Any worthwhile endeavor you take on is going to involve planning, preparation, and doing. There are some who do too much planning, and suffer not getting as much done as they could. On the other end of the spectrum is the person who takes on the endeavor without proper planning, and paints themselves into a corner. What is the right way to think about the balance between planning, preparation, and doing?
A lot of the problems around these challenges are likely caused by thoughts that we are not aware of on the surface. Let’s take the example of someone who does too much planning. Our unconscious will naturally try to keep us out of uncomfortable situations, and it knows as soon as the planning is over the discomfort begins. The problem is that the person experiencing this thinks that careful and long term planning sessions are just the right way to do things. They believe this because their unconscious supports them.
On the other end of the spectrum is the person who subscribes to the “Just Do It!” marketing campaign. It is true that nothing gets done without action, and that is important for the over planner to remember. The over doer would do better without this reminder.
I want to share something with you that will help you naturally balance planning, preparing, and doing. In short we just need to cut out the middleman. It is important that you get this next part because it isn’t intuitive for most people. Consider the following statement. “I am happy with myself”. Who is the “I” and who is “myself”.
When we stand back and look at our lives, there seems to be an awareness that notices what we are up to, and another us who is the doer. The awareness is what’s left when we put aside our incessant thoughts about everything, and just experience the world with our five senses. It is a sense of seeing without judgement. The doer is constantly responding to whatever thoughts arise.
This may be uncomfortable for some, but we don’t really know why we think most of the thoughts we do. Notice the thoughts that naturally arise. Then ask yourself, where did that come from? You can speculate about all the past events that might have caused the thought, but If you are honest you don’t know why you had that thought at that moment.
Have you ever had a dream, and spent part of the next day wondering where in the world it came from? Have you ever had a stray thought, and wondered why you would even think something like that. This is your unconscious mind, and it doesn’t appear to have any free will.
Let’s get back to the point at hand. What does all of this have to do with balancing planning, preparation, and doing? Who is the middleman? The middleman is the thought generator that produces the thoughts that you have little control over. Conscious awareness through your senses is the route to cutting out the middleman.
Practical mindfulness is the way we cut out the middleman. There are two parts. The first part is to practice mindfulness by spending ten or fifteen minutes twice per day just sitting in a quiet place focused on your breath, or the sounds in your environment. Whichever you choose, this is your anchor. When you notice a thought just gently go back to focusing on your anchor. Take heart if you get caught up in thought, and have to constantly focus back to your anchor. This is a good sign, because you are starting to notice those unconscious thoughts come up.
The second part is just taking a minute or two out of every hour. Take a few deep slow breaths and notice whatever thoughts are arising. Don’t react to them just notice them. This will do two things. The deep breaths will settle you down physically, and being consciously aware of your thoughts will help you to increase awareness. Over a period of time you will begin to overcome the influence of your thought generator. You will in effect start cutting out the middleman.
When you start to become more aware you can take all the noise out of figuring out how much time you should spend planning vs. doing. You will also be more aware of the circumstances around the task. This isn’t a silver bullet, but it will greatly help you to become more effective at picking the right amount of planning vs. doing.
Feel free to reach out if you are interested in learning more.