Planning or Goal-Keeping?

In a busy life, I think it may be easy to believe that your calendars, lists, quick email responses, time-boxed projects, plethora of tasks, and deadlined events / milestones are all indicators of your planning skills and tendencies.

But there’s another possibility: You may be choosing and charging toward “goals”. You may not have a “plan” at all, you may merely be a “goal-keeper”.

In his blog about software development, Basil Vandegriend brings up a different, but related problem:

… the plan is assembled with the intent of meeting the objectives, but what guarantee is there that this will actually happen?

Mistaking Plans for Goals

How can you tell?

Well, in my book, first of all, if the thing, task, or project is something you have not done before, then you don’t have a plan. You just can’t – plans come from experience, and you don’t have any. But you’ve got lots of the elements of a plan – the meetings, deadlines, and task lists – so what you’ve really got is a boat-load of constraints, and goals which might or might not come close to being achieved. Things might work out great. Or this just might end up being a rough year for you. 😦

But what if you do have experience? Sorry – that still doesn’t mean you have a plan. You might still just have the elements of a plan that never quite congealed.

Or maybe you do have a plan, because you know how to organize your work into plans. Well, maybe it’s a good plan, one worth following. Or maybe it’s a really bad plan that is just going to make you feel bad about yourself.

I’m not saying you suck as a planner. But are you sure that you don’t suck? How do you know you are not just being the “keeper of the goals”, who might or might not end up happy or admired for what what you are about to do with all that precious time and happy possibility?