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Planning. I'm not good at it.


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Planning. I'm not good at it. I would love to read any tips or insight members have about how they make and execute plans.  

Feel free to post links if you must but what I am much more interested in is what actually works for YOU.  

Anytime I see successful, happy people interviewed they extoll the virtues of a good plan but even my simplest plans turn to vapor when confronted by the real world.  I would love to change this so please contribute if you can.  

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I have some difficulty with follow through at times myself, but I have been working more on taking specific action because I think this is key. Would it help to write down some specific goals and actions you would need to take to get there? Maybe if you break things down and take things one step at time, they will seem less overwhelming and more doable?

Wishing you well. Take care.

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One thing that works for me in sticking with a plan is to have something physical that can manually "check off". Example: if I'm planning to get groceries (a significant activity for someone as fucked up as I am) I will purposely leave my plastic at home so that I'm forced to stop at the bank and get cash. If I do this, I'm more likely to go to the store. It also helps keep me within my budget.

I also agree with resolute, a great deal depends on circumstances.

Don't know if that's helpful, but just thought I'd reply since I have the same problem.

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Your description of groceries "a significant activity..." cracked me up Pax.  

I am referring more to long range or medium range planning.  Some people can decide what is going to happen in their lives a year from now and it comes to be.  I can barely see past tomorrow and the next day.  Maybe I should just plan but then just say "to hell w it" if it doesn't happen.  You know like a vacation or career change or moving.  

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I understand now. I cannot offer any advice from my personal life - I was one of the kids in school with a "good head on his shoulders", and I thought I had planned my life right through retirement. I tried to follow that plan and watched it all fall down around me. I'm now 30 and ten years of my life simply evaporated. I have no idea where they went. 

However, I had to study a bit of project management as an undergrad, and I thought I would link this for you:


I think this is one of the very few corporate management tools that makes some sense and isn't a complete load of buzzword soup aka B.S., and I find generally that top-down (big picture) type thinking helps me to organize myself. My natural tendency is to start from details which is a horrible way to plan anything because the details will inevitably bog you down, discourage you, even make you forget the goal itself. So I had to train myself to think in this way. 

Maybe you will find this useful. 


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Thanks Pax.  Yes I tend to get tripped up w details often by over indulging in some while completely missing some key ones.  Kind of like getting everything together for a painting project but forgetting to buy paint.  

Yes I read and saved the SWOT link.  I like where it said "the origins are obscure".  

If you feeling like twisting your brain some more my company uses a process call DMAIC. Google it.  A lot of tall foreheads getting paid well but the same problems have existed for literally decades.  

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There are 2 main downfalls that plague my planning: expected problems such as a mechanical breakdown and times when I don't feel well. Both of these things can derail me from attending to the tasks I had planned for that day.  Maybe the plan needs to be flexible enough to accomdate these breakdowns.  Also maybe I need to fight a little harder to accomplish at least sum of the plan on those days where something tries to interfere.  I did that today by at least getting my groceries at the Giant even though I have a stomach ache which sucks.  


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This not about planning per se except indirectly it is because I feel that my lack of planning is rooted in my lack of self worth. Why plan anything for a person that doesn't matter?  Below is the link but below that is an excerp:


The authors believe that the primary enemy of high self-esteem is the self-protective habit of avoidance. When a person feels threatened—whether it’s by someone they fear competing with or being rejected by, a project they’re anxious about because they’re afraid they won’t complete it successfully, or anything they fear might lead to failure or defeat—almost instinctively they search for an escape route. Rather than actively coping with whatever feels menacing, in the emotionally-driven effort to lower their trepidation they’re inclined to beat a hasty retreat.

But when you avoid what you lack the confidence or strength of will to confront, how do you feel about yourself? Such passivity in the face of an external challenge isn’t something you typically experience as self-affirming. And the more frequently you evade things that make you tremble, the more you might disapprove of yourself. 

In addition, if to gain others’ acceptance, your attention is (anxiously) focused on not disappointing them, you won’t feel very good about yourself. Moreover, if to avoid conflict, disapproval, failure, or defeat, you put off pursuing opportunities that would advance your interests, such avoidance only in earns you more self-disapproval.

In short, avoidance is a powerful and common defense mechanism. And like all other psychological defenses, it can be quite costly. In the moment, avoiding what makes you anxious can safeguard you from disturbing feelings. But it also damages your self-image, leading you to see yourself as less competent, worthwhile, and resourceful. Each time you sell yourself short (or maybe, sell yourself out), your self-esteem takes a hit. And once this avoidance is firmly entrenched, your doubts about yourself and your perceived deficiencies become more severe and difficult to dislodge.

