Why Is Planning Important in Life
Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 7/7/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Are you blessed with the skill of planning and wake up every day with a list of things you want to get done? Or are you someone who likes to go with the flow and do what you feel like doing when you feel like doing it?
For me, planning can be a struggle at times because I like the freedom to do what I want to do when I want to do it.
But over the years, I have realized that planning can also give me the freedom to utilize my days optimally while maintaining some degree of spontaneity. It’s all about balancing the rigidity of a plan with taking intentional steps towards my goals.
Let’s discuss how planning can be useful in our lives.
What Is Planning?
The American Psychological Association (APA) defines planning as “formulating in advance an organized method for action.”
The key here is that planning happens in advance of whatever we want to get done. For example, the day should be planned the previous night or in the morning, and an event needs to be planned several weeks or months ahead.
4 Types of Planning
In business management, there are four types of planning. These types can also be applied to our lives at a personal level.
- Strategic Planning — This is the first type of planning you need to do to define the strategic direction you want to take. What are your hopes and dreams? Where do you see yourself in ten years?
- Tactical Planning —Tactical planning addresses what needs to happen to align with your strategic direction. These are your to-do lists, weekly/monthly goals, and steps to attain a certain outcome.
- Operational Planning — These plans come into play when routine tasks need to be executed. For instance, when I write a blog post, I always have a set of steps that I sequentially follow.
- Contingency Planning — What happens when the economy slows down, or your kid gets sick? Contingency planning allows for these unfortunate events that have a high probability of occurring.
5 Steps of the Planning Process
- Set your strategic goals and direction. Knowing where you want to go gives you a sense of direction to filter out the various options and paths you can take.
- Evaluate your current position. Once you have clarity on your future, conduct an honest assessment of where you are right now. Ensure that you don’t beat yourself up in this process and remain an objective observer of your situation.
- Create a plan that can get you to your goals. Now that you know what the gap is between where you are and where you want to be, you can brainstorm ideas and actions needed to bridge this gap. The plan includes tasks, timelines, and milestones.
- Execute the plan. Break down the plan into daily and weekly tasks and start executing your plan. This is when you will test out your plan in real life. You will understand what parts of the plan are practical and what types of obstacles come your way.
- Review and update the plan. Examine how you carried out the plan and reflect on your learnings. The plan can now be updated with what you’ve learned, so you can have a better plan going forward. You will always keep tweaking the plan as you go because environments change, and new challenges can arise.
Why Planning Is Important
1. Overall Health
To maintain overall health, at a minimum, we need to eat healthy food and exercise regularly. But, as you may already know, both these tasks can get easily ignored when we’re busy.
Good eating habits and an exercise schedule require planning. For instance, research indicates that “planning of specific preparatory actions predicts the performance of healthy dietary behavior.”
2. Surgery Outcomes
Postoperative recovery needs a different set of behaviors from you than your normal behavior as your body is healing from the surgery. Due to the need for specific habits, planning your surgery recovery along with lining up any resources you may need can greatly benefit your surgery outcomes.
3. Mental Health
Having a plan in place can give you comfort and peace of mind when you face challenges. For example, maintaining a planner to plan your tasks and days can reduce anxiety by giving you a place to write down tasks. This allows you to clear your mind.
Among factors that affect longevity, lifestyle choices, exercise, and diet & nutrition are key to living a long life. As discussed previously, these factors can be influenced through planning to create or change habits.
5. Life Satisfaction
Plans can give you a sense of direction and purpose in life. When we scratch out tasks on our to-do list and observe that we’re getting closer to our goals, our brains release dopamine, feel-good hormones.
We will also be encouraged to scratch off more tasks because of the pleasurable nature of the dopamine release. Overall, this can make us more hopeful and satisfied with life.
Too much of anything can be bad. Even when planning, trying to plan every waking moment or being too fixed on a plan can be disadvantageous. Instead, you can try out different ways of planning and choose what works best for you.