The incredible lightness of planning

Victoria Fairclough shares why she's a genuine example of enthusiasm over ability

I love planning. I’m a planning fiend. Whether it’s Trello, Excel or Google Maps, I’ll be there mapping the route. It’s such an issue for me that an ex-colleague and friend gave me a mug claiming loudly: ‘Keep calm and pretend it’s on the PLAN’. It’s too precious to use for coffee, so the mug sits resplendent on my desk as a nifty pen holder. It’s a great reminder that planning is, in my opinion, essential in all things, but sometimes it’s important to go with the flow.

Beyond possible control freak tendencies why is planning so important to me?

I find that even when I give something five minutes of pre-thought, I always get a better outcome. It’s all about the outcome. If you’re not clear on what you want to achieve or where you want to go, then the likelihood of getting there is significantly reduced. It sounds simple, but so many people and businesses throw opinions, content, and work (among other things) out into the world with no real expectation of its return on investment (ROI). And I’m all about ROI.

Why on earth would you put your heart and soul into a project without a clear view on what that investment is going to give back to you, your business, and/or your life? The ROI might not be monetary. It could be the sense of giving back to your community, the feeling of a goal accomplished, or sharing a piece of beautiful artwork. It could also be giving something a go, which is what I’m currently doing with a beginner’s contemporary dance class.

I have no dancing ability whatsoever but overcoming my fear of trying something alien and new feels like a brilliant accomplishment. I’m a genuine example of enthusiasm over ability. But I’m also learning new skill, meeting new people and having fun, which were all part of my decision to sign up for the class. I researched other options and took into consideration the venue, times of the classes, and the reviews. It was all planned, which has helped ensure I attend class regularly, give it my all and feel satisfied with the experience.

Your goals or expected ROI can literally be anything, but if you’re not clear from the outset about what you’re trying to achieve, how do you know you’ve actually achieved it? How do you know the time and energy you expended was worth it? And sure, some people are all about the continuous journey, learning and improvement. But at some point, you need to be able to proudly say: ‘look at what I achieved’. And a sense of accomplishment is such a wonderful feeling, in my view. It’s absolutely worth chasing and celebrating.

Planning doesn’t have to be a long-winded and arduous endeavour

In five minutes, you can write down what it is you want to do, and what the outcome should ultimately deliver, look like and how it should feel. Plus, broad timings for what you’re going to do and when. It’s always surprising how seeing it written down in black and white focuses the mind.

The beauty is that planning can be applied to anything in life. From work projects and your career, to learning new skills and road trips. One example I’ve always adopted is planning in my career. I’ve looked at jobs I want or companies I’m keen to work for — and then planned backwards from that point to where I am now. I think about what skills I need to learn, who I should meet and what value I need to offer to achieve my goal. It’s stood me in good stead for a long, varied and interesting career.

The final consideration in planning is that you can account for every minute of every event, project or journey, but something will inevitably occur that you didn’t anticipate. Out of left field a spanner in the works will come hurtling towards you and hit you with a loud thunk right between the eyes. The truth about planning, as in life, is that there’s nothing you can do about the random detours. You must keep calm and carry on. There’s a point at which you must stop planning, start acting and trust that you’ve given it enough time and thought to be able to handle whatever spanners get thrown your way.

Planning is literally a map for your life. So don’t be afraid to plan the route, look at the options and decide on a destination. You can always take detours, reroute and change your mind, but getting to where you want to be and achieving what you want to achieve will be more possible, realistic and attainable if you plan for it.

Featured image: Gilbert / Pexels

Victoria Fairclough

Victoria has over 17 years experience as a communications professional – across media, technology and broadcasting.She launched as a PR Consultant at Fair Communications in 2020 to represent clients in a fair and honest way - and deliver tangible results and measurable benefits. Victoria works with clients as an integrated extension of their team - supplying consultancy, expertise, media relations, strategy and best practices to achieve impactful communications results and value.She has excellent grounding in developing and activating strategic, integrated, and creative PR campaigns across a wide range of global and UK based corporate, consumer and entertainment brands including BT, Accenture, GroupM and Sky among others.She also has expertise across heavy-weight consumer PR campaigns, corporate communications, press office and media relations, crisis communications and reputation management. As well as excellent technology, media and broadcast industry knowledge and strong journalist contacts. She has experience of advising and briefing c-suite leaders ahead of media engagements and press commentary – to effectively land key messaging and build positive brand reputation.

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