I recently got the following interesting question:
Question: does/did it feel depressing to plan your life?
Much advice suggests planning as the panacea against the ills of procrastination and a sure promise of a high quality of life, but… isn’t there something sad about allocating time in a planner for ‘non-business’ activities — ‘from 7-8pm on Wednesdays I read novel X’? Do you find a life that’s regimented like this depressing or not at all? More broadly, self-help literature focuses on how to get yourself to a particular ideal, but is that ideal appealing? Would you agree that that ideal is at odds with the joy of life? Or, are freedom and spontaneity values for the weak among us? Your thoughts would be much appreciated.
My original quick answer was the following:
That’s an excellent question – and something I’ve been musing about for some time.
Sometimes, I reach the point where I feel like I *have to* go to the gym, and *have to* journal and all that. Most of the times, however, I like having a plan for my evening, because otherwise I’ll just end up browsing the internet and then feeling as if my time just slipped through my fingers.
However, from time to time, I try to stop and think: “What would feel really good now? What do I crave?”. I’m a linear thinker and a planner, but I need to connect more often to my body and feminine energy and think of what would feel just right in this very moment.
As I’ve been doing in my previous Q&A posts, let me break down this question in different chunks:
1. planning as the panacea against the ills of procrastination and a sure promise of a high quality of life
Planning helps to achieve goals – that’s for sure. You can’t be working on a big life project if you don’t manage to carve out a bit of time for it every now and then. Similarly, I think it is more valuable to have a plan for your evening than to come home and fret away the evening in front of the TV (which I consider doing nothing), or surfing the internet.
2. Do you find a life that’s regimented like this depressing or not at all?
As long as it doesn’t feel like pressure, it should be fine… And that’s the tricky part. As I wrote in my original answer, sometimes I feel like I “have” to blog in the evening, and “have” to study the lectures in the MOOCs that I’m following – while all I really want to do is take a book and crawl into my bed and sleep early. I tend to freak out a little bit as well when I get short-notice invites – because then it doesn’t fit my planning and I have to change things around.
Along the same lines, I sometimes get a little disheartened when I compare my plan of everything I’d like to do in the evening or weekend, and what I really get accomplished. Then I feel as if I have failed – while I probably am just setting too high standards for myself.
3. More broadly, self-help literature focuses on how to get yourself to a particular ideal, but is that ideal appealing?
That is an excellent question – I float between wanting to make sure I eat clean, wake up very early, drink my green juice, work out, meditate and do all the “right” things, and just wanting to go to a party, eat all the cheese, drink a cup too much, go to bed super late and sleep deep into the next day…
I try to focus on the question: “What feels good for myself right now?”, but it is difficult. It’s hard to listen to your inner guidance and do the right thing for yourself when the whole world seems to be having ideas on how you should be behaving.
4. Would you agree that that ideal is at odds with the joy of life?
It really depends…. I get a lot of joy out of being able to solve difficult problems, study material online, play music and all these activities that get “planned” for my evenings. Similarly, I enjoy achieving a big goal in life.
But at the same time, sometimes I feel like I’m living a rather Spartan life, pushing myself at all moments of the day and trying to excel in every possible field.
5. Or, are freedom and spontaneity values for the weak among us?
Not at all – I think there is a lot of beauty and wisdom in spontaneity. As I mentioned earlier, the ability to listen to your personal needs, and identifying what would feel right at this moment in time, is an important skill. More than anything, I think many of us need to learn to slow down and listen to ourselves and our personal needs. So, if freedom and spontaneity come from your center, from your personal needs, then it is absolutely OK. When you are trying to conform to someone else’s needs or society’s pressure, then I think you are moving away from your self.
These are just my random thoughts on this topic – but I think this is an excellent topic for further discussion. So please, share your thoughts and musings in the comments!