There’s no such thing as too much planning…

…as long as you don’t expect to follow through

Most of the time, I like to know in advance what I am going to do, when, where, with whom, how much it will cost, what I should bring, etc. I find it reassuring, especially at weekends: having plans brings the certainty of doing something interesting, enjoyable, and/or useful – in other words, of making the most of my free time. It gives me something to look forward to while I deal with mundane tasks or when I feel like I am wasting my time.

Even when it comes to less enjoyable things, like housecleaning or job hunting, I enjoy planning – I love making to-do lists, setting goals, rearranging my planner, etc. It is actually my favourite procrastination technique: no matter how much time I waste coming up with ways to “live life to the full-list”, as Lacey from One&Mug put it, I always end up feeling like I have actually accomplished something, as if I had spent all that time working.

Just a small problem

It wouldn’t be a waste of time at all if I actually acted on my lists, achieved my goals, and stuck to my planner. Unfortunately, as soon as I try to do so, a new way to procrastinate reveals itself, or something I hadn’t planned for comes up, and I put aside my to-do list or ditch my overly restrictive planner for the freedom of improvisation. For a while, it feels liberating – until I realise how little I have accomplished.

Am I actually a bad planner? Should I leave more room for improvisation and entertainment in my schedule? Or should I turn my router off and hope denying myself Internet access will do the trick? Even if I were to get rid of every piece of electronics I own, I am sure the problem would remain the same. I would find a book to read, a story to write, or talk to my cats – they are actually very good listeners. What I need is to address the problem head on.

A possible solution

With all this in mind, I spent the better part of the afternoon designing a new schedule for myself – one I wouldn’t have to stick to, but absolutely couldn’t ditch. I made sure to plan something for every waking hour, from 7 am to 10 pm Monday through Sunday. At any time, I may decide to do something else if I don’t feel like sticking to my planner. I may rearrange activities or delete them as I please, but they will still be there the next day. Waiting.

I am sort of making a pact with myself: I will do my best to abide by my schedule, I won’t let myself waste an hour on Tumblr or lie on my couch because I don’t know what to do. There is always something productive to be done and my planner will remind me of it in moments of doubt. At the same time, if I would rather spend an afternoon with a friend or an evening in front of TV, as long as I don’t have anything urgent to do, I won’t feel bad about ditching my planner for a few hours.

Effect on language learning

Learning any language requires time, but more than that, it requires frequent and focused study. There is nothing wrong with using the dead times of your busy day to casually read the news on the bus or watch Youtube videos while having lunch, but you will achieve better results if you actually dedicate time slots to language learning – daily, if you can.

Having material ready for your next study session always helps, but deciding on an activity or two you want to practice can be enough. And defining time slots for reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar study and/or vocabulary review/acquisition ensures that you will practice every aspect of the language you are learning. You can assign a language to each day of the week or make sure you practise each language every day.

Planning my week allows me to set aside time for each language and activity I want to practice. I have time slots for watching series or listening to podcasts in a foreign language, reviewing vocabulary I have learnt or learning new vocabulary, calling native speakers of my target languages on Skype to practice conversation, as well as reading and writing.

Wait and see

At this time, I am really hopeful regarding my new planning. It is pretty stuffed but I don’t see it as a bad thing since it will keep me busy without overwhelming me. By always having something useful to do and a specific time slot to take care of it, I should be less tempted to indulge in time-wasting activities.

Unfortunately, while I will put my planner to the test starting tomorrow, I am afraid I won’t be able to achieve much this week, as a friend will be staying with me for a few days and I have no idea what she has planned. But well – I will just have to wait and see!

Featured image: Right Brain Planning {elements} by Teresa Robinson on Flickr, resized and cropped by me.

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One thought on “There’s no such thing as too much planning…

  1. Pingback: Make a weekly planner in 10 easy steps | Keeping Track

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