distracting. When we finally get a little ‘me’ time, we don’t even remember where to start working on things that are important to us. Or we’re worn out.
When we don’t have a plan and a schedule and a laser focus on certain goals or outcomes, we can allow the time we do have to ourselves to be taken up with other distractions. Or we can invite more of other people’s priorities into our lives in order to make us feel productive.
But then time goes on and we get a bit further down the road without mindfully working on the stuff that has always been important to us, whatever that may be.
That’s a long way of saying that having a plan or a full playbook for your year can help you be more intentional with your time. It can help you be more intentional with the things you say ‘Yes’ to. It can even help with the guilt that goes along with saying ‘No’ to new commitments.
Why Should You Plan Your Year?
In a word, planning is important because it encourages greater intentionality. There is less pinballing, and more scheduling and mindfulness about decisions. Even if you hardly look at it, you’ll be miles ahead if you’ve never sat down and written out the things that are important to you.
If you know that your health is a top priority for the upcoming year and have a plan to support that priority, then you will have some commitments already made. These are appointments with yourself which are no less important than commitments or appointments others want you to keep.
It’ll be easier to say now to that 8:00 Wednesday girls’ or boys’ night if you’ve already committed to an early workout and saying ‘No’ to greasy food and alcohol during the week.
We’ll be discussing the importance of saying ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ on Day 4 of the Starting Well Challenge.
On January 2, we’ll begin our Starting Well Challenge. I’d love you to join me in developing a plan and a playbook for 2014.
Question: If you plan regularly for a new year (or for each month or quarter), why do you do it? How does it help you? (Answer in the comments below)
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