Planning – Preparation or Distraction

Goals & PlanWhen you are starting a new project or just getting organized it’s important to plan out what needs to be done by when and how you are going to do it.  This is a critical step in the success of any project.  But what happens when the planning becomes more important than producing results?  How does this happen and what can you do if you find yourself in this trap?

Planning can become an activity trap that distracts you from making progress towards the goal.  Reasons planning becomes as a distraction are:

  1. Need for 100% of the information
  2. Fear of risk
  3. No tolerance for mistakes
  4. Lack of commitment to goal

First it is important to get as much information as is practical to get the job done.  However, keep in mind that you will not be able to get 100% of the information to make the endeavor risk free.  Finding the balance on what is the right amount of information to act wisely can be tricky.  If you can get 80% of the information you feel you need to make a good decision that is enough to act upon.  Look at it, draw conclusions and evaluate the risks.  Once you have that you can move forward with confidence.

Another reason people spend too much time on planning is that there is no tolerance for mistakes.  This can be a personal or an organizational issue.  Mistakes happen and in reality most learning comes from mistakes.  Cultivate an attitude that a mistake is not a failure it is a learning opportunity.  Thomas Edison said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”  If all of us looked at mistakes as an opportunity to learn how to do something better than it would be much easier to act without fear.  When something goes wrong ask yourself what you learned from it and what will you do differently next time.

Lastly, planning becomes a project in itself when people aren’t committed to the goal of the project.  If you are not convinced that the goal is worthwhile it’s much easier to spend time planning than it is to get started with the work.  Planning can become the excuse for not acting when there is no commitment to the goal.  It’s hard to argue with someone who is checking facts, gathering needed information, or putting together a plan for completion.  However, if there is no forward movement it may be time to explore the commitment to the goal.

To avoid these traps, set clear deadlines for action as well as milestones for progress checks.  Holding yourself and others accountable for creating a good plan and then implementing the plan will go a long way towards circumventing the planning distraction trap.  As well, create an environment that allows mistakes to be used as learning opportunities.  This will give people the freedom to move forward with some calculated risks to avoid the trap of wanting 100% guaranteed and helps overcome the fear of taking risks.  This is a cultural issue within an organization and can be controlled by the leader’s attitude.

Having a plan is necessary to achieving excellence.  When planning becomes a goal in and of itself it has turned into a distraction.


Filed under Time Management

2 responses to “Planning – Preparation or Distraction

  1. Hi Carol, great article. I have to tell you that some of our offices greatest accomplishments came about by making mistakes on what we originally had planned. Mistakes are welcome, just not repeats 🙂

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