From the monthly archives:

January 2009

Planning and “The Plan”

by Haider on January 30, 2009 · 9 comments

in Productivity

One of the main pitfalls I seem to fall into over and over again is failing to go beyond planning and actually getting my work done. I plan, plan some more, add planning to my to-do list, do even more planning, finish planning, get back to planning, re-plan and so on. It seems that planning -  for me -  is an end unto itself: I plan for the sake of planning.

To resolve this problem, it’s important to recognize the dual role of planning: planning as a process and as part of a process.

The Process

Planning isn’t simply done to pave the way for the actions that need to be carried out. Planning helps us resolve our own confusion and to manage our own thoughts. We put pen to paper, or mindmap on our computers or use any number of planning methods so we can clarify our own thinking about the project we intend to undertake.

In this respect, planning alone (without doing anything beyond the planning) remains a useful process to go through. It brings us clarity and relief. It helps us make sense of our projects. It helps us manage our own thoughts.

This is when planning can be considered as an end unto itself. We don’t need to do anything else to experience the relief planning, alone, can bring.

But to actually get things done, we need to see planning as part of a greater process.

Part of a Process

Most projects we undertake have a level of complexity that needs to be simplified – or understood – in order to manage the work associated with it, so we can get the desired results.

Planning is an essential step to take in order to bring clarity to any project and to define the action steps to take. The outcome of planning isn’t clarity and mental relief. As part of a process, planning must have a tangible output that gets fed into the next phase of the project. Planning is part of the “Thinking” phase of a project that defines how the project is to be carried out. The next phase would be the “Doing” phase, where the results of planning are put into practice.

What connects the two phases is The Plan.

The Plan

While planning, your intention should be to come up with an outcome that can be used to get work done. This is The Plan. While this may seem obvious, but if you default to seeing planning as a process (and not part of a process), an outcome beside mental relief is unnecessary. In fact, I’ve planned many, many times and simply forgot – or even threw away – my planning papers because I achieved the relief that I desired.

But to make planning effective, it must have a Plan as an output. A plan defines, clearly, what you intend to do in the “Doing” phase. Once you draw up a plan, the planning phase is completed and you can move on to undertake the tasks required.

Without a plan, planning can go on forever (and it usually does). There is always information to take in and alternatives to consider. But once a plan is drawn up, you can conclude the planning phase and actually get things done.

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Evaluating My Holiday

January 30, 2009

Today is the last weekday of my 5-week holiday. I had some very ambitious plans for the holiday (that’s why I took the holiday to begin with!). Some said my plans were overly ambitious and that if this is what my plan looked like, I might as well include “solving world hunger” on the list.
Were [...]

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Six Men and a Glass

January 17, 2009

Is the glass half empty or half full?
A very popular question intended to distinguish between Pessimism (who sees the glass half empty) and Optimism (who sees the glass half full).
However, there are actually four more gentlemen gathered around the glass, who are usually not mentioned, even though their points of view are very common and [...]

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A Personal Lesson in the Importance of Character Development

January 16, 2009

Less than a week before the launch of this site, I was feeling worried that I might not meet my deadline (the one I promised my friend Khalid I will finish the site by. He always insists that I work by fixed dates). I was taking my family (wife and twins) to the Scientific Center [...]

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Reasons for Choosing Character Development

January 10, 2009


  • Purpose of Post: To explain my reasons for choosing character development as my approach for the year, and when is it a a suitable approach to take
  • I have never come up with a list of virtues I would really like to possess, and the list of vices that I would like to abandon or avoid
  • Some people have clearly defined principles but don’t know how to put them into practice. This leads them to act in ways that conflict with their principles
  • Others focus on developing habits, without knowing what principles they belong to. This could lead them to develop one habit while overlooking other habits that sabotage their efforts.
  • For example: being attentive when others speak can help build relations. But if you are sarcastic when you respond to what others have to say, you will not be able to advance your relations the way you wish
  • Character traits combine a number of habits to represent them. Being patient isn’t tied to a single habit. It’s demonstrated by a number of habits in different situations
  • The two main reasons why I want to take the approach of character development are:

  • To put my principles into practice

  • To more clearly recognize the habits that demonstrate the characteristics I wish to possess

  • I will NOT be developing all the characteristics I want to possess, or abandoning all my bad habits this year!
  • This year will involve me defining the characteristics I want to possess and to identifying the habits that fall under each characteristic, so that I can have a clearer plan for my personal development efforts.

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