How planning can help you reduce stress

I drove my car to the appointed meeting place early one morning recently to meet my bike riding buddies, only to discover I forgot my bike shoes. You know, the special shoes with the cleats. I couldn’t ride without them. It was frustrating and embarrassing. But it had an even bigger impact on my fellow riders, who waited patiently for another twenty minutes for me to return home and pick up my shoes. A bit of planning would have made all the difference.

I could have averted the problem had I planned ahead and packed my gear the night before. But I winged it and grabbed everything I needed before I ran out the door; except the shoes!

It made me think about how important it is to plan ahead in many areas of life.

✅ Preparing for upcoming meetings

✅ Scheduling time for travel or breaks between meetings

✅ Making travel plans and booking holidays

✅ Blocking out time in my calendar to complete an important project

✅ Dedicating time for exercise and self-care

✅ Committing time for study, reading and thinking

I adopted the practice of weekly planning, looking ahead for the next 4-5 weeks. Rather than constricting me, I find it quite liberating. Winging it only creates more stress for ourselves and others. Just like forgetting my bike shoes!

However, overplanning can cause even more stress. In the HBR article, How to Stop Overplanning (Even If You’re a Perfectionist), Elizabeth Grace Saunders has some useful suggestions to get the balance right:

  1. Intention matters:

    Know your intended destination.

  2. Redefine a 100% score:

    Did I make the best choices in how I invested my time today?

  3. Don’t waste time obsessing about a perfect plan:

    There is no perfect plan.

  4. Consider plans a road map:

    Your plan for the day, the week, or even the year, gives you a sense of direction.

  5. Expect the unexpected:

    Respond to the unexpected without experiencing massive stress.

  6. This is not a test:

    If your plans—and then the accuracy of their subsequent implementation—form the basis of your self worth, you’re on shaky ground.

  7. Be open to creativity:

    ….it’s my painting and I can paint it like I want it.

🙋 What is your approach to planning in important areas of your life? 🙋

Best regards, Brian