Planning Ahead: 4 Reasons Why it Keeps You Sane

My whole life, people have made fun for me for being a "planner." I know I'm not the only person in the world who plans out their life, so I would like to give a voice to those of us who not only live and die by their daily calendar, but can also tell you what they plan to be doing with their lives 10 or 20 years from now.
05/03/2016 05:27 pm ET Updated May 04, 2017
Big surprise
Big surprise

My whole life, people have made fun for me for being a "planner." I know I'm not the only person in the world who plans out their life, so I would like to give a voice to those of us who not only live and die by their daily calendar, but can also tell you what they plan to be doing with their lives 10 or 20 years from now.

As many of you know, I am a college professor. And it never ceases to amaze me how most of my students wait to the very last minute to start a big paper or project. When I was in college and graduate school, I was the butt of everyone's jokes because I always had my papers done weeks before they were due. Meanwhile, my classmates were always sleep-deprived because they were pulling all-nighters. Call me crazy, but I think sleep is important. That's why I never procrastinated. Well, that and because I just can't function when I'm under too much stress.

I also plan for certain inevitable life events and/or necessary purchases. For example, when my kids were born I started planning/saving for their college education, and now I'm currently using Kelley's Blue Book for my planning stage of buying my next car, because I know it's just a matter of time before I'll need one.
I'm sure all of us planners have our own reasons for doing it. But if any of you are reading this are not planners, then here are some reasons why you might want to try to change that.

1. It minimizes stress.

Some people thrive under stress, but I'm not one of those people. In fact, I know many people like me who do not like it either, but yet they still seem to keep creating unneeded stress in their lives anyway. I even plan the most mundane things like what I'm going to make for dinner each day of the week. I also do things like make my kids' lunches the night before so I don't have to run around all crazed in the morning. My planning ahead on such things just lets me sit back and chill. I don't freak out because everything is already done well ahead of time.

2. You don't miss out on anything.

Let's say that you are going on vacation to New York City, and you don't plan out what you are going to do each day. Many people like doing trips like that. But in my experience, when I am travelling with people like that, we spend most days trying to figure out what we want to do. Then, all of a sudden it's dinner time and we haven't seen a thing. It just seems like you're wasting your time (and money). So if you have a plan ahead of time, then you won't miss anything. And this isn't just for vacations. It also pertains to things like not missing that concert or ball game that you really wanted to see - pretty much anything in life can be missed if you don't plan ahead.

3. You keep your word and it holds you accountable.

I have a lot of friends who aren't planners. But I usually still try to nail down specifics with them, even though it's very difficult. Our conversations usually go something like this:

Me: "Hey, let's go dancing on Saturday, June 2nd."

Them: "Cool! Sounds great - let's do it!"

Me (on May 30th): "So, what are our plans for Saturday? What time, where, etc?"

Them (on May 30th): "Oh man, I totally forgot about that! Sorry, can't go."

That gets annoying. I always think to myself, "Get a freaking calendar and write this stuff down!" When both people plan things ahead of time, then they're on the same page and neither one of them gets disappointed because they both are living up to their word.

4. It mentally prepares you.

As I said in the opening, life changes are inevitable. Things like going to college, marriage, new jobs, buying houses, buying cars, the empty nest phase, and retirement can all be a bit traumatic for some people. Even if some of these are happy things (marriage, new car, new house), they can still be stressful. When you plan, you can mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable. I'm not a person who likes surprises, so this is very important to me.

I know that this article isn't going to magically change any of you into a planner overnight. And I'm not even saying that planners are better than non-planners. We're just different. However, it seems to me that so many people are so stressed out by their lives that maybe adopting just a little planning might create a more calm and peaceful life for them. It's not something that can be mastered in an instant, but I think you can slowly incorporate some planning habits into your life if you take it one step at a time.