News

What Is Your Plan?

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | September 26, 2009

"There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing."
Brian Tracy

Evie is one of the best planners I have ever known. For over 42 years I have experienced her ability to take a few dollars or a short amount of time or a complex problem and after her serious strategic attention, make the impossible happen. It's just the way her mind works. 

My list of examples could be long but I will mention just one. I remember the challenges I faced during my doctoral studies at the University of Minnesota. I could not reduce my obligations at work or at home yet somehow she helped me schedule consistent time to move that mountain a shovel at a time. That is why I wrote these words in the dedication section of my dissertation, "No one can share this moment like she can." 

John Maxwell says there are several reasons why people don't plan. Some people don't know how to do it. "Some people don't have an innate ability to project themselves into the future. They've never been taught to prioritize their day or to prepare for tomorrow." Some people are caught in the "tyranny of the urgent, and they don't have time." 

Maxwell also claims that some people just don't like the "hassle of planning." He describes some people who don't plan because even when you do plan, the plans rarely come out like the original plan. 

Even when we go whitewater rafting, Maxwell suggests we need a plan. He describes four kinds of plans. 

Passive Planning. This happens when "leadership allows the raft to drift downstream at the mercy of the current rather than steering, rowing and turning." This kind of unpredictable planning can take you into treacherous rapids or over dangerous waterfalls. 

Panic Planning. Without proper planning, crises arise and emergency response is needed. Whitewater rafting without a plan will eventually require us to scramble to find a solution. 

Scientific Planning. "Imagine if a raft guide constantly tried to measure the depth of the water, the distance between rocks, the wind speed and the water current." Perhaps that data would be helpful but the demands of the moment would make the details irrelevant. 

Principle-centered Planning. Life in general and people in particular cannot be graphed on a chart but everyone is guided by principles. And it is those principles which establish our priorities and strategies. 

John Maxwell would like Evie. I don't think she has ever had a reason not to plan. It seems the busier we get the more time we take on a Saturday morning over coffee and a bagel as we match our calendars and plan our lives. We could never survive without those times. 

I think that is why someone said, "For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned." And, the more complex the challenge, the longer one should plan. 

I remember walking with our architect, Jack DeBartolo II, inside the space of our new library as it was under construction. The walls had just gone up and the roof was barely finished. I mentioned what a thrill that moment must be for him to do that for the first time. He replied, "This is not the first time I have walked inside that space. I have been living here for months...in my mind." The plan was in place long before the concrete was poured. 

Lewis Carroll captured this idea in his Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. "Would you tell me which way to go from here?" asked Alice. "That depends a good deal on where you want to get," said the Cat. "I really don't care where," replied Alice. "Then it doesn't much matter which way you go," said the Cat. 

And in the words of that famous philosopher Yogi Berra, "You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
Responses can be mailed to president@vfcc.edu