I’m a planner by nature. Seriously, I LOVE planning. I get a slightly ridiculous amount of joy out of planning vacations and projects and then crossing things off in my to-do list. And while being a good planner can be a HUGE asset and some people could definitely use a bit more of it in their lives, over-planning tends to be a bit of a problem for me.
First of all, over-planning is a pretty serious form of procrastination. I have some huge projects that I want to tackle in my business and to be honest, I’m pretty nervous about launching them and failing. So instead I just keep planning and planning, hoping I’ll eventually feel ready. Spoiler alert: I will never feel ready.
In my personal life over-planning has been a hindrance because it has really kept me from living in the moment. I tend to worry and overthink about what’s going to happen in the future, and it has had a serious impact on my happiness (read more on this in my post about embracing your current season of life).
I finally got a bit of a wakeup call and realized how big of a problem my over-planning actually was, and I started working on it so that I could 1) start enjoying and living in the moment, and 2) start actually accomplishing things in my business.
If any of this sounds like you, keep reading to learn how to stop over-planning, and how to start DOING instead!
How to Stop Over-Planning (and Start Doing!)
The Problem with Over-Planning
Over-planning doesn’t lead to action
For the longest time, I thought that the more time I spent planning and the more well-prepared I was, the more successful I would be. And while this makes sense in theory, there is one fatal flaw in this line of thought.
Over-planning doesn’t actually lead to action.
There comes a point in the planning stage where what you’re doing is no longer productive. Now, unfortunately, there’s no clear cut way to tell where this point is. But it’s better to take action too early and have to go back and fix things than to never take action at all.
Over-planning makes you inflexible
The more you plan, the more attached you become to your plan. And when you become too attached to the plan, you become inflexible. And then you tend to become frustrated and give up when the plan doesn’t go just as you imagined it.
There’s a quote that says, “Be stubborn about your goals, and flexible about your methods.”
Next time you find yourself over-planning and worrying that things aren’t going according to plan, remember that quote!
Over-planning leads to overthinking (which leads to worry)
Over-planning causes you to obsess and overthink about things. And seriously, nothing is fun anymore when you hit that point!
When I’ve over-planned something, I always notice that it is followed by overthinking. And that always leads to worrying. And once I’ve gotten to that point, it’s really difficult to step back and gain perspective about what I was planning for in the first place.
Signs You Might Be an Over-Planner
You plan a lot but have little to show for it
This one right here is me! My brain has some serious shiny object syndrome and I’m constantly thinking of exciting new ideas.
And then I spend forever planning them. And nothing ever happens. I never move out of the planning stage and into the doing stage.
If this sounds like you, you’re probably guilty of over-planning!
You’re afraid of not being perfect
Do you find yourself holding back because you’re afraid that your work won’t be perfect? Or you’re afraid of what people will think?
Many people think of perfectionism as a good quality. Surely if you’re a perfectionist you produce great work!
In reality, perfectionists tend to procrastinate and produce nothing because they’re afraid it isn’t 100% perfect.
You frequently abandon projects
If you start working on a lot of projects but never seem to finish them, there’s a good chance you’re an over-planner.
You find yourself starting a project, but as soon as one small thing doesn’t go according to the plan, you abandon ship.
You’re constantly worrying about “what ifs”
Those of us who over-plan and over-think spend way too time in the future. This totally applies to me too! I used to spend so much time asking myself “what if” questions. I’m still guilty of this, but I’ve also come a long way.
Part of the way I’ve overcome this is just by embracing the what if’s.
What if things don’t go as planned? Yeah, that might happen. But imagine what other unexpected but amazing things might come out of that.
- How to Use Time Blocking to Be More Productive Every Day
- How to Use the 80/20 Rule to Change Your Life
How to Stop Over-Planning
Take note of how you spend your time
A big part of learning to stop over-planning is first realizing that you ARE over-planning. So when you sit down to work on your business (or whatever project it is you’re working on), take note of how that time is being spent.
