Failing to plan is much easier in the short term

Longer ago than it’s polite to admit, Bloglily tagged me with the meme to ask how I plan things. I didn’t do it, because I don’t really organise myself, so it never got on a to do list, so I never did it, so it’s all rather embarrassing. However, today I found a sheet of paper I wrote up a year ago when I was working out things that need doing to the house, and it clicked itself in beside the “must do Bloglily’s meme” entry in my brain, and so I offer it here. Pretty, isn’t it?

To Do List

And confusing. And impractical.

The long and the short is that I don’t have a consistent system. As I’ve said, I tend to carry my to do list around in my head which is a Bad Thing. The diagram above shows an attempt to get the list out of my head and prioritised in some way.

At work where these things matter, I either plonk my way through my email inbox, red flagging things that need dealing with and confirming them as complete when I’ve done them, or else I make a list in my notebook and tick them off when I’ve done them. I’ve taken recently to doing beautiful diagrams in Visio of things that need doing and the order they need doing in, and they look rather like demented seaweed. Oddly, I have a reputation at work for planning and preparation, but that is because I can be heard snarling things like “failing to plan is planning to fail” and “being without a list makes you listless” and “poor preparation makes for p***-poor performance” at myself, and occasionally at others.

Every five years or so I make a Life Plan. I write the things I want to have or do more of in coloured pen on a sheet of flip-chart paper. They tend to be fairly generic things like “laugh” and “do gardening”. I also work through the exercises in “What Color is Your Parachute” which help me think about what I want in my life and what I want out of it. It can take me years to gather my thoughts for the really big changes like buying a house or making a career change or choosing a degree course, but once I’ve gathered them I end up putting my criteria into a checklist of 4 – 8 things. I am then ruthlessly uncompromising about the criteria on the list, but very patient.

Ultimately though, I find that lists of things to do are usually so oppressive and depressing, and full of so much obligation and so little that’s actually worth doing for its own sake, that I tend not to bother. Which is why only half of the things on the picture above have actually been dealt with a year later.

6 responses to “Failing to plan is much easier in the short term

  1. Planning is over rated!

    In fairness, I plan, as well all have to. But I don’t often plan to a level where I commit myself to lists and priorities. Richard Oliver’s 4 archetypes found me to be a Medicine Woman, a role enjoying change and flexibility and possibility. More formal Myers Briggs found me to be an ENFP each time I’ve done it.

    I guess I’m not one to be shackled and constrained by ordered lists either 8)

  2. My domestic organisation tends to consist of making lists – which then get lost under piles of detritus.

    I liked this flowchart – found over at casa az

  3. I make short lists, as I only have very realistically low expectations of myself. I know what I am capable of and what is too much. So, I only write down what I know I can do. When that list is done, I make a new short one. Usually there are only 3 or 4 items on the list and the goals are not very high. Everything is attainable. I never make a list with everything that ought to get done, because then nothing will ever get done, because of feeling overwhelmed.

  4. I am particularly taken with the spider diagram on cleaning, and now intend to spend very much less time cleaning and a great deal more drawing spiders. Thank you for helping me to prioritise my life.

  5. I think you should enter that for the Turner prize, but it’s probably too pretty to win..

    I take the mosquito approach to tasks rather than the spider one; I wait till it’s buzzing in my head so much that I finally swat it. That’s probably a Bad Thing, but it works for me..

  6. Glad it’s not just me, Shrink.

    Teuchter, you’re right, that’s a cool flowchart.

    Irene, I think you might have the right approach. I do get overwhelmed by long lists.

    Omega Mum, don’t diss my spider! My Ma used to nurture spiders and look after them. There were never any flies in her house, despite a rather desultory approach to throwing things away.

    Julie, I recognise the sound of that mosquito.

    Thanks all for commenting.


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