Saturday, September 17, 2016

Can a Creative Type Learn to Plan?

The word "planning" evokes several emotions in me that I don't like. One is the feeling that there is so much more that I should be doing, that I'm not doing, and that I cannot do. I will never be able to keep up, or become the person that other people think I ought to be. Others will outpace and outperform me on so many things, that it causes me to wonder what value I bring to any team.

Here's the trick: Any person can feel that way. If we just focus on what others can do that we can't, we will feel like tremendous non-contributors. So, if any person can feel that way, that would mean that the opposite is also true: any person could NOT feel that way. If I learn to see, and genuinely value, what I bring to the table, as equal to what others bring to the table, then I will not have the same fear of writing down what still needs to be done. 

"Planning" also brings up a feeling for me of being trapped. If I write down all the things I need to do, and decide when I'm going to do them, will I want to live the life I have written down? Will I wake up tomorrow as a robot, mindlessly accomplishing tasks and doing what my planner tells me to do? Will my creative zest for life and sense of adventure be completely squelched, as I move from appointment to appointment?

What I'm learning, slowly, is that planning doesn't exist to crowd out my creative self, but to create space for it. It's not about confining me to a bunch of little boxes. It's about confining parts of my life into little boxes so that other parts can roam free! 

So for me, as a wild-roaming-free type of person, here is how planning begins:

First, I ponder. Who am I? What do I need in my life in order to live into the fullness of who I am?

Then, I dream. What could be accomplished if I set aside a chunk of my life toward living into a treasured part of who I am? 

Next, I collect. What are all the treasured parts of who I am? I list them on a page. Depending on my inklings of the moment, I either make this fun and colorful, or chicken scratches so I can move on to other things.

Once this foundation is laid, I know that this activity called planning is going to help me do what I dream to do, without letting the rest of my life completely fall apart. Wouldn't that be beautiful?

In the past, I've narrowed it down to this: What helps me most in managing my time is to focus on projects, routines, and rhythms. 

Routines are the hardest. I'll just be honest about that. The routines that stick the easiest are the ones involving stuff I like to do. In the morning, I generally wake up with a problem that I'm pondering or an idea I'm inspired by, and I just need space to problem-solve or create. Forcing a more task-oriented routine on my morning doesn't work very well for me. 

Projects are generally rooted in something I'm inspired by, and have a finish line that is within view. I know that last few hundred feet to the finish line will be rough, but there is a reward at the end. 

Rhythms are just about creating regular spaces for what's important to me, based on what naturally fits in my life. The nap on Sunday afternoon. Time to explore on a Saturday. Unwinding from a thought-provoking meeting. Tying up loose ends before I leave the office on Friday afternoon.

What comforts me and liberates me, as I think about planning, is that it's not about becoming a different person. It isn't about limiting myself, but freeing myself to be who I am and do what I love.

So, can a creative type learn to plan? 


I'll try to keep you updated on my journey of figuring out what that looks like. 

I'm planning on it. :)