“What have you missed out on in life because of poor planning?” This is a question I frequently ask myself. Some Saturday evenings, I look at social media and long to have used my day as my friends did – exploring with my husband, shopping, hanging out with friends, or finishing a large project. What I would give to reclaim my wasted weekends and devote them to laughter, making good memories, and refocusing life in my desired direction. Can you relate?
Missed weekend opportunities are one of a few regrets which seem to float to the surface when I survey my life. If given the time, we can all think of something we squandered due to lack of planning. My home is still not organized and that has much to do with prioritizing my time towards other “ventures.” This results in forgone hospitality opportunities and a general feeling of unrest in my own home. I know I will never accidentally create the home I desire. I must plan or I make no progress.
Often my weeks feel rushed and disorganized due to my ‘deal with it later’ tendencies. What will I make for dinner tonight? When will I find time to finish this PreEngaged project? When did the kitchen get this messy?! How much anxiety do I produce simply by skipping the planning stage?
Tonight, I will take 30 minutes and plan out the meals for this week and make a grocery list. Wednesday evening, we will have leftovers and I will spend those extra hours working on this time-sensitive project. While my coffee is brewing in the morning, I will empty the dishwasher and fill it throughout the day so the dishes do not pile up on the counter.
Do not get me wrong my fellow free spirits. We know every moment cannot be neatly tucked into organized boxes (and my boxes would never stay organized even if I had them); but some peace, traction, and order can be gained by taking a little time for planning.
“Failure to plan is a plan for failure.”
Various versions of this quote are attributed to Benjamin Franklin. Others say Alan Lakein penned it. Though we may never know who made this phrase popular, it is eight words and cut straight to the heart. Another quote I love and have included in several of my posts is from Zig Ziglar, “The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.” Though not specifically about planning, it reminds me of my goals (otherwise known as nice ideas unless there is an action plan for completing them) and of my self-made obstacles such as my constant desire for comfort.
In planning for this post, I came across a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt which kicked me in the stomach: “It takes the same time and energy to wish and to plan, choose wisely what you do.” Wow. If I could calculate the hours I have spent wishing for something to happen rather than planning for it, I would not want to! When we lie in bed at night and wish for change, we could be planning for it instead. I will be writing this quote on a notecard!
So, here are some points to consider…from someone who has spent a lot of time thinking about planning and learned a lot from avoiding it. Oh, what I would tell my younger self!
- Plan to plan.
- “Did you just make plans to make plans?” I remember this quote from a movie, and it makes me smile as I think of my naturally organized friends (and especially my mom) who enjoy the process of planning. Plan a time each week to be your planning time. Sunday evening at 6 pm I will take 30-60 minutes to map out my week so I can feel more at peace during the week. This will come in especially handy when you have a spouse and children in the mix!
- “An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.” – Dale Carnegie
- Plan for the next 20 years.
- Before you plan for this year or this week, make a general plan for the next 20 years. What do you want to accomplish in those years? Where do you want to go? What do you want to do? Knowing our plans rarely work out the way we expect, it is still important to map out a path. Otherwise, we look back over twenty years and wonder where they went.
- “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” – Les Brown
- Plan for this year.
- Each Fall, Eric comes to me with a suggested theme for the following year (this year being Intentionality). These themes are a special way of giving us direction in how we prioritize our year. To commemorate, we commission a piece of art to remind us of our theme. The walls of our home are filled with past themes!
- Plan for this week.
- Originally, I would have suggested planning your week, then year, and then 20 years, but I realize this is backwards. To make the most out of our planning, we need a big picture in sight. We can plan for week after week without shooting for any ultimate goal. When you sit down to map out your week, consider how your weekly plans contribute to your yearly plan and your 20-year plan.
- Plan for love.
- Heather, we cannot plan for love. Love just happens when we least expect it. There is nothing romantic about making plans to love. Love is spontaneous. Nope! Teenage and young adult Heather believed this too, but it simply is not true. Infatuation can be spontaneous and often is, but planning should go into love. No, we cannot simply will a person to find us and love us, but we can (and should) prepare for love. Prepare to be the type of spouse we want to be (to complement the type of spouse we want). Prepare to be ready when the time comes. As we noted earlier from Eleanor Roosevelt, planning and wishing take the same amount of time and energy. Put that longing into action. I have a friend who got tired of hoping and started actively planning. It was not long after that she met someone special – someone she might have missed had she been home wishing for love.
- Plan for friends.
- Like love, solid friendships do not just happen. We may meet unexpectedly, but it takes time and effort to nurture and cultivate a relationship. Plan game nights, dinners, day trips, and even texts/calls if you need to. If you are in a new area, plan for making friends. Make your surroundings favorable for entertaining and spend time in places where you are most likely to find like-minded people.
- Plan for success.
- Success at work. Success in health. Success in relationships. Success in anything. State a goal, write it down, and create a plan for completing it. Success at work can be broken down into 100 small goals. Same with health and relationships. Make a goal, make it SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based), and knock it out of the park.
- Plan for eternity.
- Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. We do not stumble into Heaven. Those who spend eternity with Christ are those who have received Him – for those whose hearts He has regenerated. “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’” (John 3:3) When making goals, think about eternal implications. Eternally speaking, does this matter? Nothing on earth is as important as planning for eternity. They say life is short. Life on earth is short, but eternity does not end.
- “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12, ESV)
There is much to be gained by planning and much to lose by avoiding it – trust me. Turning 40 has inspired me to take a long, hard look at my life and lack of planning is a theme which has stolen so much from me, and as a result, from my husband. Some have a natural proclivity towards planning ahead, and I find myself jealous of them at times. My friend moved into a new home two days ago and her front porch is already bursting with Fall décor. But, we know jealousy helps nothing. We thank God for our talents and plan to improve in our less gifted areas. It takes as much time and energy to be jealous than to make plans. I am sure Eleanor Roosevelt would agree.
Be inspired! Buy a calendar or a planner and set an alarm on your phone to use it. Create planning sessions for yourself and with your significant other if he or she is willing. Take the reins of your life away from chance. It is time to make some plans! The future belongs to those who prepare for it.
May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! (Psalm 20:4, ESV)
Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22, ESV)
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. … The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:3 & 9, ESV)
What are you planning for the next 20 years, the next year, and the next week?