Planning Is Not Progress

If you’re a self-help/productivity junkie like me you bat around differnet methodologies for organizing that big pile on your desk every few days. I remember when I was first exposed to Covey’s 7 Habits approach by a forward-thinking acting teacher in college. I was hooked! I even got my dad started reading it.
Then later on I bought into the Palm Pilot craze. I stil have my dinky monochrome Vx on the desk – sometimes I use it to view websites to see how they look on handhelds/phones.
Then as David Allen’s cult of Getting Things Done started to flourish online I started looking more at his stuff. Knowledge workers (aka cubicle veal) heartily endorsed his approach because it helped organize a multitude of tasks for a myriad of projects. I downloaded his audio book on iTunes (not recommended – Allen’s vocal color is a bit lacking – maybe a bit too relaxing – I think for each new track they should start with a canned air horn – grab the book instead). I tried to implement the system in Thunderbird using MetaGRRLs approach and I think I lasted about 2 days.
I was not Getting Things Done, I was not Be Proactive-ing. But I sure was having fun moving my to-do list around, eh?

I’d go to Stella’s diner (Broadway/Barry, I’m a regular) and sit with a notepad and sketch out my to-do list for the day – another list of another stack of things that I’d probably typed out somewhere else before. I’d come back to the apartment and promptly ignore the daily planning I’d just done and muddle around in my inbox for an hour before actually getting the day started.
So then I thought – I got this whole book launch to figure out – I’ll use MS Project! I’d used Project before and my inner control-freak really likes the overall view and the dependencies and the Gantt charts.
I sure had fun moving everything into Project, didn’t I? Damn the torpedoes – I was going to get ORGANIZED! I ended up with a 9 month MS Project plan with at least 30 little mini-projects – all of the tasks assigned to myself.
I’ve always loathed MS Project – not sure why – it just seems like one of the most annoying pieces of software ever deployed for corporate use.
And as the book launch approaches I found that I was having trouble auto-filtering and searching and re-arranging all my tasks in Project.
I started looking at Getting Things Done (again!) and moved everything into Thunderbird (again!) and found that when I added labels to the emails they wouldn’t update across my laptop, desktop and web-based email. That sucked.
So I thought – okay idiot, once and for all: get the damned Getting Things Done Outlook Add-on and put up or shut up!
Today I have everything in Outlook with the GTD add-on – which kinda still sucks because I manage my email through Thunderbird (trying stay down with the open software movement). But what this whole litany is about is:
Are you to-do items simply deckchairs your moving around on your growing Titanic? Do you confuse moving emails and making lists with actually getting crap done?
I don’t hold myself up as some God of Productivity – merely sharing the insights of a mere mortal trying to get a lot of things done in a smaller amount of time – implying that I probably need to start doing less and committing to less.






10 responses to “Planning Is Not Progress”

  1. Lou D'Alo Avatar

    Andy – chuckled as I read your post. Thought to myself, “has he been looking over my shoulder”? All too eerily familiar.
    My most recent chef d’oeuvre in priority management (i prefer to manage priorities because i found i can’t manage time) is Mark Joyner’s “Simple-ology : The Simple Science of Getting Things Done” (
    Yup. It’s simple. And therein lies the elegance.
    Best discovery? I now know how to safely save all those “change the world” or “make millions” ideas that I get 10 times a day.
    Used to spend a lot of mental cycles on not forgetting those inspirations. Now I never lose ’em, and my mind stays focused on what needs doing. Ahhh, the silence. Ohhhh, the flow.
    Oh, and put down that airhorn…this multimedia presentation’s easy to take.

  2. Lyle Lachmuth Avatar

    The curse of the Intuive!!
    I talked about this the other day at my Blog
    WE need to find NEW ways…not SJ ways to plan an do our life.
    Here’s to NP ways of living.

  3. The Dragon Slayer's Guide to Life Avatar

    The Elusive Fail-Safe Time Managment Strategy

    I had to laugh at Andy Wibbel’s post, Planning is Not a Substitute for Progress, as I was JUST laying out my BIG pad of paper, the one for my serious strategizing. Yeah, I’m old school. I like pencils and

  4. Maryam Webster Avatar

    Once again Andy, you’ve hit the paradigm on its pointy little head. I downloaded the GTD Outlook add-on a few months ago and came to dread its asking me for categories and pigeonholes. Once I had mail so categorized, I ignored the messages about what to do with each mail just as I sometimes ignore the midnight Outlook prompt “Shut down Computer! Go to Bed!”.
    I’m a nightowl. It’s my biorythm and going against that propensity causes me eventual grief. I am most productive after 9pm – scheduling an artificially early bedtime just pisses me off. And only rarely does it get me to bed before midnight.
    I remember a vampire-role-playing bumper sticker that applies: “Carpe Noctem: We Get More Done After 2am Than Most People Do All Day Long” Go with whatever your flow is and all will come right in the end.

  5. Marcia Merrill Avatar

    Yep-looking over my shoulder, too! And you’re my teacher! I confess I may be on “overwhelm” but I’m a great to do list-maker! I can spend hours planning (& do!) You always make me laugh and nod my head in affirmation! This ENFP is very grateful you see the humor in life!!
    Make it a great day!

  6. Kathleen Gage Avatar

    Oh so true!
    Kathleen Gage

  7. ewert Avatar

    I’m love this great website. Many thanks guy

  8. Goal Achieving Success Avatar

    I was looking for some resources on personal motivation and achieving goals for a resource list I’m putting together for my readers and future blog visitors.
    I’m glad I’m came across this post 🙂
    I’m going to be adding this as a good “read” for my visitors and what not.

    Success in life, love and business is something we all have in us – we just need to learn how to bring it out and except it

    To Your Success,
    – RM

  9. Matthew Stibbe (Bad Language) Avatar

    I just posted an article on my Bad Language blog today about Joe’s Goals, which is a tremendous (and free) way to track habits and goals on a daily basis. For more information see:

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