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10 Reasons to Start Planning Your Life

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This is a guest blog by Laura Jonson. She is a freelance writer. She has a lot of projects to work on. She’s currently developing a coursework writing service. In the future she is going to launch her own blog dedicated to self-improvement.


“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” – Paul J. Meyer

Fact is, we live in uncertain times. You may think you can plan your life for ten, or even five, years down the road and expect that everything will turn out as you plan. But then again, Murphy’s Law can rear its ugly head and “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” 

So, chances are, you will find yourself quite far from where you expected to be. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the point is, you never know what is just around the corner.

Does this mean that you should you just forget about having a plan, since it probably won’t turn out as you expected? Not at all. That would be shortchanging yourself and not being able to reach your full potential.

You still need to plan your life to go in a certain direction, but make it flexible to adjust to the unexpected. The key here is to assess your progressive growth and see where you are and how you’re going. Since circumstances change, adapt your strategies to ensure that you are going in the right direction in achieving your end goal.

You should still aim for success and productivity, even as you brace for failure and setbacks. Author Rose Tremain advises, “In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.”

If that sounds like a lot of work, then you would be right. It is. Yet there are many reasons why you should plan your life anyway. Here are 10 of them.

Priorities

Stones in a jar

The rock-pebble-sand-water-in-a-jar story of Dr. Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) illustrates how a lack of planning can derail your life in significant ways.

The rocks represent the important things in your life such as your family, children, friends, work, or whatever you value in your life. The pebbles, sand, and water represent the less important yet necessary things you do on a regular basis such as commuting to work, running errands, answering emails, shopping, and so on.

If you do not plan your life, there’s a big chance that you will fail to put in all the big rocks in the jar of your life before everything else, so you will not be able to fit them all in. You will find in the end that your life, full as it is of endless tasks and activities, is empty because you failed to fit in important parts of it.

Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar observed, “Many people spend more time in planning the wedding than they do in planning the marriage.” So true.

Purpose

Planning your life helps achieve your purpose. It doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is something you want. You might decide that your purpose in life is to be the most sought-after supermodel in the world or the best taco maker on your block. Whatever it is, you cannot achieve it without planning.

As Mark Victor Hansen aptly puts it, “When you have purpose, you don’t have time for negativity.” This way, you can focus all your energy on getting what you want to achieve in life. Keep in mind that attitude will determine your altitude. With a strong sense of purpose and a positive attitude towards life and work, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.

Motivation

Nothing makes you feel less like moving than having no goals.

A big part of planning your life is setting goals, which gives you something to aim for. If you plan to have your own home by the time you hit 30, you are motivated to work hard and save money. If your plan is to have friends over for dinner, you get up early to clean the house and prepare the food.

Planning and setting goals are not going to get you to where you want to be, but they do give you the impetus to get you off your behind. You can have a selection of short- and long-term goals in your plan, but you do need to have goals so you will feel motivated to get going. Otherwise, each day just blends into the next, and before you know it, life has just passed you by.

Satisfaction

Many of us are driven to achieve what we set out to do. That’s our motivation. Yet planning is not just about the journey; it is about defining a point of satisfaction.

You need to feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish a task or reach a goal. The more difficult the task or goal, the more satisfaction you get. Behavioral scientist and author Steve Maraboli says, “If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?” It would be like getting into a car and setting off without having a destination in mind. You’d just drive on and on, not knowing where you were going and getting more tired with each passing minute. When you finally stopped, you’d have no idea why you went in the first place. You’d feel no satisfaction and no sense of accomplishment.

Decision-making

The right destination

Making important decisions is harder when you make no plans for your life. Since you have no direction, the options open to you make no difference, so you settle for the easiest ones “just because.”

When you have a plan, you make choices based on your ultimate goal. You want to build planes, so you choose a course in aeronautic engineering. You want to become a great chef, so you take a culinary course. You decide not to buy a second car because you are saving up for a wedding or a house. Each choice can affect your life plan, and knowing that can help you make the right ones.

Security

If you plan your life right, you can reduce the risks you face by planning for the unexpected.

Insurance covers much of that, but you need to secure other things. Choose a job that has good work-life balance so that you can spend time with your family, and build a strong relationship with them.

Author John Maxwell says, “Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives. Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have.”

Make time for personal development to become a better person. Make an effort to connect with friends and have a healthy social life. When you have done all you can to cover all your bases, you will have a sense of security that precludes incessant worrying, so you can be more productive.

As political leader Winston Churchill said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”

Delegation

Some people think that the more tasks and activities they cram into their lives, the more productive they are. This is a result of poor or zero planning and the inability to say no, both enemies of productivity.

No one can do everything, and to attempt to do so usually results in incomplete tasks or poor execution. Planning your life gives you a good idea of what you can accomplish within a certain period, and what tasks would make more sense—and yield better results—to delegate to others. If you are in sales, and you need to crunch the numbers for a client’s return on investment, you can get the work done better and faster if you delegate the job to a business analyst.

Entrepreneur Jessica Jackley agrees: “As all entrepreneurs know, you live and die by your ability to prioritize. You must focus on the most important, mission-critical tasks each day and night, and then share, delegate, delay or skip the rest.”

