Planning vs. Action – Getting Caught by the Details

There are many people who like to make plans more than to actually take action. So in this new article I want to compare planning vs. action and how you avoid to get caught up with unnecessary details.

I’m not only talking about outlining a story or planning a novel, but all kinds of preparations. We can get obsessed with planning, trying to get every detail right.

Image about planning vs. action.
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It should be obvious that to succeed with any long-term activity planning is necessary. Especially if you’re a writer, and especially in today’s time and age. Where are you sharing your work, where and how do you want to get published, should you write short stories or novels? The list goes on.

Planning vs. Action – The problem with plans

Let me make one thing clear: Excessive planning is nothing but procrastination.

Planning, thinking about our next step and outlining those steps in detail is much easier than doing it. It’s fun to think about what we want to do, when we want to do it, and what goals we want to accomplish. We might even tell ourselves that careful planning ahead is necessary. Though, we often tell ourselves these things so we don’t have to take action. We are procrastinating.

Planning things to perfection will only do one thing, it will restrict us and not give us enough room for improvisation. When things go wrong, we are thrown into a turmoil and we’ll likely feel that everything’s going wrong now. So what do we do? We go back to our timetable or scheduler and start trying to adapt and make a better plan for ourselves, including all the fresh information available. That’s not how things should be because we’re wasting valuable time.

Planning vs. Action – My personal obsession with planning

When I was younger, I wouldn’t write a story, instead I’d spend my time planning and outlining it. I’d write the names of characters and places, come up with titles for chapters and much, much more. I’d never start writing the story itself because I was too caught up planning it all out. Eventually I’d lose interest and move on to a new project, a new plan.

A few years ago I began working online. Here, too, I’d start by making detailed plans without ever taking action. I’d gather all kinds of materials and examples and would push the actual starting point of my project further and further ahead. The problem was that all the planning and all the preparations were never doing me any good because I took no actual action. When I did, I’d often notice that none of my plans were even remotely realistic. The harsh reality I had to accept was that to improve in any activity you had to take action.

The answer isn’t to start without having any idea what to do. Doing things blindly is not the right way either and might very well have even worse results.

Instead, create a quick, rough and flexible plan. Limit the time you spend on your plans, don’t go into excessive detail. You should spend most of your time on taking action. In my case, it means sitting down and writing.

The best way to plan short-term activities, like the next week, is to state the goal you have for the next week and how you plan on reaching it. Write the activity for each day, and when you want to do it. That should be it, and it shouldn’t take long to do it. You should do so on a specific day of the week, preferably Sunday evening, so you don’t spend any time during the week on it.

One thing I’m doing myself is to spend the first ten to fifteen minutes in the morning to just sit down and note down what I’m planning to do for the day. This gives me a very rough plan, and it helps me to focus better on the things that matter. Whatever you do though, your plans should be short, clear and structured. Then spend the rest of the day or week actually taking action.

Planning Summary

There might be a need for a more complex plan, especially for long-term activities, like writing a novel. Still, I’d advise you to focus on the most important part of the project and plan those out quickly. Focus on key points and don’t waste time on petty things.

Planning and preparing things should never take more time than to take action. Things often won’t go right the first time around anyway, regardless of however much time you spend on planning them. Unpredictable things will happen. Take writing a short story, for example. You can outline it to perfection, but once you start writing, you might come up with better ideas, fresher characters or things might move into a different direction.

There are no perfect plans. Instead of trying to get things right beforehand, always take action and risk that things might turn out differently.

Like I did with this post.

Want to learn more about writing? Check out my post on writing by hand or my post on how to stop making excuses.

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