The Planning Trap

How the wrong approach can keep you running ragged, while your goals stay stuck

It’s time to check in on your goals. If you did some high-level goal setting back at the beginning of the year, by this point you may be finding yourself in a bit of a slump; or maybe life has just gotten in the way and you’ve put your goals on the back burner.

The danger of setting your goals aside is that you may never pick them up again.

Or maybe you’re like one of my clients, let’s call him Tom. In a recent conversation, Tom was absolutely baffled because he had been working really hard on his goal to organize his office, but still hadn’t moved forward an inch.

I asked him to tell me what he’s been up to, and he showed me several sheets of paper where he’d taken notes from his research about his new filing system – color-coded folders, storage tubs, shelving, etc. Then he brought out a catalogue so I could see the new desk he was thinking about ordering.

Finally I asked him, “What have you actually done to organize your office?”

He stared at me for a moment and then said, “Well, nothing. I’ve been working on my plan.”

Tom had inadvertently slipped into a very common pattern that gets in the way of people achieving their goals. He had gotten stuck in planning and busy work, instead of taking concrete actions (such as actually sorting through one of the piles of papers on top of his desk).

There’s nothing wrong with being excited about your goals and spending time planning how you’re going to work towards them. In fact, a certain amount of planning is crucial to your success. Here are some tips to make sure you don’t get stuck in the planning trap.

Let go of perfection

I know there is probably a voice in your head telling you that the plan has to be perfect before you can get started; it’s not true. Don’t waste your time on something that doesn’t exist.

Channel your energy

Balance your time between planning and action. Focus your excitement like a laser beam that will point you towards action.

Keep it simple

If you spend all of your time at the drawing board, your plans will tend to get more and more elaborate and complicated; especially with no “field testing” to bring you back down to earth.

Look for the next logical step

You may be tempted to plan well into the future, but don’t get too far ahead of yourself. As you jump in and start taking action, your path will become clearer.

Take an action every day

In your planning, break down your action steps so that you can move forward every single day. Like attracts like; the more you do, the more you will want to do.

Don’t get stuck in the planning trap. If you’ve lost momentum on achieving your goals, it’s time to start acting on your plans and getting things done!