The cabin emitted a loud ding, like someone outside the plane wished to come in. Seeing as how we were 30,000 feet in the air though, I presumed we had reached our cruising altitude. Soon coming over the loudspeaker, the captain confirmed my theory.
Reaching down, I pulled my laptop out of my backpack. It quickly powered up and I just as quickly had a blank document open.
A fresh start
I had decided it was time to start a new business. My previous venture had come up short a few months back and I was itching to get out there once again. So, prior to the flight, I had done some research and had determined what I would do.
I was going to start an ecommerce watch brand. Put in more simple terms, I was going to sell watches online.
Now on the plane, the planner in me was having a field day. I had four+ hours until we landed and I was going to use that time to strategize for my “business.”
The long list
On that blank document, on the screen before me, I noted everything: how to find manufacturers; branding ideas; legal and administrative details; you name it. Was any of it necessary though? Or was I just wasting my energy on unimportant tasks that felt important?
I had instruction after instruction listed out. Do X, then do Y, then do Z. I created systems and policies to address the many decisions trees sure to lie ahead. I could foresee every little detail of what was to become a thriving corporation.
And yet, the business (as in I) failed just six months later, regardless of my efforts on the plane.
I couldn’t make the model work for me. Others certainly can (and do), but I couldn’t. Not in that instance, at least. So, I shut things down. All that time planning, prepping, systemizing: wasted. But, was it a waste?
Was the time spent strategizing truly for nothing? Were my efforts really in vain?
Didn’t see that coming, did you?
I wasted my time, at least in terms of that business. I have since learned from the experience and now apply those lessons to my current business and in my writings (like this article you’re reading), but again, regarding that business, my time on the plane was nothing if not mere procrastination.
It was planning instead of doing.
If you’re like me – organized, pro-planning, intentional – you may have experienced this feeling before. You have a storm of thoughts and ideas flying through your mind that you must capture, else they be lost forever.
Here’s the thing though.
When you give in, when you decide to map out each and every step, you do nothing but add rigidity to your plans. Yes, rigidity. What seems like a smart, proactive move is actually creating a prison of your own inflexibility.
When things change
Think about it: if you spend the time, the hours, planning out each step of your venture (ie. a business, goal, etc.) in great detail, what will you do when something comes along that changes how you view things?
What happens to your goal when you decide you must go right, left, then left again but a tree falls and prevents you from following that path? Do you quit? Panic? Break down? Why not all three? You’ll certainly want to.
After all, you spent all that time thinking through every scenario. And now, this… this… tree gets in the way?! Woe is me!
Keep it brief. Move on.
That strict policy you created for yourself is making you feel entirely rigid, unable to change as circumstances do. And thus, tied to that rigidity, you are unable to make any real progress. That’s not even to mention the hours of time wasted on unnecessary planning.
Time that would be much better spent doing the actual work.
And look, I empathize with you. You feel a crazy urge to plan and it won’t go away until you do something about it. I get it, I just felt that way this morning. I had something new pop up with my blog (QuickBooost) and I wanted to start creating new systems and plans around it.
But I didn’t.
Instead, I wrote down a couple brief sentences on my phone along with a question that read: Delete this because it’s not necessary right now?
Focus on step A
Later today when I go through my note, I will certainly delete those sentences. That, or move them to a Someday Maybe doc that houses things that I might want to do in the future.
My mind wouldn’t let me move forward without writing something down though. That’s why I wrote down the bare minimum and have a plan for what to do with that note. I didn’t spend hours creating a new policy.
I didn’t go on high alert.
Instead of worrying about steps B, C, D, E, F, G, I only concerned myself with step A. Once step A is dealt with, I’ll handle step B, but not until that time. Because I know that to take advantage of this moment, I need to remain flexible in all that is to come.
Moving forward with the urge to create systems
In your life and business, fight the urge to plan out too far in advance. Instead, focus on the step directly in front of you. Then, once you take that step, decide where to go from there.
You’ll find that you:
- Save yourself a lot of time
- Give yourself the flexibility to change course as needed
In the beginning of any endeavor, keep things light. Hold onto your plans loosely so that you can adjust quickly. Then, once you have a better idea of what you’re doing, go ahead and create those systems for yourself.
But until you get to that point, fight the urge. You’ll be better off for it.