Planaphobia: What is it and do you have it?

By Vicki Voisin, ACP

Planaphobia is a common malady I’ve identified while studying time management issues. It strikes large numbers of our population, even paralegals.

What is it? Planaphobia is the fear of planning.

Planaphobia stops you in your tracks and keeps you from enjoying many of the things you’d really like to do but are afraid to plan for. Perhaps you’ll be too busy at work. Perhaps something better will come up. Perhaps you won’t feel well that day. Perhaps a volcano will erupt and you won’t be able to fly. The excuses are endless.

Do you envy the people who always know in July what they’re doing over Christmas vacation? Who purchase concert tickets months in advance? Who make flight arrangements early enough to use their frequent flier miles? Who have standing appointments for ‘high maintenance’ activities like manicures and pedicures and getting their hair done?

They’re never scrambling at the last minute hoping they can be ‘worked in’. They never miss the opening of the new play. They never have to take the ‘left over’ seats on the airplane and end up monitoring the toilets. They’re simply not afraid to make those plans in advance…and usually their plans work out just as (ahem!) PLANNED.

Let me tell you about my friend Michelle who definitely DOES NOT have Planaphobia.She traveled to Ireland with friends in 2009. They had such a fabulous time that they wanted to return to see the rest of the country and visit some of their favorite sights….andsoon because they’re not getting any younger: they want to enjoy walking in the countryside and the grounds of castles, cathedrals, villages and other landmarks.

How did Michelle…who’s a single, hard working paralegal…make this happen? Is she just ‘lucky’? No!

One of Michelle’s favorite quotes is from Abraham Lincoln: “Commitment is what transforms promise into reality.”

She lives by this quote. She made a commitment and then she made her plans. She and her friends set a date, made flight reservations and hired their driver well ahead of their departure date. Then she started her ‘Ireland fund’ where she set aside money from each paycheck and any bonus that came her way.

The volcano in Iceland did erupt a short time before Michelle’s scheduled trip. Did that stop her? Why would it? Of course she held her breath until the plane touched down in Dublin…but she just figured if she got stuck over there she’d use her Irish background to buy a pub and put her prior bartending experience to good use. She was ‘going with the flow’.

In the end, the trip went off without a hitch, and Michelle is now back at her paralegal job savoring many happy memories. She has absolutely no regrets…except perhaps that she didn’t get her Irish pub.

Time marches on. The months and years go by in spite of your hesitation and fears.If you have Planaphobia, there are steps you can take that will help you make plans and enjoy life to the fullest:

Always have a bucket list. Almost everyone has seen the movie ‘Bucket List’ starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, two men who are facing death so they go about fulfilling the items on their list of things they want to accomplish before they ‘kick the bucket. You should have an ongoing ‘bucket list’ of things you want to accomplish or do during both in the near future and as your life goes on.

Constantly update your bucket list. A bucket list is a work in progress that will change as you cross things off or think of new things to add. The lesson to be learned is don’t wait, or waste, another minute. Make your list, clarify what is important to you, and start living a more fulfilling life TODAY.

Remember, the creation of a list of life goals allows you to imagine a life that is rich in possibilities. You always have something to look forward to. When you declare your goals, you declare your intent and raise your level of awareness of opportunities that are there for you.

If making a plan is too overwhelming, break it into small steps. If you’re paralyzed by a big goal, you should consider the steps you must take to achieve the goal and then work on accomplishing each step. Plan when you will do each one. Little by little, you’ll reach the big goal just like Michelle who contributed to her ‘Ireland Fund’ with each paycheck.

Use your calendar to make your plans. A calendar offers you a year of endless possibilities. Days and months with nothing on them give you permission to make commitments. For instance, the Charlevoix Waterfront Art Fair has taken place on the second Saturday in August every year for 52 years. It’s a given that in January I’ll enter that date in August on my calendar so I can attend.

If this is still difficult for you, one thing that might help is to put optional meetings or anything else that comes up on your calendar. They’ll go on with or without you, but if your event or travel is canceled, you’ll be able to pick up where you left off and attend the event you originally thought you had to miss.

Don’t hesitate to accept invitations. If you have nothing else on your calendar, go ahead and RSVP immediately. If you hesitate, you’ll wait until it’s too late and you have another missed opportunity.

Retain your spontaneity. Life is all about seizing the moment. Everything doesn’t have to be planned down to the minute. If something you’d like to do comes up on the spur of the moment, don’t hesitate to say ‘YES!’ and enjoy.

When you get past your Planaphobia, be ready to be amazed at the joy you’ll be feeling. You’ll be doing more of the things you really want to do. You’ll be more calm, happier and you’ll always feel ‘ahead of the game’. Remember this quote from Peter F. Drucker: Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.Promises and hopes aren’t the same as actually doing…and life is about doing.

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©2010 Vicki Voisin, Inc.

Do you want to use this article in your newsletter, ezine or Web site? You can so long as you include this entire blurb with it: Vicki Voisin, “The Paralegal Mentor”, delivers simple strategies for paralegals and other professionals to create success and satisfaction by achieving goals and determining the direction they will take their careers. Vicki spotlights resources, organizational tips, ethics issues, and other areas of continuing education to help paralegals and others reach their full potential. She publishes a weekly ezine titled Paralegal Strategies and co-hosts The Paralegal Voice, a monthly podcast produced by Legal Talk Network. More information is available at www.paralegalmentor.com