Stop Making Plans: How to Prevent Becoming Your Own Worst Obstacle

Perfectionists may find it better if they stop making plans and simply start taking some small actions.

stop making plans
Photo by @marjanblan on Unsplash

Imagine a friend calls you and says, “Surprise! We’re going on a trip and I promise you it’s going to be amazing!”

OK, that’s exciting. Could be fun.

But, what if this friend tells you. “We’re leaving tomorrow. Pack your bags. And, oh, by the way, you’ll need to draw me a map.”

Then click, the phone goes dead.

Um, wait. What?

You’ll probably start wondering:

  • I have stuff to do. I‘ve got responsibilities. How am I supposed to drop everything and go?
  • What am I supposed to pack? Ski gear? Bathing suit? I don’t know where I’m going!
  • And, how in the world do I draw a map when I don’t know the destination!?!?

And, as a result, what will you do?

Nothing.

And, it would be completely understandable why you can’t do anything until you reach your friend again.

When you don’t know the destination, you can’t make plans

So, why is it that so many smart and talented women beat themselves up for not moving forward when they don’t know YET what they want to do with their lives?

Why call yourself “lazy” for not taking action towards your “dream job” when you are unsure of what that is?

I know what it feels like to be stuck. It’s painful.

Looking back, I’m the one who gave myself the most grief whenever I didn’t know my next move. While I was in graduate school, I worried incessantly that no one would hire me. After leaving my academic job when I wanted to stay home with my firstborn, I was the one who berated myself for being foolish to waste 7 years of post-graduate work.

It took me a long time to figure out that I wanted to be a coach. And, then it took me even longer to give myself permission to be a writer. I learned the hard way.

You don’t have to. You can take advantage of the “collective wisdom” I gleaned working with my coaching clients.

Instead of ruminating, understand this

There are two key ideas I didn’t know back when I was struggling:

  1. You can’t make plans when you don’t know what the outcome is that you desire. Planning is important when you can describe the end result with clarity. Trying to draw a map when you don’t know what your destination is, and when the path is murky, will inevitably keep you stuck.
  2. Being hard on yourself will not only demotivate but further immobilize you. You will lose your enthusiasm and confidence the very two things smart and caring women need. They are the ingredients that will help you discover how to share your gifts with the world while you continue to care for important people in your lives.

What to do instead

Stop trying to make long-term plans. Instead, focus on making each day better.

More specifically, think of one thing you can do today that might move you a little closer to where you want to be in the next couple of weeks or next month. For example, if you dream of becoming a writer (like I did), set a timer for 10-20 minutes and write a scene or jot down an idea. Or, maybe take a moment to email that friend who suggested a good writing class, or do a Google search for a writing workshop in your neighborhood or online.

One baby step is far better than leaps not taken.

The Lighthouse Method®*

To learn more

To stop making plans and focus on making baby steps each day, I created the FLASH daily planning that incorporates five of my best strategies. While you can get the gist of it here, perfectionists tend to complicate it, so I teach a masterclass on Maven on how to seamlessly incorporate it into your busy life.

Stop feeling like there is never enough time. Create space for what’s important to you.

Learn what typically holds smart and creative people back and 5 simple strategies you can use every day.

A cohort-based course hosted by Maven.

This is an updated version of an article originally published in September 2021.

This post is the first in a series. Read the second, the third, the fourth and the fifth. Don’t miss other articles by subscribing to my newsletter.