Leave Room for Happy Accidents

Your most memorable experiences happen because you leave room for happy accidents.
Think of the greatest vacation you ever experienced. What was the best part? I’ll bet it was not the event you over-planned, the one you pinned down to every minute detail so nothing would go wrong and ruin its future perfection.

Chances are the best part of your favorite vacation was when you went off script. You took a wrong turn and ended up seeing the most beautiful vista that will be emblazoned on your memory forever. Or you wound up on the wrong bus and asked directions from people who told you about a hidden local gem. You saw them there later, and you all had a blast bonding, laughing, and dancing – and you keep in touch on social media with the friends you met by accident.

Over-Planning Can Halt Innovation

We’ve all heard the refrain, “It’s best to stick to the plan.” Getting away from the plan is associated with wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted resources. But were the unscripted moments of your greatest adventures “wasted?” The opposite is often true.

The problem with over-planning – when it comes to a project for work or when you’re on vacation – is you run the risk of planning yourself out of spontaneity. Spontaneity is what ignites your inner spark, your creative thinking, and makes you feel most alive.

Many companies are asking their employees to offer more innovative ideas. Innovation doesn’t arise because people stick to the predetermined plan. Innovation strikes because there’s openness and opportunity. When there’s room to invent new approaches, when you’re allowed to color outside the lines, fresh images take shape and transform old patterns new prospects.

The Down Side of too much Planning

People can associate over-planners with perfectionists, but they don’t necessarily fall under this category. Many are optimists – and they are often too optimistic about what they can accomplish in a specified timeframe. They want to take on tasks to please or help others, and end up overwhelmed and unable to deliver the great product they’d anticipated.

Other over-planners are over-confident, and they too can fall into the trap of believing they’re able to accomplish more than they can according to plan. Over-planning can also arise from a hidden sense of anxiety, a coping mechanism when a situation feels beyond our control. When we produce something from a place of anxiety, it likely won’t be our best work.

The detrimental effects of this type of over-planning hold a personal cost, as well as a potential subpar delivery. These well-meaning people, when they under deliver, may walk away feeling like they failed.

It’s the Journey, Not the Destination

Harvard Business Review contributor, Elizabeth Grace Saunders, reminds us not to waste time obsessing over a perfect plan because “there is no perfect plan.”

For more of Saunders suggestions on how to stop over-planning while staying on track, click here.

And remember to leave room for happy accidents!