The Solution: Coping Actively with Life’s Challenges

In their self-esteem volume, Bednar et al. contrast “avoiding” with “coping,” arguing that only the latter enables you to feel good about yourself. But avoidance can be understood as a way of coping. The actual dichotomy is between passive coping (i.e., avoidance) in the face of a perceived threat versus active coping, which is the alternative the authors so strongly advocate. (Of course, it might also be noted that “avoidant coping” is really copping out.)

What are some of the advantages of actively coping with situations that make you feel awkward or intimidated? The substantial research done by the authors above makes clear that having the courage to face your anxieties prohibits you from acting in deferential or defeatist ways that inevitably result in self-disapprobation. After all, retreating from what makes you uncomfortable does nothing to foster a healthy self-image.

Adopting a “can do” stance toward difficulties and obstacles in your life almost always makes you feel better about yourself. And ironically, if your (probably exaggerated) fear of failure convinces you to not even try to deal with these challenges, that reluctance may result in a worse sense of self than if you’d tried and failed.

In other words, failing to try is itself a failure and, deep down, that’s how you’ll see yourself. On the contrary, research shows that if you give things your best shot, you’re more likely to feel good about yourself than if you forfeit your chances by playing it safe and not permitting yourself to go for it.

Here’s how Bednar et al. summarize the advantages of actively grappling with what feels threatening:

We maintain that high levels of self-esteem are the product of a response style that favors coping over avoidance. When this is the case, conflicts are faced, understood, and resolved, resulting in self-confidence, personal approval, and feelings of personal well-being. Patterns of excessive avoidance breed just the opposite results. The very act of avoidance, by denial and distortion, precludes any feeling of adequacy.

Also of note:

It is of [the] utmost importance to note that self-evaluative processes and the levels of self-esteem they create are based on the process of coping and avoidance, not the outcomes they produce.

What shouldn't be over-emphasized is that inherent in such an orientation is a sense of self strong enough to take risks. And that’s precisely what helps you appreciate yourself as a responsible person who's willing and able to tackle what you need to. 

Working to overcome avoidant tendencies enables you to experience life in a more dynamic fashion and see yourself as possessing resilience and personal power. Independent of the actual consequence of your actions, the very fact of your acting contains its own intrinsic rewards. True, your inaction may allow you to experience less fear, yet the predictably derogatory, self-referencing thoughts and feelings that result are punishmentenough.

Moreover, your avoidance precludes the possibility of learning anything new. Coping, or actively coping, with internal or external conflicts leads to greater understanding of what you’re capable of and where you need to improve. And regularly confronting situations that feel threatening offers the wonderful bonus of making such situations seem less ominous. As a result, you build self-confidence and assertiveness skills.

The 4-Step Process of Active Coping That Boost Your Self-Esteem (adapted from Bednar et al.)

1. In situations that trigger anxiety, identify and describe in detail the primary avoidant patterns you typically employ to reduce your emotional discomfort. Writing this down can be extremely helpful in giving you new insights into your self-sabotaging behaviors. Your analysis should take the form: “When [the feared situation] occurs, I generally try to lower the anxiety it causes me by [characterization of your self-protective, risk-avoidant reaction].”

2. Identify and describe the negative thoughts and feelings about yourself that derive from each of your primary avoidant patterns. You may have to dig deep into your unconscious. Your negative self-evaluations might include such denigrating statements as: “I’m a disappointment,” “I’m inadequate,” “I’m incompetent,” “I’m inferior,” “I’m useless,” “I’m a loser,” “I’m not smart enough,” “I’m spineless,” “I’m lazy,” “I’m shameful,” “I’m helpless,” “I don’t belong,” and so on.

It’s important to consider the negative emotions generated by your self-disparaging thoughts: frustration, embarrassment, guilt, self-disgust, humiliation. And not only identify them but experience them. That way you become much more aware of the high cost of your avoidant behaviors and how they block your genuine feelings of happiness, contentment, or well-being.

Consider that the more you may have been prompted to back away from confronting a necessary—and esteem-building—challenge, the more quickly you’re likely to experience trepidation in any situation that requires you to summon your courage and be pro-active. Finally, the more you understand how heeding the voice of your anxiety stifles you, the more motivated you’ll be to pursue the benefits of changing this habitual, self-defeating stance.

3. Develop the habit of regularly contesting your negative self-assessments and avoidant patterns.The very act of identifying and labeling them can be seen as a coping response. You should give yourself credit for confronting what you’ve previously shied away from and allowing yourself to experience more of the anxiety that, historically, you’ve fled from.

4. Bit by bit, teach yourself how to actively and effectively cope with the various conflicts you’ve traditionally avoided. Identify and label the different aspects of your reformed coping style so that it feels ever more feasible to you. Also note the contrasting thoughts and feelings that accompany your new approach to resolving problems and inner conflicts.

