Do More, Plan Less

Focusing more on the present and less on the future.

I like thinking. Thinking keeps me busy. In fact, I can't not think. I often find myself in situations where I can think about what I please, without actually being able to take any action. On a bus ride home, in the shower, or in bed waiting to fall asleep are all good examples of places where my mind can wander but I can't immediately follow up with actions.

Here is where I've run into problems. Excess time to think leads to me planning things that I don't necessarily have the time to do. Not only do I have more opportunity to think about things than actually doing them, but cool projects or other similar endeavours usually take less time to plan and more time to implement. Coupled with the fact that I tend to be a very goal-oriented person and I like to have satisfying goals to motivate me, I end up planning a nice long list of things I want to get done, but for which I don't have the time. And left unchecked, the list can keep growing.

This state of affairs is clearly not ideal. It is always unsatisfying when some tasks are inevitably left uncompleted, or take much longer than expected. So what can be done about it?

First of all, we need to recognize that one needs to prioritize doing and learning over simply planning to do and learn. Don't get me wrong, having a plan and staying organized is a good thing, but the most elaborate plan is of no use to anybody if it can't be executed. For this reason, I prefer to avoid planning too far in advance. I don't want to be tied down to an old plan I concocted ages ago when things have changed. Perhaps I've discovered that I'm not particularly interested in doing that particular thing anymore. Or maybe there is another, newer commitment that is worth more of time. Whatever the reason, the old plan is no longer the best course of action and making it was ultimately a waste of my time.

Of course, I still like to plan for the future. Some things certainly need to be planned far in advance. For example, if I'm thinking about graduate studies, I probably don't want to be screwing around getting below average grades during undergrad. It's important now, even though graduate work would still be years away. However, I think it is best to think of events farther ahead in the future more vaguely and more abstractly. If I'm going to be write a software module tomorrow then I will go ahead and think about the nitty-gritty details, but if I'm thinking about graduate school a few years down the line then I probably don't want to preplan all the details of my thesis. There just isn't any point in doing it now. My knowledge, interests, and circumstances can and will change by the time I get there.

Furthermore, when you do plan something, it is important to remain focused on it. It is very easy to get distracted by another task or project, just because there are so damn many interesting things in the world. But it is generally more satisfying and more beneficial to stick to a project for the long term and see it through to completion. It is better to have one great creation than five mediocre ones. Or one completed project over five half-completed ones.

In conclusion, spend more time doing things and less time planning them. It is fun and tempting to plan all of the great things you could accomplish, but try to stay realistic and try to take some time to actually do all of the things you plan. Don't overthink the future, and stay focused on what you are doing in the present.