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  • Writer's picturejonwilson3

Planning or Discipline?

This distinction came up spontaneously in a coaching call today. I’ve expressed this idea in other ways with clients before but using these two words seemed to open up another angle of attack! Let me see if I can explain. I’m not sure if I can in the 30 minutes I’m allowing myself, or if it will make sense! Side note: This is an “Abracadabra” moment, which means “I will create as I speak”. We consider speech as something we do to convey information. In some cultures speech is considered a sense because we receive new information as we speak what’s on our mind. Yes, I know I’m writing not speaking 😄, but I think the same applies! Anyway, side note over … let’s see what I create as I write…

Planning is what we do when we have something specific we want to achieve. We identify the steps between where we are and where we want to get to. Some plans are very simple - say to meet up with friends at the pub on Friday night (ahhh, those were the days!). Others are a little more complicated - say to land a man on the moon. The plan may change but ultimately the purpose is to get us to a well-defined outcome by navigating many steps and decision points along the way.

If I work at Apple and I want to launch a new iPhone, there’s no doubt I need a plan!

Executing a plan like that does require discipline - a team who turn up to work every day, leaders who consistently hold and communicate the vision, processes that people stick to and so on. Plans can be simple and they can be complex, however the degree of discipline required is not directly correlated with the complexity of the plan.

In particular, simple plans can require a high-degree of discipline.

You might think you need more planning, but what if you actually need more discipline?

Say you want to write a book. The plan is easy… write the book. OK, maybe you decide on the structure before writing, and maybe there are some extra steps along the way, like proof-reading, getting illustrations and ultimately finding a publisher. But fundamentally, to write a book, you just write the book.

Committing to a daily writing discipline will mean you will create a lot of content, some good, some terrible. Ultimately the book will get written. Just write. And write some more. And keep writing.

Or say I want to get a job. I can’t normally know which job it will be or how I’ll get it, so a plan isn’t so useful. A daily discipline of applying for jobs, repeated day after day, is what will get me there. I won’t know exactly when or how, but the discipline will deliver the results in the end.

A good sign that you need discipline and not a plan is this: Think about telling someone else how to achieve what you want to achieve. Could you say it in a few words? “Just sit down and write every day, you can’t fail if you do that” or “You just need to apply for 5 jobs every day, you’ll get there in the end”. If you can keep it concise, the chances are you need discipline more than a plan.

So how much do you need a plan, and how much do you need discipline?

Side note 2: This took longer than 30 minutes. I need more discipline 😄


This article is part of 100 Days of Creation, my challenge to myself to write 100 articles in 140 days, each taking no longer than 30 minutes to write and publish.

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