The practice of active coping is inherently rewarding in that almost every time you practice it you replace a negative self-evaluation with a positive one. Remember that this internal reinforcement isn’t about succeeding in your latest endeavor but demonstrating the courage to face up to it. Regardless of the outcome, it’s essential that you applaud yourself for your efforts.

Here’s a key question to ask yourself:

“In this situation, what do I need to do—or what decision do I need to make—that will result in the most self-approval?

Remind yourself that taking the line of least resistance is an act that immediately reduces your anxiety, so your answer here generally will be one that is likely to increase your anxiety, and your self-respect. Consider a post I wrote called “Line of Least Resistance—Really the Line of Most Resistance?”

A complementary question (or a somewhat different way of posing the same self-query just portrayed) might be:

“If I were to act just like the kind of person I most want to be—and would most admire—how would I respond to this conflict (issue or dilemma)?” 

And yes, the right response is likely to challenge you. But remember, taking more risks is tantamount to taking more responsibilityfor your life. (And you’ll end up feeling much better about yourself for doing so.)

In the end, it’s something like the famous expression, “No pain, no gain.” You can expect to feel more emotional pain if you stay with your anxiety and prod yourself to do what your self-approval depends on. Realistically, you can’t assume that such an approach to raising your self-esteem will start out in your comfort zone. If it did, you wouldn’t harbor the fears that have made you decide against this more active coping style.

Given enough time and patience, exercising assertive, pro-active coping behaviors gets easier as you come to realize the abilities and strengths your anxiety previously prevented you from adequately developing.



© 2016 Leon F. Seltzer, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.


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In regards to planning one of the new things I am trying is narrowing the timeframe to 1 hour increments. The way it works is I ask myself "what am I going to do this hour? What do I hope to accomplish next hour?".  

Planning is much less daunting when broken down into these smaller increments.  

Another example of something that is probably common sense to every human being on the planet but is a eureka moment to me.  But hey whatever works.  

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I quite like a bit of planning, but I also like throwing the plan up in the air and doing something completely different at the last minute. Having a timeframe is a good idea- I don't plan very far in advance though.

I read something recently that suggested that someone should write down their goals and then rate them on a scale of 1 to 10 for how much they wanted to achieve them. Then forget about anything that hasn't got a 10 out of 10 - the thinking being that there would always be an excuse not to do something about it if it has less than the max rating. I don't know if this is the right approach but at least you get to drop things that you are not too sure about and save time thinking about them!

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That's not bad Jazz and it points to the importance of prioritization. We all want a million things so pruning the list can only be beneficial.  Also any construct that gets me thinking is good.  

Another problem I have with planning is I can get very frustrated, angry and distraught when what I had planned to do gets interrupted by some nonsense that is out of my control.   I have to learn to be more flexible. Another key is passion.  If I'm not feeling it it ain't gonna happen.   


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16 hours ago, Victimorthecrime said:

Another problem I have with planning is I can get very frustrated, angry and distraught when what I had planned to do gets interrupted by some nonsense that is out of my control.   

Yes, that can be really annoying - especially if you want to get something done or are looking forward to a trip for example then someone/something lets you down. Just wondered though Vic if you like planning at all or is it just a chore? Some people dislike the detail of it, they prefer the 'big picture'.

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6 hours ago, jazz said:

 Just wondered though Vic if you like planning at all or is it just a chore? Some people dislike the detail of it, they prefer the 'big picture'.

My entire life I have been big picture. But the devil's in the details so you gotta confront that. I think I am getting a little better at it.  This blog has helped.  For me to plan successfully I have to passionately want it, have fun w the process, keep both a short and longer term view, and be flexible when breakdowns occur.  

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4 hours ago, jazz said:

Pax, no I got it from a free use website via copy and paste. Sorry I can't help, I am not technically adept at all :P

I think you're just being modest, but ok. I think there's more to you than meets the eye...still waters run deep. Thank you though, I copied it to my computer and will play with it.

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My focusing on planning had paid some dividends. As long as I kind of take it serious without over stressing it has led to me getting into action on some things.  I placed a big catalog order that I had been procrastinating for several weeks. It's harder than it sounds lol I had to decide what to order, what size, what color, what quantity, what cost. I can get overwhelmed w those kinds of details and it shuts me down and triggers an avoidance issue.  

And I got some good stretching done which really helps me feel good.  

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One quick insight on planning I thought of this morning is that if an activity is on the plan for today I need to at least make a reasonable effort to tackle it.  I can't just blow it off 'cause I don't feel like doing it or nothing will get done.  The plan is the priority. It has to be. If it's not then get it off the list.  

For example, grocery shopping was on my list for today and even though I really was not into it I pushed myself and got it done.  

The depressing part is that I no sooner get one thing done and I think of 10 more things that need to get done.  It's overwhelming.  

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