Writing Wednesday: Planning vs. Executing

More Ideas Than Accomplishments

I was telling a friend the other day that I estimate that only execute about 1% of my ideas. I do make a lot of plans, but I don’t always follow through on them. I have lists upon lists of ideas. I have spreadsheets and goals and plans and budgets. But, not every plan gets executed.

Overall, I do think that’s okay. But I would like to be more of a do-er than a plan-ner. My perfectionism sometimes hinders me. Until a plan is perfect, I don’t take the steps to execute it. And if any part of my plan doesn’t go as . . . planned . . . I struggle to adjust and complete the project.

So, it’s good that I have so many ideas, that way my 1% of completed ideas are plenty. However, I still want to transition from planning to executing more efficiently. How can I do this?

When Planning is useless

Yes, I write down my plans. In the notes section of my phone. As a Google doc. In a journal. On a piece of scrap paper that I accidentally throw away. Sometimes I come upon a plan I wrote in the past and never took any steps to execute. As soon as I wrote it down, it went outside of my head.

In fact, I’ve re-created a plan that I already created because I forgot or couldn’t find the original. Not efficient.

1. Look at the plan on a regular basis

This is the antidote to the above problem, planning and forgetting. Then the question becomes how do you make sure you look at the plan regularly?

Know your best practices. What keeps the plan on your mind? A post-it on your mirror? A reminder on your phone? Make sure you see your goal and the steps regularly enough that you actually do it.

2. Plan time for executing.

The plan should involve not just what you will do, but when you will do it.

This will probably involve sacrifice. Any time you do something, you are choosing not to do something else. So, you can think of it as “I will write from 7-9pm.” Or, you can think of it as, “I will write instead of watching Netflix in the evening.”

3. Allow for mistakes

Let yourself suck. Let yourself make mistakes on your way to your goal. It’s hard to cultivate an attitude that allows for mistakes or even . . . failure, but it’s important.

When I was living in Montana, I a colleague and I created a performing group called the Electric City Cabaret. We did one gig that went mediocre, got paid well, and the group decided to hire someone else for their event the next year. But my friends and I decided it would be really cool to try to create other shows and book ourselves other places.

Then, my friend who founded the group got busy with other things and decided to step back from the Electric City Cabaret. I realized I had a choice. I could become the driving force behind the group, or I could let it end. I know that if I was the driving force that it would be difficult and take a lot of energy and I might not make a lot of Monday.

I decided to become the driving force behind the group: organizing rehearsals, booking gigs, hiring replacements, etc. I decided that the skills I would develop would be very valuable to my long-term career as a performer. When I made mistakes or hit obstacles, I reminded myself of the lessons I was learning, and that helped make it worth it for me.

4. Allow for flexibility

When it comes to exercise, I have often created a rigid workout plan something like this:

  • Monday – Strength train chest, triceps, abs
  • Tuesday – Cardio
  • Wednesday – Strength train back, biceps, glutes
  • Thursday – Cardio
  • Friday – Strength train legs
  • Saturday – Yoga
  • Sunday off

But then, if I miss a day, the whole thing gets a little thrown off. If I miss my back, biceps, and glutes day, I would be training the opposite muscles (chest, triceps, abs) twice before I get back to that day. So, do I sacrifice another day’s workout? And then always be behind on my plan?

This is part logistical and part overthinking. What works better for me is that I list a series of steps, and I accomplish one step before moving on to the next. How this looks for my workout plan is:

  • Strength train alternating with cardio or yoga.
  • Try to work out 5 or 6 times a week.
  • Strength training days rotate from chest, triceps, abs; back, biceps, glutes; legs.

Still a lofty and intense goal, but flexible so that the day of the week


This is what works for me.

When it comes to executing your own plans, what works best for you?

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