Zen and the Art of Planning: Why Can Creative People Benefit from Planning?

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It is already July. The first 6 months have passed. How has your year been so far? Have you completed any of your New Year’s resolutions? Or has your year been quite different from what you have initially planned?


Did you make a plan at the beginning of the year?


For many years I had made a list of things I wanted to accomplish that year at the beginning of the year, but by the time the year ended, I had managed to complete only half of the things on the list.


There were two reasons: The first one was that I wanted to do too many things. The second one was that I started doing things which were not on the list.


Does it ring a bell to anyone? Do you have the same problem? If you do, today’s post will be useful.


My problem was I didn’t have a plan. I only made the list and didn’t plan when I was going to finish each task. I just had ideas in my head that I wanted to do them. Mind you; I have a strong will. I usually do what I said I would do, and I can continue taking action for a long time. Nevertheless, without having a detailed plan, I was often distracted by unexpected incidents, which slowed down the things on the list.


One day, I decided to make a detailed plan. I made a time schedule where I wrote down everything I was supposed to do from the time I woke up to the time I slept from Monday to Sunday.


After strictly following this schedule for a while, I noticed that my level of productivity had tremendously improved.


In the beginning, I didn’t like following the time schedule because I felt I was losing my freedom and spontaneity, but after getting used to it, I developed a certain rhythm, and for some reason I found myself becoming more creative than not following the time schedule.


It reminded me of novel writing. In the beginning, I was writing my novels without making the outlines. I just sat in front of the computer and words just appeared, and a story gradually unfolded. Usually, I finished my story after two months or so. Yes, I could write smoothly, and the fact that I could always complete my story made me feel I had a talent. The works themselves weren’t bad; many people who read them gave me positive comments. However, when editors read them, they pointed out many problems.


So I decided to change my approach: I wrote a synopsis first, next I wrote the outline chapter by chapter. Then I started writing the main story following the outline. The editors said that my writing had improved a lot, and I felt it, too.


Did I lose my creativity?


No, on the contrary, it enhanced my creativity by bringing some organization. Although I had the outline, I was free to develop the scene within the outline and sometimes change a bit. The outline served as a stopper, and I didn’t go off the track even though I was immersed in the imaginary world. I felt as if my right brain and left brain were working together to bring a good harmony.


The time schedule will serve as the outline in this case, and it will bring a good balance of Yin and Yang, especially for those of us who have artistic tendencies.


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