Most of us know that planning is a good thing, but just how important is it? If you want to succeed in life, planning is absolutely essential.
Benjamin Franklin is attributed as saying, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” Whether he’s the one who came up with this quote or not, the truth remains: planning is necessary if you want to be successful.
Here are the top nine reasons why planning is important in life.
1. Planning allows you to make time for your priorities.
Planning allows you to make sure that you have time to do the things that are important to you. When you’re planning your schedule, ask yourself, “What is important to me?” You should schedule those important things first.
There’s an illustration that’s often been used to explain why you should schedule important things first.
A man fills a container with large rocks, then asks the classroom if the container is full. When they say yes, he adds smaller pebbles and asks again. Now that the cracks between the large rocks are filled with pebbles, the class again notes that the container is full. The man repeats this with both sand and water until at last nothing else can be put into the container.
But what would happen if he did these things in reverse? If he first put in the water, then the sand, then the pebbles, and finally the big rocks, he would not have room for the rocks!
The big rocks in this illustration represent the things that are important to us. When we schedule them first, we guarantee that they will fit into our life. For most of us, work will be one of our big rocks.
Without an income, we cannot afford to live. But what else is important to you? For many, life outside of work may make up the big rocks or the pebbles: family, religious activities, hobbies, health.
Whatever things are a priority to you should be scheduled first. Otherwise, they might not fit in your life.
“The trouble with many plans is that they are based on the way things are now. To be successful, your personal plan must focus on what you want, not what you have.”
– Nido Qubein
2. Planning helps you stay motivated.
Planning can help you stay motivated. When you set goals and make plans, you have something to move toward.
When you were a kid, you probably didn’t do too much during summer vacation. Since you didn’t have school or deadlines or other commitments, you probably weren’t that motivated to get things done.
The same thing happens in our regular schedules when we don’t make an effort to plan the direction we want to go. When we plan and set deadlines for ourselves, we stay motivated.
For many people, goals without deadlines will remain undone. Having that deadline can help keep you moving and motivated.
3. Planning can help you make decisions.
When you plan your schedule, it will be easier for you to make decisions.
For example, if you’re asked to participate in a project but know your schedule is full, you’ll be able to say “no” without feeling guilty. If you haven’t taken the time to plan, you may say “yes” to more things than you’re able to complete.
Planning can also help you make career decisions. If your plan includes both short and long-term goals, you’ll be able to choose jobs that will positively influence the outcomes of your goals.
“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.“
– Yogi Berra
4. Planning can help you prepare for the unexpected.
If you properly plan and consistently work to achieve goals in the timeframes you’ve set, you’ll be more equipped to deal with emergencies as they come up. When you were in school, did you ever wait until the last minute to work on an assignment?
Even if you could complete it in time, you probably have a story about a time when you got sick, had a technology problem, or ran into difficulties that could have been avoided if you didn’t procrastinate.
When you plan to complete things with time to spare, unexpected events will not completely derail you from reaching your goals and meeting your deadlines.
“Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.”
– Richard Cushing
5. Planning can help you delegate tasks.
If you plan ahead, it is easier for you to delegate tasks to other people. At work, this may mean having an employee work on a project or prepare a report. If you haven’t planned ahead, you may not be comfortable asking someone to do a last-minute project.
By planning ahead, you allow plenty of time for someone else to complete a task. It’s best if you allow a little extra time, in case they don’t finish in time. This also allows you to look over their work before the deadline.
When you take time to plan, take inventory of what tasks you absolutely must do yourself and which tasks can be delegated to someone else. When you pass tasks on to other people, you free yourself up to do the things that only you can do.
6. Planning can help you use your time strategically.
Planning in advance can help you use your time more strategically. For example, if you plan to drive an hour for a doctor’s appointment and need to take the afternoon off of work, plan to do other things near the doctor’s office to most effectively use your time.
If you have shopping to do or other errands to run, try to schedule them for the same afternoon.
When you go grocery shopping, do you zig-zag around the store, or do you shop for items aisle by aisle? If you’re trying to make the best use of your shopping time, you probably get your items in a logical order that requires the least amount of walking back and forth.
In the same way, make sure that the plans you make are the most efficient use of your time. When you strategically plan, you can make the most out of every day, every trip, and every task.
7. Planning can help you evaluate your progress.
Planning can help you evaluate what progress you’re making toward your goals. For example, if you planned to get ten things done this week, it will be easy to look back to determine if you’ve done all ten things when the week has passed.
When you plan, you make it easier to see where you’re progressing and where you’re not.
As you get more experienced at planning, you’ll know what necessary tasks take up your time. You’ll be better able to accommodate things like household cleaning, errands, and medical appointments.
8. Planning gives you options.
If you’ve ever planned a vacation, you know that planning is a necessary part of making the vacation enjoyable. You won’t necessarily plan every minute of your vocation, but you’ll probably set aside blocks of time to see certain attractions or do certain activities.
By planning your vacation, even loosely, you allow yourself to make the most of your options while you’re resting.
This is also true of planning at work and for your daily life. When you take time to plan the details, you free yourself up to try new things. If you’ve planned things out, you’ll know exactly how your time is being spent and how much time you have left to do new things.
Planning is especially important if you want to take on a project like a book. College professors often write books during school breaks or during a paid sabbatical.
By planning their schedules, they know exactly how a big task like writing a book will fit into their life. With their plan in hand, they have more options available to them.
9. Planning can help prevent decision fatigue.
Sometimes we get paralyzed by the number of decisions that need to be made during the day. Some researchers claim that adults make up to 35,000 decisions a day.
Many of these are unconscious decisions, like choosing to wear your running shoes to workout or choosing to take a shower before having breakfast.
However, the number of decisions we have to make each day can cause us to feel fatigued. When you’re trying to be productive, deciding what to do between each task can cause lost time and lost momentum.
When you plan your day, your week, and your month, you equip yourself to quickly tackle tasks without increased decision fatigue. After completing each task, all you need to do is look at your schedule and move on to the next task.
With proper planning, you won’t need to actively decide what you should do next.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln
Planning is not just important. It’s absolutely essential if you want to be organized and successful. When you have a plan in place, you have something to keep you grounded during times of stress.
No matter what you want to do in life or what field you want to work in, it’s important that you take time to plan. When you plan, you can more effectively use your time and keep up when you need to be productive.
Taking time to plan means setting yourself up to succeed.