Change of plans

How good are you at planning? And how well do you cope when there´s a change of plans?'

Tablet device showing a weekly planner page, and a hand holding an electronic pen, hovering over the screen

I don't usually take the time to plan things in great detail, but I do like having a broad idea of what I'll be doing on a particular day or week, so that I can "tick things off my list" and feel that I'm being useful. Well, unexpected things happened on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend that altered my plans as I went along.

OK, truth be told, at least one of those things was due to my own forgetfulness: I had agreed to meet some friends for lunch and a walk today, and I had completely forgotten, because I never added the event to my calendar. When I say calendar I mean Google Calendar, which in the last couple of years has become my best friend, I use it all the time, And I'm not sure whether I should be thankful or put the blame on it, because nowadays, if something is not on the calendar... It simply slips my mind, as it happened today.

Thankfully (and maybe thanks to telepathy), today I happened to check my phone at around the time we had agreed to meet, and thanks to seeing messages from my friends, I remembered and was able to join them. But on the other hand, several of the tasks I had lined up for this weekend ended up not being done, so I'm going to have to squeeze them into the next few days. What was of course not negotiable was this weekly post, which, once again and despite all my good intentions, I'm writing in the middle of the night 😀

Anyway, I could give you multiple explanations (a.k.a., excuses) of how those sudden events altered my plans, and how I wasn't able to achieve everything I wanted to get done... Or I could admit that the to-do list I had to begin with was not realistic for a single weekend, as it often happens to me.

And that reminds me of a quote I heard or read somewhere, years ago, which also came up the other day as I was talking to a friend: we human beings tend to overestimate what we can achieve in the short term, and in contrast, underestimate what we can achieve in the long term.

Now, researching this online, I found similar quotes attributed to both Bill Gates and Tony Robbins, referring to what one can achieve in one year as opposed to ten or twenty years... I'd say the same can also be applied to shorter timelines, like a week or two as opposed to a whole year.

And interestingly, I also found an equivalent law that's applied to technology, Amara's law, which postulates that "in most cases, human beings tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run".

So it's clear that, in general, estimating in the short term is not something we as people are good at, even if we think we are. And anyone who works in software development or any related field will be able to confirm how difficult it is to determine in advance the effort and duration of a certain task.

I believe this is also very relevant to any personal development or coaching process: quite often we define a goal for ourselves to achieve in a certain period of time, come up with an action plan that's too optimistic, and then feel down for not being able to stick to it, or for not achieving the goal as it was defined at the start. But all of that in reality is part of the process: the important thing is that thanks to the goal we get to make progress (even if it's not at the speed we would like), and we also get to learn, for everything that happens along the way are results that give us new information. And once we have that information, we can adjust the plan in order to achieve the goal, or sometimes we may realize that the goal itself is what needs to change.

Another well known quote, this time by Woody Allen, says: "if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans"; this resonates a lot with me, and I'm sure it will also resonate with many of you. So, knowing that this is how life works, let's enjoy making plans and finding out where they take us 🙂

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