It's Never Too Early or Late to Learn How to Plan
Planning isn’t everyone’s bailiwick. Many of my friends are “non-planners” and like to see where life takes them, especially when it comes to vacations. They enjoy the feeling of there being no expectations and the thrill of no expectations.
In my experience, not planning leads to missed opportunities. For example, quite a few years ago, my husband and I took our family to Washington D.C. I had started planning our trip with daily excursions three months prior to our trip. At the time, there were several places we weren’t going to be able to visit, such as the White House, because you had to register six months in advance. If we had waited a month out or decided what to do at the beginning of each day, we would have missed out on visiting a few places because you had to sign up three months or several weeks before the day you were planning to visit. You see, planning creates a wider range of opportunity.
In my mid-twenties a friend and I were talking about planning for retirement. I was wondering if that was something we should think about at our age. My friend’s attitude was, “That isn’t for 50 years or so, we can deal with it later.” I wish I would have dealt with it then because life goes by faster than we realize when we are young and my husband and I have missed out on some opportunities because we didn’t plan better in our mid-twenties.
So, how does a non-planner begin to plan? Here’s a list to get your started:
· Start getting in the habit of planning at a young age. If you are a teen reading this, learn to plan now. If you are a parent reading this, start teaching your kids how to plan while they are young.
· Start with small goals and let those build into reaching bigger goals. For example, if you goal is to save $100 a month, start with saving $25 a month for a couple of months. Then increase the amount until you reach and are used to saving $100 a month.
· Plan days off. For example, on our family’s most recent vacation, we had a couple of days where we had no plans. We intentionally made sure there were no plans with friends or family. We decided our day over breakfast.
· Take time to dream. Throw out all the objections of why you would not do something and then ask yourself, “What things do I want to do in the future? Travel, get a certificate or degree in something, buy a particular item?” Write down all of your dreams and list them in order of importance to you. After each item on your list, write down what it would take to do those things.
· Create firm, but realistic deadlines for those things which require a deadline. For instance, when I started writing my Personal Finance Working Textbook, I set deadlines for when each lesson had to be completed. I made my deadlines realistic. Meaning I planned for one lesson to be completed each day with days off, but I didn’t plan to complete five lessons in a day.
· Research what you are planning. Sometimes the most difficult part of planning is not having all of the information. Take time to research. As my oldest plans his entrance into fulltime adulthood, meaning moving out of our home and starting his own, he is researching everything about that process. What will the cost of living be? What furniture will he need and how much will cost? What types of jobs are available in the city where he plans to move? The list goes on and on.
· Spend time reading about planning techniques. Different techniques work for different people.
· Do not spend forever planning. At some point you have to enact the plan. Don’t be afraid to use the plan. It’s how you learn what works and doesn’t work for you when planning.
This is not a complete list, of course. Many people have different ideas about how to plan and many of them are brilliant and some are difficult to follow. Research and try different ideas and find what works for you.