Image displays a sign pointing in 5 different directions stating Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, and Plan E, on a light peach colored background.

Are You a "Procrastiplanner?"

productivity Mar 14, 2022

Have you ever fallen into the trap of spending hours and hours planning something (a new project, a goal you're aiming for), but then never actually following through?

If so, you might be "PROCRASTIPLANNING."

What exactly is procrastiplanning? Procrastiplanning is basically just procrastination— delaying the things you need to do— by endlessly refining your plan and postponing actually getting started. 

Chances are, the importance of having a detailed plan was drilled into you growing up. We learn to write outlines for our school essays and to use checklists to complete our chores.

We're told... when you fail to plan, you plan to fail,

and... a goal without a plan is just a wish,

and... look before you leap.

And for the most part, I agree. Plans help us specify our aims and decide where to focus. They help us figure out what actions to take and keep us on track.

However, for those of us with perfectionistic or procrastinating tendencies, planning can easily become the very thing inhibiting our success— We spend day after day broadening our understanding of the goal, detailing future action steps from start to finish, mapping out contingencies, and then refining everything we've already planned. The only thing missing? Actually following through. 

Because here's the thing. The world moves fast. Regardless of how thoughtful and detailed our plans are, most things are unpredictable— So no matter how much time and effort we put into planning, it’s simply impossible to account for every possible outcome. 

Furthermore, what we learn through actual forward action often alters the path we wind up taking, no matter how thorough our initial plan. Endless refining and "perfecting" of plans prior any real-world feedback is futile.

But fear not— If you've gotten this far and you're thinking, uh oh, I think I've been procrastiplanning, read on because I'll be sharing 5 tips for a) releasing the pressure to have the perfect plan, and b) actually getting started on your goal.

 

5 Tips to End Procrastiplanning

 

1. Schedule “reflect + redirect” sessions.

Instead of trying to detail the perfect plan from the start, schedule periodic sessions where you reflect on how things are going + redirect your goal. Personally, I schedule weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly reviews (each with a slightly different purpose) to help me stay on track with my goals and make important decisions about how to move forward.

Knowing that you have scheduled time to intentionally adjust your path can help lift the pressure to have a “perfect plan” from the start.

 

2. Remember the importance of flexibility.

Remind yourself that the world is complicated and ever-changing. Oftentimes, we need to rely on adaptability and flexibility far more than a predetermined, rigid plan. 

And speaking of holding true to your vision... 

 

3. Define your mission + values.

As mentioned above, the path we take to goal-completion often evolves throughout the process, so it's important to have an internal compass guiding you through the inevitable re-calibrations of your action plan. This can take the form of a set of values, a single guiding word or phrase, or even a visual representation of your intentions in the form of a collage or "vision board." 

When your plan shifts, or you're faced with important decisions, remind yourself of your mission + values (in whatever form they take) to hold true to your overall intention, while being flexible with exactly how it all plays out.

 

4. Practice fear-setting. 

Fear-setting is an activity popularized by author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss that I've found to be utterly unparalleled in helping address the fears and self-limitations accompanying any new goal. Think of it as a cousin of traditional goal setting. 

If you're putting off a goal or action because of the fear of the unknown (as we often are when we're over-planning or "procrastiplanning"), here's what to do:

1. Define the absolute worst case scenario in detail. Would you lose your income? Your reputation? Your life? What would be the permanent impact (and I mean actually permanent) on a scale of 1-10? How likely is this outcome to occur?

2. Ask yourself, if this situation happened, what steps could you take to turn things around and repair the damage?

3. Chances are, the worst-case scenario is more unlikely than not. What are the lasting and temporary benefits of more probable scenarios? Are there any desired internal outcomes (such as confidence, improved problem solving, increased self awareness, etc.) or external outcomes (increased visibility, income, etc.)? What would be the impact of these more likely outcomes on a scale of 1-10?
(Note- This isn't a dismissal of the fear! It's crucial to actually contend with these fears as we did in Steps 1 + 2, and will again do in Step 5. This step is about understanding what you may be sacrificing by not following through). 

4. Define the cost of your inaction— financially, emotionally, physically, socially, or in any other way. If you don't pursue this goal, where will you be in a year? Ten years? How will you feel? Realize that in many situations, inaction leads (with 100% certainty) to disappointment and regret.  

5. Ask yourself what steps you can take right now to minimize the chance of the worst case scenario and maximize the impact of the potential positive benefits. 

* This fear-setting exercise has been adapted from Tim Ferriss' blog post Fear-Setting: The Most Valuable Exercise I Do Every Month.

 

5. Try the 5-Minute Rule.

If you've scheduled your reflect + redirect sections, reminded yourself of the importance of flexibility in an ever-changing world, defined your mission + values, and practiced fear-setting, and you're still finding yourself struggling to stop planning and take that first step forward, try the 5-Minute Rule. 

The 5-Minute Rule is a cognitive-behavioral technique to help you overcome procrastination. When you practice the 5-Minute Rule, you essentially require yourself to take action (aka, just do the thing) for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, you can stop if you want. 

In many cases, people find that after the initial discomfort of sitting down and getting started passes, they're able to continue working without the resistance they'd previously been experiencing. Knowing that you only have to take action for 5 minutes can help your brain stop seeing the activity as a treat since the timeframe is so confined. But once the barrier to entry has been overcome, it's easier (and often enjoyable) to keep making progress.  

Even if you don't keep going after the timer buzzes, you've at least made 5 minutes of progress, which is something. And the next time you sit down to work, you'll no longer have that "blank-page syndrome" (or whatever the equivalent is for your industry). 

 

 

The bottom line? When done well, the planning process helps us clarify our mission + action steps. When done poorly, the planning process keeps us stuck in an endless loop of procrastination— refining and refining the "plan," failing to ever get started and allow ourselves to get real world feedback.

And look, I'm not going to totally throw planning out the window. I love planning and plan (ha!) to map out all my goals + projects in detail. What’s key is making sure that our plan (and our planning habits) serve us, rather than hold us back.  

 

What’s your relationship to planning? Do you find yourself getting stuck in the planning stage or are you a “jump right in” kind of person?

 

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