To Plan or Not to Plan?

When it comes to finding peace of mind, the answer is PLAN. Even if you rage against the tyranny of the over-scheduled diary and are one of those people who prefers to see how you feel on the day rather than locking in arrangements in advance, the answer is the same — planning works.

If you’re looking forward to your holidays and haven’t booked anything and you relish the spontaneity of working things out when you get there, then no, I am not saying you need to stop that.

I’m talking about a specific sort of planning.

The kind linked to your worry list.

According to a new book out which studies willpower and our ability to break addictions and overcome temptations (compulsive spending was mentioned at the outset!), I learnt about something called The Zeigarnik Effect. Named after the woman who investigated how undone tasks turn into what I referred to in my last post as “screamers”, her studies reveal that yes, the human mind is designed to distract us from what we want to think about with irksome little reminders of unfinished work.

But the really interesting bit is this:

We don’t need to complete these tasks to quiet the brain.

We just need to work out what we could, in theory,

do about them.

Neat! To get some peace of mind from nagging thoughts about undone things all our brain wants is for us to translate our to-do list into an action plan.  Once that mental exercise is complete, the subconscious is satisfied. Completely. Nag over. All thanks to a few moments of planning.

I was pretty excited to bump into this bit of research on this particular week since it explains why I found my worry list assignment so helpful.

On top of quietening my financial anxieties (which listing them and then working out what simple step I could take next against each of them, did achieve for me), there were 2 other benefits to the assignment.

  • Benefit 1 : Greater peace of mind
  • Benefit 2: Putting it in perspective
  • Benefit 3: Making the way forward obvious

Putting it in perspective

My list was so much shorter than I thought it would be! Even if some of the items on the list really worry me, it wasn’t an endless and unmanageable set of worries. When I got it all down on paper even I could see that my financial chores are face-able, whereas before I captured them on paper this is exactly what I wasn’t thinking. I was feeling overwhelmed by them all.

Making the way forward obvious 

I’m going to keep up this “one central list” of worries and next actions. Even if I only got the chance to cross a few items off, the idea that all my financial troubles might gather and sit quietly together on a page in my diary is comforting. Not only that it makes what to do about each of them obvious. At least in a one-step-at-a-time sort of way.

And so on that note, me and my worry list are now going to take the rest of the day off from thinking about ISAs or tax rates or property costs or pension trauma.

2 thoughts on “To Plan or Not to Plan?

  1. This is my approach to dealing with a general feeling over being overwhelmed – once everything’s down on paper in small letters and all fitting neatly into one list, it all seems much less overwhelming and much more manageable. The less you need to worry about keeping in your head, the better, I think.

    1. I wish I did it more regularly so I wouldn’t have to get to the point feeling overwhelmed in the 1st place — but I’m afraid I am simply NOT the most systematic of creatures. Still, it’s pretty amazing how much it helps with things do start to get messy

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