The Planning Trap

Reflection / Sunday, January 31st, 2016

I have been caught in the planning trap for most of my adult life. Also known as the research trap, this sad, sad phenomenon gives me the false impression that I am doing things–that I’m moving forward, and taking small steps towards the things I want (or think I want, at this point). And in some small, teeny tiny ways, it’s not untrue. But it’s definitely more untrue than true.

When there is something I want to learn more about, or learn how to do, I, like any person, go on a Google-spree. But then I turn into one of those people who starts to read an article and a bit into it, when I realize, “Oh this is good stuff,” will move to something else and decide to come back to it later in order to “give it the proper attention it deserves.” What does that even mean!? Typically, these articles contain good information I’d like to refer back to in the future, but I have no good bookmarking/way of saving things in place. So they stay there, unused, with the end result of initial Googling remaining unrealized. Some times the amount of information is overwhelming and daunting, and halts me right in my tracks.

An example of this comes from a sincere desire to self-improve (as do most of them): I want to become a more financially literate young adult. And honestly, there is no logical point to having over 20 different articles from The Financial Diet open in Chrome. Call it FOMO, call it “covering all of your bases”, but I’ll call it a problem. This is definitely a site where I’m prone to leaving articles open and unread for weeks, knowing there there is so much information I want to retain and implement into my life. I have begun the slow process of cleaning up a younger me’s bookmarks (honestly, I know what folders and subfolders are, so WTF past-me?) as well as other sites like Pinterest and Pocket.

I read this HuffPost article the other day, “9 Excuses Artists Need to Stop Making in 2016” and damn, did some of those sting. Particularly the first and last ones: “I Don’t Have Time” and “I am a Perfectionist.” The first can be be-bunked when taking an honest look at one’s priorities, and the second might require me to get the phrase “Done is better than perfect” tattooed in reverse across my head so that I see it every time I glance at a mirror, because seriously, DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. The article links to then another fantastic article about being content and embracing imperfection (that stays open in a tab, unread or partially read for several weeks) that would be super helpful if I didn’t trap it–and myself–in this very pointless cycle.

This definitely won’t be the last time I write about dealing with this issue. I think in a world of perfectly filtered, curated, and selectively shared lives via Facebook, Instagram, et all, the problem has come to affect everyone, either subconsciously, or blatantly. I think it causes us to react in different ways, where you have some who hustle and bustle to keep up with the Joneses, others who become resentful, and some of us (lol hi) who sort of stagnate somewhere in the middle. I’m not blaming social media here by any means, as I know this has affected me personally since my childhood days pre-Windows 97. It has definitely augmented the problem, but let’s face it, the main obstacle is yourself…your own opinion about yourself. I think our collective sense of humor (at least over here in NYC area) has become very self-depreciating, but if you keep telling yourself something enough, even as joke, it starts to take hold one way or another.

On the flip side, a little envy can be a good thing too. Being in a field where there is not a whole lot of upward mobility, I can’t help but feel jealous and have those fleeting moments of doubt/insecurity when others succeed. It has and still takes me a lot to digest that other people’s success does not equal your own failure. We live in such a competitive society that I think it’s important to un-learn many of these gut-reactions and behaviors. Seeing people around you succeed should motivate rather than discourage.

Even now, writing this, I’ve felt compelled to stop on multiple occasions because I don’t feel it is good enough. I have over 80 articles for this blog saved in the drafts, and I chip away at them from time to time, but I am always letting myself be deterred. I gave myself challenges this year to both write and read more to help me improve my writing and formulating and articulating my thoughts better. So I just need to fucking do it. And a million other things. I want to get back into tangible art (watercolors, sculpting, papercraft, calligraphy), and explore more digital art (motion graphics, 3D modeling, YouTube videos). I want to cook more and work on collaborative projects with people and make video games. There are so many things I want to jump into, which I know will require me to pick and chose where I invest my time, but for the time being I’m investing none of it, and it’s a goddamn shame.

A plan, therefore, was what made the most sense. It’s the last day of January, and I am still trying to figure out what goals I want to set for myself for the year, and how to best go about accomplishing them. It’s been on my pointless to-do list all month. I don’t want to be one of those people whose blogs/work become super meta in the sense that most of their work is explaining or talking about their work (or lack thereof). I don’t want to become one of those people who is all talk and no action, so here is my talk, which will ideally be followed by action. So I think it helps. I hope this helps.

2 Replies to “The Planning Trap”

  1. This post means a lot to me and just woke me up. Luckily, I’m a student and I’m forced to work because I’m paying for it but these are habits I’ve started building. Thanks for this.

    Cheers to the new year!

    1. Ah, I’ve just seen this. I hope the year is going well for you. Take advantage of your time as a student and try to use it to form good habits you can carry with you post-grad. : )

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