A marketer's pursuit in living a meaningful life

Plans Are the Catalyst of Procrastination

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When we set out to do something, we make plans. We get it on our calendars and block out a designated time slot. Lunch with a friend, going for a jog, picking up groceries, etc. Those type of plans are at the most basic level. They can be canceled or postponed. The other type of plans are when you have an end goal and create a plan to reach it. Any sort of business/marketing plan, getting in better shape, learning how to cook, etc. Those plans are multi-tiered, have goals to hit along the way, and require showing up multiple times. These plans are harder to live on our calendars as they usually have to become habit. A new integration into your life. Your average day will look different than it did before. That is a hard transformation to make.

Because of that, plans are the catalyst of procrastination. We tell ourselves that because we now have a plan, we can enact it at anytime. Tomorrow, for sure. The great thing about tomorrow is that it’s planned exactly how we want it to be. But then when tomorrow comes, we have to act. We have to fit something new into our day. That’s tough, and life get’s in the way. So we’ll start tomorrow, for sure.

The hardest part about an idea is doing it. It’s easy to think about the great life we could have or the amazing product we could create if we did x,y, and z. When presented with those opportunities though, it’s hard to make that change. We get so ingrained in our daily lives that when change hits us in the face, we push it into tomorrow’s basket. Procrastination trump plans without action.

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower

When we make a plan, we do not account for all the factors. There are elements out of our control that can make a plan go awry. When those expected unexpected elements arise, the plan becomes useless. But the process of planning outlines the necessary factors that are required to be met in order to succeed. Without planning, we are lost before we start. The process aligns our focus and shows us the starting line. We can also see the finish line, but how we get there is up to us. There is no course measured out. That is where the physical plan comes into play. We think we can traverse no man’s land, but when the mortars start to hit too close to home, plans are thrown out the window.

The moral of the story: don’t take plans too literally and take action today. Plans assume perfect circumstances and therefore are easy to dismiss. Go through the process, see what lies ahead of you and what you need to do get there, but don’t forget to put your nose to the grindstone.

Let’s look at diets. A plan to give you the exact body you want. They are great in theory but when attempted the results are usually worse than when we started. This is how all plans work. We get a dopamine release when we make the plan or get on the diet. But when life gets in the way and that plan is pushed to tomorrow, we continually disappoint ourselves. We set ourselves up in a vicious cycle of self-deprecation. To quote another idol, “I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat.” – Fat Bastard

Don’t just make plans, make habitual changes. Those are the changes that will last and have meaning in your life.

What’s worked best for me? Go through the planning process to start with a leg up. Put that plan aside and get to work. Come back to that plan after a designated amount of time and see what’s changed and what you need to be reminded about. A plan is a guide, not a rule book. It’s hard to be creative when you’re forced a certain direction. Don’t limit your capability with predeterminations.

Preparation is vital. I’m not dismissing that. But don’t let “I plan on doing that someday” stop you from doing what you want. The thing about procrastination is we tell ourselves we’ll do it eventually then we die. Don’t put it on your calendar. Put it in front of you and do it now. You might fail, but failing is better than procrastinating.

Plans also create expectations. Expectations lead to disappointment. If A = B, and B = C, we’ve got a problem. When we expect to receive something, we think we don’t have to work for it. To do our part. So we show up not in the present; already thinking of what’s to come. Well guess what? If we showed up with expectations, they probably did too. Then we’re all just disappointed.

When we expect to receive something after a given amount of work, we limit our capacity. Do the work needed to achieve your goal, it doesn’t matter what the plans says. What are you doing right now? Are you working towards your goals? Those goals you made lofty plans for? What’s the most immediate action you can take right now to help you take one step closer to achieving your goal? The purpose of your plan has already been spent in the planning stage: to help you know what to work for and the factors required to achieve it. Now go do work and enjoy it. Because that’s the purpose of the whole thing right?

If we’re not happy doing the work to achieve our goals, the goals we created plans for, then what’s the point? The work is where the story lives. That’s where the creation and metamorphosis takes place. When we re-frame work in this way instead of a means to an end, we can approach with a new lens. It becomes less about the end result and more of a practice. Almost a meditation. We can get lost in our work. It brings us peace of mind. Instead of being a stresser, it is a release. Maybe because work is seen as a means to an end is the reason why plans fall through? We know what we want but we don’t want to do the work to get there. 

“Plan” word count: 40
“work” word count: 15

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Jonathan Horiel

I am a marketer by trade, and a story teller by heart. This blog is a compilation of my stories, both personal and career focused. Follow me on my journey and feel free to join anytime.

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