Someone once said that “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans”.
In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to think about this at a point in my own life when I need to make some pretty big decisions about where I work, where I live, what I put my energy into.
Needless to say, as an environmentalist and aspiring sustainabilitarian, I’m doing some deep thinking about the implications of the choices I make.
The trick, however, is to develop a strategy that responds to an appropriate level of planning and motivates the right action at the right time.
I raise this topic because part of my desire for change has been motivated by personally questioning the abundance of planning (and apparent lack of action) that seems to proliferate certain sectors of human activity. Are we missing out on life while we’re busy making plans? Is there indeed such a thing as too much planning?
Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to work across diverse industries and sectors – in government, private business, not-for-profit organisations, and the university sector (which, in Australia, is kinda like a hybrid of the others in how it operates). In diverse roles (typically focused on communication and / or education), I’ve discovered one thing that unites the sectors of human labour – the need to plan, plan, plan.
As a professional communicator and educator, I appreciate the value in a good plan. Responding to sound research and strategic thinking, an effective plan keeps you focused on your goals, the objectives to achieve those goals, and the actions you need to take in order to walk the path to success. A good plan reminds you why you’re doing what you’re doing and who you’re doing it for. It also helps you navigate opportunities and limitations relating to budgets and schedules and resource allocations.
An effective plan should not, however, take forever to develop. It should not get bogged down in policy and process that overlooks the simple fact that most plans – ultimately – are supposed to serve the interests of people. I’ve most recently experienced a work environment that requires its staff to engage in no less than eight levels of planning each year. With every plan (and every iteration of every plan), people who are not “planners” but “doers” are inhibited from completing their work, taking the action that underpins their purpose (beyond making plans!).
Consequently, important opportunities, necessary actions, and impending issues are sometimes overlooked or missed.
Whether we work in government, the private sector, not-for-profits, or the university sector, it’s important that planning be used to EMPOWER people to do their work better. It is not helpful, particularly when action for sustainability is critical, for planning to get in the way of delivery. Whilst it’s important we move forward with informed views and precautionary principles – that we know what we’re doing, why, for whom, and how – too much planning is simply too much of a good thing. Too much planning is a luxury that (whilst it might keep people busy and employed) can get in the way of taking action for sustainability.
So how does this relate to my personal conundrum? Well, I have a plan. Sort of. And it involves getting up every morning, being grateful for the day and – despite my assorted life strategies and schemes – to keep my eye ever watchful of the world outside my own head. And if life passes me by while I’m busy making plans, at least I might catch a glimpse of it along the way.
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