How Too Much Planning Keeps You Stuck

Has this ever happen to you: You spend days, even weeks, crafting the perfect launch plan for your new product and then, when you start doing the work, nothing goes as you’ve anticipated.

They say that “no plan survives contact with the enemy” (if the enemy is the real world in this case) so what do you do? You sit down with a cup of sencha tea and do the whole thing all over again. And yet another week has passed and you’re no closer to launching your product. You start following the new plan and the same thing happens again. See where I’m going with this?

If you’ve been around me long enough you should know by now that there’s no such thing as “perfect” anything.

How Too Much Planning Keeps You Stuck and What to Do About It |

Three years ago I found the bullet journal method and I was so happy — my Miss Organizing-things-since-third-grade brain found the perfect (here’s that word again) system to bring Order to the Universe. What I didn’t know back then is that bullet journaling can be a great planning tool as well as a huge procrastination rabbit hole.

No, no, it’s not that bullet journalling is bad. It’s an amazing method to organize your daily life. But if you type the hashtag #bulletjournal in Instagram what you’ll find are these beautifully sketched art journals with some dates and text in them. And that’s what got me at first.

Just like you, I have many creative passions and sketching is one of them. I instantly loved this endless drawing-brush-lettering-scrap-booking party. It took me almost a year to notice that all I was ever doing was planning things without ever following up. I was addicted to planning.

If you watch the “How to Bullet Journal” video you’ll notice that Ryder Caroll, the creator of the method, keeps things really simple and uses the pages to organize his life and work quickly and efficiently. His planning method serves a purpose. And what so many creatives, including me, are doing is making bullet journaling the purpose. Or in other words they are planning for the sake of planning not for the purpose of completing a project on time.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with sketching in your journal. If you need a creative output use your hobby time to glue down tiny stars onto your bullet journal pages all you want. Or if you decide to focus your business on your bullet journal, like Miss Kara from did, by all means, give it all the time you want.

But if you’re a jewelry designer or vegan cupcake baker art journaling your precious time away, while justifying it as “planning your next project”, is procrastination — plain and simple.

I’m a recovered planner addict now. And by the way, the word “addict” added to anything should ring an alarm bell in your head, no matter how warm and fuzzy it makes you feel to think of yourself as a “#planneraddict”. Especially if it makes you feel so good that you forget your real purpose here.

So, how are you using your bullet journal? And how many projects have you finished in the last year? Be honest with yourself.

Here’s how to stop using your bullet journal as a procrastination tool in three simple steps

1 | put some rules in place

You need to focus on what you do best. Planning is just one stage of any project and the quicker you go through it the better. You decide how to spend more time on the projects that will give your customers more value, and you — financial and emotional fulfillment, and less time fidgeting with the headline of your last collection. Here are some rules I’ve put in place:

  • Restrict your planning time when you’re working on a business project. The quicker the better.

  • Embrace minimal bullet journaling if you still want to use your notebook to plan your days.

  • Dedicate art journaling time — sketch only in the evenings or during the weekend.

2 | Get digital

If you’ve been using your paper journal for planning your business projects, start using Asana instead. A paper notebook is good for capturing ideas but it’s not a good place for dynamic action plans. When working on a business project you don’t need to worry if the page is pretty enough for Instagram, you need to start asap, keep things moving and change and adapt as needed.

If you’re still on the fence and prefer to write things down, get a whiteboard. Or if you’re traveling and can’t do that just get a white board marker and write on your window glass (I always feel extra “Beautiful Mind” smart when I do that).

3 | Make it a ritual

If you feel you need that downtime with your journal, schedule an hour after dinner to doodle, sketch and get to that fluffy-cosy place pen and paper usually gets you to. Make bullet journaling your own relaxing bed time routine.

I know how tempting it is to draw your Saturday away, while binge-watching Stranger Things (again), but this isn’t helping you long term. If you need the R&R, take it. But please please please, don’t hide your fear to start, work and finish a project behind its “planning stage”.

As with almost anything on Earth, too much of a good thing can lead you to the Dark Side. And we have enough Sith Lords as it is, so keep your Lady Jedi wits about you and focus on what you do best. Make your dot grid notebook a mighty tool to organize your ideas, business and life not another distraction to get your dopamine fix from.

So, if you are a planner addict…

How do you find the balance between planning and following through? And if you’re out of balance, what is the first thing you can do to recover it?

Let me know in the comments below.