Written by Sherelee Rathnarajah Crawford
Each and every one of us has exactly 23 hours, 56 minutes and 4.0916 seconds each day- not much yet sufficient to get our lives together. All we need is a plan made well ahead. This article explores why planning ahead allows for an upgrade in life.
What could possibly set the human species apart from all other animals? Various answers have proposed — language, mechanism, cooperation, culture, competency to adapt — but none is unique to humans. What makes us superior is our ability to contemplate the future. Planning ahead is one important subdivide of human foresight.
According to Alan Lakein, “planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” There is immense truth written in this statement for proactive individuals. There is much to gain through controlling the situation beforehand rather than responding to something once it has happened. So why is planning ahead important? The answers are numerous. However, let us boil it down to six very vital ones.
1. Less Stress
Remember a day when you had twenty plus things to do with zero prior preparations. How did it feel? At first, you might have felt overwhelmed, not knowing where to begin; even if you accomplished one task, you would have been lost as to what to do next; this might have resulted in you being so stressed that you just fell on the couch and postponed all that work to the next day. You lose 24 hours of your precious time simply because you have not prepared yourself beforehand. Planning-ahead would regulate this circumstance significantly since you would be more in control of the situation. You would be more focused on the task at hand than your overwhelming emotions. Your brain would see a logical set of instructions you need to follow in the form of your to-do list. As a result, the brain would automatically trigger less worry and more work.
If you are unprepared, switching from one task to another is going to take a prolonged time: Firstly, you would wonder, what work should be done next. Then, you would take more time wondering how long the task would take. Next, you would move around the house looking for the things needed to get the work done. Sometimes, you might get stuck doing one hard task when you could have spent the same time doing three smoother tasks. A firm preparation would easily take away the activation time needed to switch between duties and help to prioritize tasks based on their importance and time consumption. You will spend more time on the actual task rather than wondering about what to do next or turning the house upside down looking for equipment needed.
3. Higher quality work
When you make prior preparations, your brain is subconsciously working out on how to perform a task from the point of planning that I would like to define as brain-marination. The brain is soaking itself in a picture it has created for the future and is absorbing all the essential elements to make that picture realistically possible. Once you actually start attending to the work, the brain is releasing all the elements it has absorbed. That is why a well-planned task comes out closer to what your mind pictured than an unplanned task.
4. Being more present at the moment
Planning ahead leaves you with less worry for the future: you have a list of tasks at hand; you are attending to one task at a time; you are not worrying about what will come next since you already know what should be. Nothing gravitates you to the present more than this feeling of having each passing moment under your control. It provides the feeling of having lived that moment to the fullest. Even when you have allocated time for relaxing, you will take the maximum out of that period and enjoy it to the best, since you have your to-do list well at hand.
5. Being more accountable
Accountability is one aspect our generation is shying away from. Also, holding responsibility for one’s actions is just bitter medicine to some people. Accountability should begin from within oneself. One needs to learn to hold oneself accountable at his/her own promise. The first step to self-learned accountability is through planning-ahead and sticking to that plan. Treat yourself as a separate person for a moment and make plans with that outsider. Promise him/her to stick to the plan to the best of your abilities. Give your best shot at keeping this promise. If you fail, apologize to that outside-self. Promise never to let that person down. It will seem rather comical to speak to yourself at first. However, with repetition, you will find how nurturing and essential this practice will be. Actually, why not train your children as well? That way, at least the next generation will be better ambassadors of accountability.
6. Sense of accomplishment
I cannot emphasize enough the sense of accomplishment you feel once you see all those check-boxes on your to-do list ticked off. It is a different hit of dopamine. Once you start achieving task after task, the following starts to happen,
- Your living environment becomes cleaner.
- Your children are learning a good habit, which adds value to their adulthood.
- You have done some extra work with the time you have saved out of pre-planning.
- You have saved money by not spending on any unnecessary commodity that was not in your to-do list. (I mean, have you tried shopping without checking your fridge or a shopping list?)
- You expand your comfort-zone to bigger projects like investing money, finding a new hobby, or even getting involved in charity since you have the time and the mental clarity to delve in them.
Once your brain has had a taste of this dopamine hit, it is never going back to being in the haze of unpreparedness. It will know its potential, and it will direct you on a path to accomplish this potential perfectly. Finally, I would like to add that life is full of curve-balls. You might have a whole list of plans today that could be easily ruined by the simplest inconvenience of bad weather. What more to say when Covid-19 itself messed up the plans of the whole world for the past couple of months? However, I am sure nature granted us with this ability to pre-plan for a worthy cause. Hence, I feel that it is our duty to utilize this blessed skill that we were bestowed with for our greater good. Let me end with the sage Confucius’s words, “A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door.”
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