Note: This post purposefully focuses on personal planning vs action, don’t get me started on organisational planning vs action!
June 30 has passed….most of us have or are about to be subject to mid year reviews whether that be organisations tracking against KPI’s, performance reviews, even financial reviews ready for tax time but what about a personal reflection, how are you tracking on your goals and aspirations for the year, or for your life and career as a whole?
As Ross Hill stated on Twitter:
In addition its soon approaching time to commence thinking about and planning for 2010…how do you balance the never ending struggle between action and planning?
I recently had a friend move overseas, in a discussion about his decision to move he explained that 2009 was his ‘Year For Exploration’. Two things struck me, the first was I wasn’t the only person who named their year! The second was the call to action within his statement…I had always termed my year, ‘Year of…’ which implies being passive and something happening to me whereas his ‘Year for…’ is a plan, a call to action, assertive and in control in determining and fulfilling his goals for the year.
It is too easy to get lost in the planning and to not take action. Both aspects are important as planning provides structure and direction to action however it is easy mistake planning for action as well. I was challenged by Derek Sivers blog post Shut up! Announcing your plans make you less motivated to accomplish them. It focuses around the idea that research conducted in 1933 indicated that people who spoke about their intentions are less likely to make them happen…and that for some merely announcing their goals and intentions satisfied the brain enough to no longer need to actually take action and achieve them.
As Sivers states:
Once you’ve told people of your intentions, it gives you a “premature sense of completeness.”
Wray Herbert also wrote an article on this http://www.newsweek.com/id/197006 Again he discussed a study where law students who had publicly announced their intention to read more law journals had an inflated sense of their legal capabilities. He states:
That is, simply stating a strategy for becoming a good lawyer made them feel like they were real lawyers, and this inflated self-image paradoxically made them less hard working. They had become legends in their own minds, and legends don’t have to get down and dirty.
I have to admit that I fall victim to this often…there are so many things I want to do and achieve that I manage to make myself feel better by stating my intentions to complete them and then not follow through (this is not intentional but reinforces the studies above). This seems to be particularly true when its finances that keep me from doing exactly what I want for example the University course I would like to study next (there is always at least one bubbling over in my mind) but the exorbitant cost (and the insane balance of my HECS debt to date!) prevent me from pursuing it seriously. I have also been ‘planning’ to visit Japan for at least the last 3 years however…and yes there is always a however…annual leave and finances have constrained that also. Anyone that knows me knows that I am an ambitious and quite determined person and that I will find a way to make these things happen if I really want them. So perhaps the power of ‘planning’ is in the dreaming?
There are some tools available to help track your goals and keep habits.
1. Don’t Break the Chain! is a visual motivation technique where you mark the days off a calendar that you work toward a particular goal.
2. I am also a firm believer in the overlooked aspect of reflective practice and Lifehacker provides a series around the weekly review habit to assist in getting things done.
3. I also like Satisfying things I wanna do this week dammit! to establish a work/ life weekly balance and holistic view to week by week planning and action.
So as we are now mid year through 2009, take this opportunity to reflect on where you are at this year, in your career, and life as a whole and review how you tracking in your planning vs action. Are you a planner? Are you an action taker? Or are you one of the few who manages to balance both?