Plan to get ‘er done.

Gnomes' three phase business plan
Gnomes’ three phase business plan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are always two sides to any coin. My wife and I compliment each other in this manner when it comes to planning.

My wife prefers to have an explicit plan laid out – every step sorted out and contingencies in place for many possibilities. She likes to spend more time working on and solidifying the plan. “Measure thrice, cut once.”

I, on the other hand, prefer having a clear and achievable goal, broad strokes for a plan, and then deal with the minutiae as need arises. I prefer to have more time to work on the task and to feel more free to adapt as needed. “Get ‘er done.”

Let me explain by way of examples.

When I clean, I generally start in one area of the room, deal with the items I can easily deal with and push the items I can’t deal with into a pile in the next area I will be cleaning. This allows me to both proceed with getting the job done while also ensuring that I can see progress as I work across the room. As I work across the room, I commonly run into items that can best sorted together and items I wasn’t even expecting to have to deal with. If I had planned in many circumstances beyond the broad strokes, I would not as easily have been able to deal with running out of shelf space or a discovery of a new way of organizing things that makes more sense.

The place gets cleaned, even though sometimes it takes a bit longer because I don’t put stuff away that I don’t have a clear place to put it.

I generally plan my trips in a similar fashion – general ideas of what I would like to do, but no explicit plans (beyond tickets, hotel rooms, etc.) so I can adapt based on my mood from day to day.

This style doesn’t work too well for her though, because it is not clear how much effort or time will be needed to get the cleaning job done when other deadlines (parties, guests, etc) seem very looming. It doesn’t work as well for trips as she feels that we won’t use our time as effectively if we don’t have a clear schedule.

In contrast, when we had out honeymoon, my wife wrote up a very detailed plan. She discussed with me for the overall strategy of places I would enjoy visiting and general tenor of the visit. She then took that and worked out precisely where we would be going and when. Precise times, trains, buses, distances, maps and details were worked out. She printed it all out, bound it into a booklet, and for the flight, and first couple of days it worked wonderfully… then came Mount Fuji.

We missed our return bus, were exhausted far worse than expected, and essentially wrote off an entire day and a half to the plan. When we woke up, we adapted the remainder of our trip plan to include the items we really wanted to do (Tokyo Giants game, etc.) and removed the items that were too far or too difficult to try and fit in (Sumo district).

We were deviating dramatically from the plan, but it was OK. The plan was written to ensure we would have a good time and enjoy the honeymoon. Many contingencies were in place on the plan, however it was always acceptable to leave it as needed. This worked as well.

This style doesn’t work so well for me. While I see it’s OK to plan enough to make sure you know what’s going on. I don’t build furniture without knowing the measurements, for example. An overly exact plan for a situation that is inherently chaotic seems like a lot of work that will likely be tossed out the window as soon as any surprises occur.

Yet, the trip to Japan taught me something. In general, I would never have planned that intensely for a trip, but I got to do a lot of things I may have missed if she hadn’t gone through the extensive effort she had. In contrast, when there is a big task to do, and not a lot of time to plan for it, this desire to plan can leave her quite paralyzed until someone takes control.

Collaboratively, she and I are able to get the jobs done in a far more effective fashion than either of us would independently. If we have the time to plan, she is more than willing and capable of doing that given the broad strokes we both agree on. However, when push comes to shove and the job just needs to be done, I have no problem going in and dealing with the issues as they arise.

I guess sometimes you just need a bit of both.

Plan when you can, but when you can’t plan, just get ‘er done.

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