Can I tell you a surprising (but not so surprising) fact? Studies show that planning actually reduces stress more than other, more common stress reduction techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing.
When I first heard this, I was skeptical. But then I thought about it a little more and it suddenly made total sense.
What are you anxious about? What’s stressing you out? The future!
And what does planning do? It helps you to put a little structure around the future.
Think back to the last time you did a little planning. Maybe it was yesterday. Maybe earlier today. Maybe sometime last week. How did you feel when you were done with your planning session? I’m willing to bet you felt relaxed and in control. And that you were less stressed than when you began.
Now, I want you to think back to a day where you woke up with a plan, because you had invested in a little planning time the night before. How did it feel to wake up knowing what was on your calendar, knowing that you had a plan for the day’s work? I bet it felt pretty good. Maybe you breathed out a sigh of relief rather than reaching for your phone and hoping for the best.
Now, what if things don’t go as planned? Well, that’s no problem either. In fact, things rarely go completely as planned. But having a plan allows you to be better prepared to pivot as needed. The fact that you had a plan to begin with reduces stress in the moment because you can thoughtfully adjust your plan instead of doing whatever comes at you. Planning, as they say, is about preparation, not perfection. And when we’re prepared, we’re typically much less stressed.
So, what’s the TL/DR here? Are you feeling stressed today? Right now? How about stopping what you’re doing for just a few minutes to make a plan for the rest of the day? And if you’re one of those people who has tried to meditate in the past to help reduce stress, who wants to meditate, who knows it’ll be good for you (an aspirational meditator, shall we say) but you aren’t doing it, try planning instead. In fact, some of my clients call their end-of-day planning session their “planning meditation”!