The Doer and the Planner

The joys of planning and doing your day

Setting your day up so the doer and the planner can both win


Many people have given up and don’t plan their day, even though they are aware of how much value it could add to their life. It’s catch as catch can.

Avoiding the fantasy plan

Others “plan” their day, but the plan is like a fantasy list, rather than anything that is doable. A ten-year old could tell you that. Then, at the end of the harried day, you still have things on the list that you didn’t get to, leaving you feeling discouraged and even guilty.


Welcome to a fresh and effective new way to plan your day that provides results, satisfaction, and enjoyment (with no guilt).

Morning or evening planning?

First, it’s important to decide whether to plan in the evening for the next day or in the morning before the day can get away from you. If you’re an evening person, you might want to regularly planning for the next day. If, like me, you’re a morning person, a early morning plan could be more effective. I consistently finish planning each day before 6.00am.

The planner's #1 guideline

Okay, imagine it’s planning time. Put on your planner’s hat (which is also your Next hat). Then remind yourself of the planner’s #1 guideline for creating a good plan for the day: “How can I set the day up so that, not only does the doer (the executor of the plan when you're more in a Now mode) have a 95% chance of winning (winning = getting everything done on the plan and even a bit more, which makes Next happy), but he or she also can enjoy the process throughout the day, which Now loves?”


The reason this guideline says “95%” instead of “100%” is because some unforeseen circumstances may arise during the day, the best handling of which involves modifying the original plan. If we were able to somehow know of these circumstances at planning time, then we could plan with a 100% prediction.

The planner's #2 guideline

Another guideline is that, in the planning process, if you have a tendency to over-promise, then intend to under promise. In addition, plan some buffer time in your day, to give you flexibility and avoid blindsiding yourself by things not going quite as planned or anticipated. If you pack too many things into a day, not only is it difficult to enjoy the process, but you’re less likely to create quality results and maybe even get less done.

The planner's #3 guideline

A third guideline is to plan to do the “difficult” first. Although you may have done your best to set it up so that your Now can enjoy the process, there still may be some tasks that Now would prefer to procrastinate on. By getting these out of the way first, you can create a day with more satisfaction, and better for both Now and Next.

Step by step planning

Okay! We’re now ready to get into the process details.

Calculate the hours you've got

After allowing for non-optional activities (examples: lunch and preset appointments) and specifying the cutoff time for your plan (say 8.30pm), calculate how many hours are available in the day for “optional” tasks and activities. Let’s say you’ve got six hours available.

Choosing from the Options List

While keeping the three above guidelines in mind, refer to your Options List (which you keep updated). The Options List is a list of all the possible tasks and projects that you can choose from to fill up your plate with tasks and activities for the day. As you are considering the next task/activity (from the Options List) to include on your agenda, both your Now and your Next will work together to give their advice (see the NNI toolkit). Next will be concerned with issues of the importance or urgency of each potential task/activity. Now will be concerned with ensuring that a given task/activity can be enjoyable and that, as a group, they can all flow together without a lot of pressure, also having some space for spontaneity.

Inserting your choice into the day

When you select the first task/activity in starting to fill up your plate for the day, underpromise when you create an estimate of how much time it will take (say 45 minutes). Then subtract that amount of time from the total still available (leaving 5 hours and 15 minutes to still play with, in this example). If the task/activity is either too big to get completely finished for the day or you’re not sure how long it might take or you need to break it up to satisfy your Now, then set your schedule to spend a limited time on it (again, like 45 minutes, even though you may not be able to finish it in 45 minutes). You then pick up where you left off on that task/activity on the next or another day, if necessary. With this approach you ensure that your day’s plan is prudent and can be finished at least 95% of the time.

Filling up your plate with goodies to do

Continue on to select the second task/activity for the daily buffet, using the same criteria. And then the third, and so on, until you have filled up your plate with the available time for the day.

Choosing courage to say "no"

As you are first using this method, you may notice worry or fear. “There are just too many things that I should do, that I need to do, that I have to do that I can’t fit on the schedule for the day!” Previously, when making a plan, you lived in a fantasy world and didn’t face the un-doability of your plan until the end of the day when you were exhausted and discouraged by how much you didn’t get done on your “plan.” Your Next may need to choose courage to say what you will not plan for the day. Use undoing fear to turn the fear into energy and confidence. Speak the sentence, “Holy cats and jeepers creepers, I am so scared of what might happen if I don’t get this done today!”


Remember: belly breathing, slowly loudly silly speaking, 11 times

Need to change the plan?

Throughout the day, as the doer is happily completing each task/activity, if something occurs that may need to displace one or more items in your plan, then call a quick “re-planning meeting” with Now and Next. Given the new circumstances (which could include things as diverse as,

  • you unexpectedly need to take a nap or

  • you have a more accurate perspective on something that involves your plan or

  • your boss calls with an urgent request),

decide whether or not displacing one or more items in your original plan to deal with the new circumstances makes sense. If so, then declare a guilt-free change in plans, putting the displaced item(s) back on to the Options List for another day. This would then be one of those 5% days when you didn’t complete the original plan. And it’s no problem. I often think, “I have my plans for my day and then God has Her plans for my day. Sometimes, God doesn’t let me know in advance when Her plans are different from mine. Therefore, when I find out that there’s a difference after I have made my plan for the day, I make an appropriate and happy adjustment.”


People often ask me (maybe just politely), “Are you busy?” My reply is, “I am leisurely busy.” I am busy in a quite enjoyable way. I am busy with buffer. I am busy in a way that allows for flexibility and spontaneity and creativity. If something unexpected happens, I can easily make the necessary adjustment.

Step by step out of the golden (time) handcuffs

A large percentage of us have designed our life (mostly by default) such that we have “golden time handcuffs.” Our life “requires” that we get this result, that result, those results. Our golden time handcuffs may get us a lot of the results that we think we need or must have, but at what cost? At the cost of our everyday, moment-by-moment experience of loving the journey, loving the process and it all flowing the cost of our happiness and our life. Given that you may find yourself in these handcuffs, you most likely will need to approach this new way step by step. For example, start with using “the doer and the planner” for just one day a week, defaulting to your old way on the other days. After you’ve done this for a few weeks and noticed that your life didn’t fall apart, you could step it up to two days week, and so on.

A new habit for a lifetime...

Welcome to the new world of planning where Now and Next can be on the same page (happy days are here again)!

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