I don’t know about you, but I always get excited when a new project lands on my lap. So excited in fact that I go ahead and plan it out, sometimes down to the very last detail. And though planning is generally a good thing, too much planning can actually be bad for your project.
Why Too Much Planning Is Bad
We all know the results of not planning ahead. There’s a lot of firefighting going on, last minute changes, and enough disappointment for everyone. But too much planning also has its downsides:
- Too much wasted effort. That extra time spent thinking about contingencies and diving into details could have been better spent on executing the plan instead.
- Too much commitment to the plan. When you invest a lot of time into a plan, chances are you’ll fall for the fallacy of the sunk cost. You’ll resist budging from your plan, even when the evidence says you should do otherwise.
- Disappointing results. Bigger plans mean bigger expectations. Even if you reach an extraordinary milestone, you’ll still end up disappointed since it didn’t live up to your grander expectations.
How To Avoid Too Much Planning
To learn how to plan properly, you need to go back to the reason why you need to plan in the first place.
Firstly, you plan to build up your confidence. A good plan will show you that, yes, you can do the work. It’s doable and even if you don’t know how to do everything, you know where to get help for those parts.
Secondly, we plan to keep a clear head while working. A thousand things can and will happen when you start executing your plan. This is the time to use the plan to keep you focused and to store all those minor details that crop up during your work.
With this in mind, let’s outline how to avoid too much planning:
- Map out the big picture of the project early on. By doing so, you’ll learn if the project is something you can confidently tackle. It also shows you the harder parts of the project early on, so you can get help if needed.
- Next, add details to the initial parts of the plan. Don’t dive in too deep, though. All you need are those few specific details that will help you start working on the plan.
- Let the plan simmer in your mind for a while. This incubation period helps spark your creativity to find solutions for the trickier parts of the project.
- Start working! As you work on the project, new ideas will inevitably appear, sometimes distractingly so. Don’t let this bother you and jot them down into the appropriate part of your plan. Deal with them later when the time is right. Don’t keep a new idea in your head or you will lose focus.
- Alter the course, if needed. As you execute, new information will come to you. You’ll also start getting some initial results from your work. Review the new data and adapt your plan if needed, all the while keeping in mind the end goal of the project. Don’t steer off course too much.
A plan is there to give you the confidence to start work and a clear head while working. If your plan is getting out of hand, reel yourself back in and remember the basics. You’ll be back on track in no time!
The trap of too much planning can also be avoided by ensuring you’re setting the right goals.