The Best Laid Plans … Yeah, Right!

It goes something like this …

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of real life, I can’t help but believe that the medicine goes down better when accompanied by a well laid plan spoonful of sugar.  Whether it be a mental list (Bahahahaha, yeah right! What kind’ve bone-head boob would rely on such foolish tactics!) or a tidy inventory laid out on paper– complete with bullet points–I’m all about planning.  Not that all my plans see fruition, it’s more about the fact that having a plan makes me feel fools me into thinking that I have a safety net in position at those times when real life comes along and attempts to blow the post-its off the refrigerator.

Did I mention my delusional tendencies?

Plans are admirable and good, even necessary at times, and yet, to believe they are ironclad or accident proof is to be mighty disappointed delusional.  The hard, cold, nails-down-the-chalkboard-truth, my friends?  Real Life Trumps The Best Laid Plans. 

For example (and I have so many I will make an effort to curb myself from dumping an avalanche here), I never fail to compose a grandiose list of New Year’s resolutions on or about January 1st, ready to sprint out the gate the moment the countdown ends, the ball drops, and I can *officially* crawl into my sparkly new and improved skin.

Make no mistake, I’m no lightweight

Which isn’t to say that I am simply a composer of abundant schemes and flowing designs–no ma’am, not this runaway chicken. To my credit, I stockpile ammo, suit-up, dig-in, and prepare for the long haul. I aim high, because I don’t know any better somewhere deep inside my rock hard head, I’ve succeeded in convincing tricking myself into believing that I’m up for the task and ready to vault over the wall at a moments notice.

My proposed lead into 2012 was no exception. Grand planner that I am, I prepared early, toiled over my intentions,scratched some, and elevated others.  It was an admittedly rosy start and I had a good run. All things orderly, neat, and infinitely promising for nearly a week.  Right up to the moment when the clown car pulled-up  and stormed the castle.

And so …

What happens when THE BEST LAID PLANS step out for a smoke, take a powder, leave the building? Well, duh, for starters you need to make new ones.  You rethink, regroup, refocus.  Because here’s the thing, the reason REAL LIFE trumps all variety of planning is because REAL LIFE is the big ticket, the hot tamale, the Leprechaun’s lucky charms. Whereas PLANS are more akin to those unintelligible instructions that come inside the box of high-quality-assemble-it-yourself furniture (why does it look like a coffee table when you’re supposed to be constructing a chest of drawers???), equal to the odds of winning more than two dollars on a scratch-off lottery ticket or waking up to find Brad Pitt scrambling eggs in your kitchen.

Say What?

Simply put, PLANS are good. They help us streamline, focus, accomplish. But still, there are plenty of times when REAL LIFE has its own PLANS and we’re left feeling as if there’s a runaway tractor trailer barreling straight through the center of our life.  Just as there are nevertheless moments when an even better PLAN comes along and trumps the seemingly perfect one you scribbled on the back of the cocktail napkin or jotted in the margin of the newspaper.

Um hum, REAL LIFE, it’s what’s for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

And you? Are you a planner? How often do you defer to Real Life without a knock-down, drag-out fight?

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18 thoughts on “The Best Laid Plans … Yeah, Right!

  1. I’m the most inconsistent planner alive. When I am in a planning phase, lists everyday, constant referral to lists, lots of check marks to make me feel like I have a handle on things. Then days, weeks go by and I realize I haven’t referred to a list once. Not sure whether I get more done when I consciously plan BUT I definitely feel like I am getting more done. 🙂

    • I have such an affection for those cool planning books where you can check off the cute little boxes as you accomplish things. In fact, I like them so much, it’s easy to pretend that I’m not actually rewriting the same tasks day-after-day in my optimism that I will eventually get them DONE! Dare I admit that you’ve analyzed my habits quite accurately when you say “lots of check marks to make me feel like I have a handle on things.” Um, but if it’s okay with you, Sara, can we maybe just keep this dirty little secret between us :-O

  2. As you know I’ll probably next write: I am chaotic and la tee dah. I rarely plan – dang me pea-headed hide! I should plan! Maybe I do – maybe I just don’t realize I’m planning and think everything is so random and chaotic. Huhn. dang.

  3. I am a planner. Post-its, my phone, and lists keep me organized. Without them, I get a bit distracted by classy British actors. I’m also someone who likes to have a visual, mental road map of where I’m going in the future. It’s not super detailed, more like a general vision of where I want to go and how I’m going to get there. With some recent upheaval in my life, my road map was suddenly changed and I felt very, very lost, as though Real Life got hold of the previous map and tore it to bits. Real Life is a bit of a stinker like that sometimes, even when it has good intentions and tries to show us that the old map was taking us in the wrong direction. I’ve just recently been able to start seeing the path again and am creating a new road map. Real Life may slow me down from time to time, but it isn’t going to keep me from moving forward.

    • No doubt about it, Tami, you’re playing my song. I always figure I have a better chance of getting it right if I have a plan (Read: I have a better chance of remembering to do something if it’s laid in concrete ink on paper!) It’s not a bad system, and the intentions feel honorable and good, but, as you said, Real Life can be so terribly sneaky and devious. I’m certain from your comment that we must have been stranded on the same roadway in recent weeks, since my own map has been trounced pretty thoroughly. Well, okay, so as they say, “That’s life,” blah, blah, blah. But still, you see, like you I have this plan …

  4. Yep, I’m definitely a planner too. From a tactical perspective, I have a tendency to make lists for the weekends — planning-in social engagements and writing time as well as chores, of course. Often I’ll actually write a time schedule, although I haven’t done this in a while. Of course, I never actually tick ALL the items off the list, but sometimes I come close!

