I used to a rather obsessive person when it came to my planning. I used to plan my vacations down to knowing every stop on the way like you buy gas in this town and have lunch at that town, if you need proof just talk to my wife. I think I used to drive her nuts about it when I was younger, but as I get older I’ve realized something important: life never follows the plan.
Never?!? Yes I mean never. It may be close to the plan, but in the end I’ve never seen my plans fall out exactly as planned, so I’ve gotten significantly more relaxed around my planning now. This isn’t to say that planning is useless, but rather I focus now more on outcomes rather than specifics. For example, I’m more likely to say I would like to be financially independent in my early forties, I’m less picky if it turns out to be Freedom 45, 42 or another number.
This outcome based objectives makes life just much more enjoyable as you can adjust things along the way if you need and not get too hung up on the details. For example, my goal is to pay off my mortgage this year and the projection for that to occurs is the end of October, but if something comes up and we push that back into November I won’t panic. This get increasingly important for longer more complex goals like early retirement since any number of events can either help or delay your plans.
So while I enjoy knowing my progress on a project I’m getting better at taking these little or bigger changes in stride. Life is too short to get upset about something going wrong as I’ve often found then down the road something else goes right and brings the long term projection back into line. Perhaps the only real danger to being a little more loose on the planning side is you can miss little things that turn into big trends that can completely derail your objective. Missing your saving target for a month isn’t a big deal, missing it every month for half a year could be a problem.
So how do you handle your planning? Are you very specific about it or more objective based? Why does your method work for you?