If you find that days, weeks, months, etc. are going by and you’re still in the planning phase, that’s a serious problem.
Once you know WHERE you’re spending the majority of your time, you can start focusing on getting to where you want to and should be spending the majority of your time.
Be intentional about what you consume
I love learning from other bloggers and when I first decided to start growing and monetizing my blog, I soaked up all the knowledge I could from those who were a few steps ahead of me. Using resources like other bloggers is a fantastic idea…to an extent.
It definitely starts to become a problem when we fall down the rabbit hole of information. For instance, let’s say you decide you want to write an eBook (using this example because I’ve done this). So you start reading blog posts about how to publish an eBook. And then a month later you’re still soaking up ALL the knowledge you can about HOW to publish an eBook, and you never write the freaking book.
Another problem with consuming TOO much content is that others’ voices start to drown out your own, and you may find yourself struggling to come up with creative and original ideas.
At some point, we just need to stop consuming. If you’re struggling to get out of the planning phase, stop reading other blogs. Stop reading books. Stop reading anyone’s else’s tips on how to do what you’re trying to do, and just roll with the knowledge you’ve already gained.
You learn a lot from the research and planning phase, but you also learn a ton from the trial and error of finally just doing it yourself.
Set deadlines and launch dates for projects
There have been a lot of projects in my business that I SAID I was going to do and then never did. Some of them I just never got around to touching in the first place, and others fell victim to over-planning and never made it past the planning stage.
In my four years of blogging, I have written one eBook (though I had plans for quite a few more).
So what’s the difference between the eBook I wrote and the ones that never got written? I was afraid I was going to over-plan and procrastinate and never end up finishing the book. So I pulled out my calendar, picked an arbitrary date three months away, and decided that was the day I was going to launch my eBook (note – I hadn’t even started the thing at this point).
Not only did I decide that was the day and mark it on my calendar. I also told my audience in an email that I was writing a book and that’s when it would be coming out. And as soon as people responded and told me they were excited about the book, I knew there was no way I could NOT write it.
I’m not necessarily suggesting you need to announce your deadline to the world when you haven’t even started your project, but you can definitely see how setting a deadline for myself was the kick in the pants I needed to actually make it happen. That was the difference between the projects I didn’t finish and the one I did.
Break projects down into small, actionable tasks
Starting a big new project can be really freaking overwhelming. It’s no wonder we spend SO much time in the planning phase! That’s why the FIRST thing you do for any new goal or project should be to break it down into bite-size pieces that you can put right on your to-do list!
When I’m doing this, I like to work backward. Let’s go back to my eBook example. I had figured out what date I wanted to launch my eBook. From there I worked backward and figured out when I should make the sales page, when I should send the book to someone to proofread, and when I should write and schedule my launch emails.
I worked ALL the way back to when I should write each and every chapter. Every task was small enough to put it on my to-do list as one small task.
Learn to be okay with imperfection
It’s different for everyone, but I know that one of the reasons I tend to over-plan so much is because I’m worried about putting out anything that isn’t perfect. And while perfectionism CAN be an asset at times, it’s also a major form of procrastination.
When I write something, I often find myself publishing it FAR later than I should have, or not publishing it at all, simply because I wasn’t convinced it was perfect.
But I’ve found that if I don’t publish things until they’re perfect, I will literally never publish anything. Because perfect does NOT exist. And sometimes it’s okay to settle for A- work instead of A+ work in the interest of actually getting your work out there.
I’ll let you in on a little secret – I still find myself over-planning. Sure, I’ve found some ways to break that habit, but I definitely still fall back into it at times. I’m a perfectionist at heart, and I have a really hard time finishing anything for fear that it isn’t quite perfect. So while you might never break that habit for good, I promise these tips will help!
Hi, I’m Erin! I’m an online educator and content creator who helps women reach their goals by teaching them to manage their time and their money. I want to help you design a life you love, so I’m sharing everything I know about goal setting, productivity, planning, and personal finance. You can read my full story here!