This applies to everything in your life, not only in business. Save time by planning your day and delegating anything you can’t do yourself or that someone else can do better and faster.

Strategy

Strategy

We all have some type of strategy when we go about our day, though we may not realize it.

We shower first before we get dressed because to do it the other way around does not make sense. Yet many people do things in a topsy-turvy way in their lives because they have no plan.

You employ no strategies to get your job done faster or to accomplish tasks more efficiently because you only exist in the now. You have no foresight because you have no plan. You muddle along until you eventually end up…somewhere. You could have gotten to that point more quickly or easily if you’d had a plan in the first place.

There are many paths to a certain goal, and the value of a strategy is in accomplishing that goal in the best possible way. Gemma Arterton says, “I’m always surprised at what I actually end up doing because I don’t have a strategy or a game plan, especially now that I’m making my own choices.”

Some people believe that it is better to let things just happen and go with the flow, and for a short time that can work. However, if you have no strategy for important things in your life, you could end up with nothing.

Novelist Alvin Toffler says, “You’ve got to think about big things while you’re doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction.”

Control

A big reason to plan your life is to impose some type of control.

While 90% of the things happening around you are beyond your sphere of influence, you can make sure you have a good grip on the other 10% when you have a plan.

Setting goals, strategizing, acting, delegating…these are all mechanisms of control, parts of the rudder you can use to steer the boat of your life no matter how the wind blows or the sea pitches. You can survive if you simply hold on to the sides of the boat and pray it doesn’t tip over. However, wouldn’t it be better to steer out of danger at the first opportunity that presents itself?

Personal time management author Alan Lakein says, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” You can use planning to gain some control over your life’s direction. You may end up compromising because of your circumstances, but at the very least, you are conscious of what is happening to you, and can choose your next play.

It is far better to fail and know how you got there than to find yourself looking up bewildered from the bottom of the barrel and asking, “What happened?” When you have a plan, you can take setbacks and failures and learn from them, so that next time you will not make the same mistakes.

Former senator Robert Foster Bennet says, “A desire to be in charge of our own lives, a need for control, is born in each of us. It is essential to our mental health, and our success, that we take control.”

Success

The last, but definitely not the least, reason to plan your life is to achieve success.

The funny thing with success is that it is a relative term. It doesn’t mean the same thing for everybody at every stage of life, which is why it is so important to have a plan.

The goals you set define who you are in your present situation and your personal definition of success. Very young people define success as having lots of money, fame, or a mix of both. As people mature, these goals may change to include less tangible goals, such as having a happy family life or pursuing a passion.

The point is that a plan can help you achieve success at each stage of your life, no matter what it is. It is a road map with many destinations, and you can achieve each leg of your journey through life more quickly and consciously.

Educator and author Booker T. Washington said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” When you are able to look back at what you have achieved and how you achieved it—not by accident, but by design—then you are truly successful.

A Note on Productivity

This article started with a quote about productivity, but the reasons set forth focused more on planning than productivity. The reason for this is simple: planning is a map, action is the process, and productivity is the result.

When you plan your life constructively and carry it out conscientiously, productivity is inevitable. The nature of productivity changes in tandem with your definition of success, so it will be difficult to measure productivity in isolation. If you carry out your plan successfully, then you achieve productivity.

The Next Step

Now that you have 10 good reasons to plan your life for personal success and productivity, the next step is to start making a plan.

The first thing you have to do is identify the rocks of your life to make sure you prioritize your goals. When you have established the rocks, think about what you desire for each one and write this down as your long- and short-term goals. Make sure that your goals are realistic within your present circumstances, so that you don’t get discouraged by not reaching any of them. For each goal, write down your plan for achieving that goal.

It may seem an overwhelming task at first, but you can break it up into smaller chunks. You don’t have to make a plan for everything right away. In fact, it would make better sense to start slow to get a feel for the process.

You can start with one major goal, e.g., start saving for your own house, and add to your plan a little at a time. The important thing is to get started with one goal—and at once. You will find that it gets easier as you get into the habit of making a plan, and you will start to realize the benefits.

Investor Warren Buffett says, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” Make sure you have a shady tree in your own future by planning for it in the present.


This is a guest blog by Laura Jonson. She is a freelance writer. She has a lot of projects to work on. She’s currently developing a coursework writing service. In the future she is going to launch her own blog dedicated to self-improvement.

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3 Comments

Posted by Anna  | May 6, 2016 at 4:09PM | Reply

This is such an awesome post. One of the most motivating posts i have read for a long time. I also love the quotes. They really push this post and are very well chosen!

i will make a plan now! Thank you. :)

Posted by Shawn  | May 8, 2016 at 8:49PM | Reply

Great post and very inspiring.
You are right about being successful. First by identifying what we want in life, then put in the ‘rocks’ and then create plans and take action.

And I love it when you said focus on only 1 goal. Most people spread too thin by focusing too many goals at a time. Put all energy and focus in just one. That’s a how it works in life. :)

Posted by Alexandra  | June 30, 2016 at 8:02AM | Reply

I could never relate to people who don’t have a plan and just take it as it comes. Laura, your article is a great inspiration and it will help me get better and better at building an outline for my life.

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