The Importance of Planning Ahead

Growing up, I was decent at school. I had above average grades, but I mucked about like any of my friends. From a distance it would be difficult to understand why I was so much better with my grades compared to my “under-performing” peers. Do I think I was smarter than them? No, not really. After all, I once tried breaking up a random fight I had not dog in. I’m probably on the dumber side of the population if anything.

What I did do well was plan. I was extremely rigid about it as well. If I missed even 5 minutes of studying, I’d remove my break time and study more. Punctuality was a consequence of my planning, nothing more. Every semester I’d plan my day down to 15 minutes and barely enough flexibility to keep me sane. Whenever I got a new class or job, I’d throw out my old schedule and make something completely different. Deviation from the schedule was intolerable, but there were instances of me doing so without my consent. However, I did everything in my power to avoid such horrible tragedies. One of my most embarrassing secrets is that I did a fairly good job of studying other people’s tendencies and schedules and factored that into my own. “No I can’t go get food at 6 because I’ll see Tom on the way and I’ll have to listen to him for hours”. In a perfect world, everything would have been like I was one of those super villains watching the hero beat up their thugs and saying, “It’s all going according to plan”.

Now the most obvious reason for why I planned so much was because of my household, but that was not the case in the slightest. My parents were not helicopter parents, they never asked about them. They were always impressed when they’d see my grades at the end of the year and how I managed to do anything else in the meantime. Deep-down the planning obsession was all mine. It was not healthy.

Why did I start or care about schedules so much? I can’t be certain, but it’s probably the control. Life is a bunch of random event occurring one after another. Each day has new problems along with older ones that still linger. Planning gave me that cathartic release from the stress of my life. Frankly there was not that much happening in my life at any one given moment, but that single ounce of stress made me want a life completely filled with.

The schedule became worse than the stress than the stress being mitigated. Missing one study period to hang out with friends sent me into a frenzy all-nighter to recover. I was always checking my phone to make sure I did not miss my 5 PM break-time. Yup, I reached the point where missing my time intended for relaxing was stressing me out. Don’t get me wrong, I stuck to the schedule probably around 90% of the time. However, I forgot to factor in two things.

First I’m human. Sometimes it would take me 32 minutes to learn something even though I only allocated 30 minutes. Spotting a random guy at the gym added 5 minutes to my workout time and I cursed him out the entire drive back in my car. Also, always doing the same things at certain times really grinds you down eventually. No one likes being in a rut, but the schedule made the rut. How could I plan to not be in a rut, when planning was what threw me in it to begin with? The mind needs to be stimulated and after a while it’ll figure out your everyday patterns.

The second was that life has too many variations. How could I possibly know that my grandparents were moving in the summer and therefore need me to help move their stuff instead of working more hours at my summer job? How could I have known that the girl living in the dorm suite next to me was going to have an emotional collapse and need at least 3 people to help her through it? The schedule did not always have the answers. It could account for the mundane stuff, but outliers completely screwed it up.

Schedules are good in determining what you know you need to get done and figuring out how much time you have to do it. However, they shouldn’t become your personal Bible. I still make schedules, but now I place much more flexible hours to allow for unexpected events. If I miss some time for studying, well I guess I’ll just have to study harder later.

Maybe I shouldn’t be having these thoughts right before finals though…

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