Life Hacks

Planning Zen – How Planning Calms You Down

Planning calms you down
wrote this on February 5, 2013
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If you’re a person who knows how to plan, then are probably calm, positive, and resourceful.  Why? Planning has several effects on your nervous system that can help you achieve Zen.  Planning releases endorphins when planned objectives are reached, helps with the creation of habits, and helps bind those habits to our daily routine with surges of dopamine.

Ultimately, planning calms us down because it eliminates three factors that cause us anxiety:

1# Achiving Planning Zen Eliminates Stress Caused by Unfinished Business

Ever heard of the Zeigarnik Effect?

“The Zeigarnik Effect is the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about an objective that was once pursued and left incomplete. The automatic system signals the conscious mind, which may be focused on new goals, that a previous activity was left incomplete. It seems to be human nature to finish what we start and, if it is not finished, we experience dissonance.” (Source: Psychwiki)

Yes my friends, the Zeigarnik effect is that voice in the back of your mind the moment you try to sleep.  Almost everyone suffers from it and it steals countless hours of sleep on a monthly basis. A recent research published by the Department of Psychology, in Florida State University, found that planning helps you overcome the Zeigarnik effect and other intrusive thoughts during the day.

“Committing to a specific plan for a goal may therefore not only facilitate attainment of the goal but may also free cognitive resources for other pursuits. Once a plan is made, the drive to attain a goal is suspended—allowing goal-related cognitive activity to cease—and is resumed at the specified later time.”

The simple action behind making a plan liberates us from those pesky restless hours. Next time you’re suffering from sleepless nights due to “unfinished business anxiety”, remember to write what’s bothering you down and pursue it on the day after.

2# Achiving Planning Zen Gives Us an Easy Way Out of Sticky Situations

Do you have a “plan B”?

Having an exit strategy or a plan to change direction when things go wrong is vital not only to dealing with trouble once we bump into them but also to calm us down before they even happen.  Planning will help you and your subconscious deal with the following question:

“What’s the worst that can happen?”

When you know what’ the worst that can happen, you can prepare better.  That preparation process helps you visualize the scenario, and adapt your response to mitigate damage.  Once you’ve been through it, even mentally, you’ll worry less about that worst-case scenario.

In psych talk…by pushing the possible issues we might have to our conscious mind, we help our ever pattern seeking brain to relax better and start focusing on the solution, instead of fearing that monster of a problem that lays in the dark of our subconscious.

Get Things Done with Planning Zen

Remember, it’s better to face the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.

3# Achiving Planning Zen helps us Prioritize

Planning zen-like state of mind gives you a purpose; it identifies, clarifies and quantifies goals that we can later filter by priority. When we prioritize important tasks, we’re less likely to miss deadlines and fumble over milestones.  Most importantly, we avoid the associated feelings and stress that prevent us from doing tasks and projects which are not in-line with our goals.

By using planning methods like David Allen’s GTD, Stephen Covey’s FTF and others, we start to move away from the paradigm of working aimlessly towards “doing” in a structured, prioritized manner.

Planning will help remove uncertainties and feelings of anxiety.  We can lead a Zen-like life by knowing that we are leveraging our time.  Once you are confident you are making best use of your time to achieve your life’s goals, you’re 90% of the way to Planning Zen.

* GTD® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company. IQTELL is not affiliated with the David Allen Company.

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11 responses to “Planning Zen – How Planning Calms You Down”

  1. Melanie Wilson says:

    I love the idea of using Covey’s quadrants as labels. I’m going to give that a try!

  2. braincutlery says:

    Sound advice, but Planning can also be a crutch. I’ve lost count of the number of occasions where people have fallen into endless replanning just to avoid facing into a difficult decision.

    +1 for Covey – although I tend to use it to prioritise tasks rather than constructing longer-term plans (which by definition are important, but not urgent).

  3. JohannaTime says:

    It needs to be a believable plan. To get your commitments (back) on cruise control. That’s about it. Thanks for the post IQTELL!

    • Thanks for your comment Aukje, I totally agree, the only good plan is a plan you believe in. If you don’t believe in your plan, you’ll probably end up more stressed then you previously imagined possible. David Allen said it best: a system you trust = Planning that gets done.

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