    All these tactical plans are supposed to help me achieve my strategic ‘big picture’ plans — such as complete novel draft by the end of the year. (You know, x words per week will result in…), but I’m a bit (lot) behind on that one!

    • Hey Ellen 🙂 In my case it gets even more tricky when you get to the point when you realize it’s not just about writing something down with the intention of staying on task, but knowing there’s a likely chance you won’t remember it otherwise. I have numerous dents in my forehead from smacking myself every time I wake-up from the fog to realize I FORGOT to do something really important, just because I chose to wing-it rather than taking a minute to add it to the memo 😦

      I’m a big proponent of the Big Picture. Even if it’s off by a few days, months, or possibly years. I figure as long as the picture remains intact, I’m in for the long haul!

  5. I am a far better planner than I used to be, I think because I have started thinking long-term. What can I realistically accomplish this year? Or, if a plan that would take more than a year, how much of that larger plan can I realistically put into action this year? Looking at what I can control vs what is beyond my control helps (can’t make an agent represent me, but I can polish my manuscript to the best of my abilities).

    Follow up is crucial. I have three writing peers/buddies and we share our goals weekly. There’s accountability, which makes me do, but also makes me think carefully about what I say I will do, because I have to report on my progress.

    And still, I revise and rethink because if life is in flux, it makes sense that plans will change, too.

    • Sherry, How does that work, the weekly meeting with other writers to discuss goals? I’m asking for a literal answer: first we do this, then this, then that. It sounds like an idea that I might want to investigate.

    • So cool to “rub lists” with my fellow planners. I had a busy morning, so didn’t take time to dash down some notes to myself. What that means is that now here I am floundering, rooting around in the tar-pit of my thoughts and hoping I’ll get back on track before the sun goes down. I so like and admire your sensible approach as to the question of control and thus focusing on those things you have the power to steer around the track.

      Inquiring minds want to know: Ditto with Sara, as to the question of how your weekly writer meeting works out. The concept sounds quite wonderful 😀

  6. Oh definitely a planner, well, at least for the first two and half minutes into whatever it is I think I’m planning. lol I prefer an outline, it leaves me allot of lea-way to fill in the spaces in between. Now, I have the sharpened pencils, a scrap of paper to write on, (scraps rather than full, pretty sheets of paper leave little room for extensive, writing/planning); if I’m really prepared, my glasses so I can actually read the gibberish I’ve written and lastly, a note to myself where it is I put the a-fore mentioned scrap of paper!
    Here’s how the sketchy outline theory works; at age 17 I decide it’s a brilliant decision on my part to move from NJ to NM. I make the list of what I’ll need for this adventure,a plane ticket,some cool new clothes, and um, yeah, that’s it, my cool clothes. Consequently as my departure day approaches I’m packed and ready to go with my new wardrobe, $10.00 in my pocket( yes, $10.00)and a plane ticket! The little details like how will I l support myself never really made the “list”. What I’ve learned about myself is when my back is to the wall I don’t consider myself trapped, I use the wall to push off of into a new direction! You can strategically plot the direction you wish to take or what you hope to accomplish down to nth degree, but life has a way of creating havoc while you’re carefully writing down all the details…… My motto, ” Don’t sweat the details” lol
    P.S. Yes I did make it to NM and manged to survive, oh, and I also once purchased a house I didn’t remember how to get to, I wound up spending 13 amazing years living there!

    • Lol, I wouldn’t have believed you for a second if you claimed to be a list maker, Lyn! You’ve always stuck me as a two minute, scrap of paper [or ballpoint on the palm], planner, and the really enviable thing is that it WORKS for you!

      “You can strategically plot the direction you wish to take or what you hope to accomplish down to nth degree, but life has a way of creating havoc while you’re carefully writing down all the details……” this may be your motto, but it’s a keeper and I’d do well to make it my own.

      I ABSOLUTELY love your $10.00, cool new clothes, off to NM story! I’ve done that, too, but only in my head 🙂

      • I seriously have the best intentions of doing things in a sensible manner,but the ADD takes over and I’m left with 10 random thoughts that I’m trying to connect. lol I have made some insane,bonehead decisions that thankfully have somewhat worked out! Crazy thing is I made an almost identical decision 25 yrs later, here we go again, NM bound without a clue. I had a little more money but no real game plan; God has truly been my co-pilot because I surely would have crashed and burned by now! I may be older but can’t say I’m wiser……

      • However you’re doing it – as complicated or roundabout as it may seem – you’re doing it well! Just like I think you’re wiser than you think. Clearly “seat-of-the-pants” works pretty well for you!

  7. Oh, while we’re all being honest with each other, I’m not JUST a planner. I’m a CONTROL FREAK! Well, at least I guess that’s what you call it when you have trouble delegating and delude yourself into thinking you don’t need help. Sigh…I also have been known to write things down on my To Do list that I’ve already done just for the wicked pleasure of crossing them off. How’s that for delusional?

    Truly, though, one of the biggest advantages of getting things on paper is that even when they don’t all get done the way I had hoped, they are THERE, out of my head, and I can quit worrying about whether I’ll just forget them. I find I can even sleep better at night when I’ve made a list before I go to bed.

  8. Okay, so here we are, Elizabeth – now that you’ve put the words CONTROL FREAK out there in the atmosphere – I have to fess-up that there might be a bit of moi in that description. I’ve become quite adept at convincing myself that “Nobody does it better.” So much so in fact, that others are more than happy to let me carry my self-imposed load solo. Bad move, definitely, but as a fellow CF, you know how difficult it is to loosen our grip on … uh … well, everything!

    Lol, I so love your technique of writing down things you’ve already done. That’s genius! In fact I’m stealing that one for my own!

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