Planning is Good, Doing is Better


A few months back, during a conversation with one of my mentors, he said something that I will remember for the rest of my life.  “All this planning and focusing is good, but doing is better” was the exact phrase that came out of his mouth.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was one of those “aha” moments we get every so often.

Now the reason he was saying this to me is because I had been working on a semi large project for that past month or so and I was really close to finishing it.  However, I had stalled somewhat and found myself in a state of “planning and focusing” rather than “doing”.  So, for weeks I was fairly unfruitful in churning out anymore work on this particular project.  I was explaining to him where I was in the process and mid conversation is when he let out the phrase I will never forget.  I know this may seem simple but it’s very profound.  From that day forward my workflow has changed incredibly and productivity has increased tenfold.

Today I will share with you my personal system on how I get things done in hopes of spurring you along to developing your own process.   Remember, there is no one way to do this so pick and choose what you like and discard what doesn’t work for you.

Good Intentions

We all have them, well most of us anyway.  However, for many of us, our intentions never become anything more than a good thought.  They never take form because we never act on them.  This can become a real problem because it’s only the beginning of the equation to getting anything accomplished.  So first we must have a goal, an ideal, something we aspire to accomplish or get done.  Then we must plan.

Planning is Good

Planning really is good.  That ole cliché “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” is certainly true on many accounts.  The problem is we can spend so much time trying to perfect our planning that we never do anything else.  About a year ago I got on this productivity kick where I read anything and everything I could get my hands on about effective planning strategies.  I found that I would spend countless hours during the week just planning instead of doing.  I’m sure you can clearly see why this is a real issue.  Planning is supposed to serve you and your schedule, not be the bulk of your schedule.

As you might imagine I was planning to work with my clients, planning to write and edit articles and spend time on the fitness forums helping out.  The problem was that I spent way too much time during this process of preparation that I lost valuable time I could have been spending elsewhere.

Doing is Better

My mentor was not suggesting that I should never plan; he was simply stating I should spend minimal time doing so.  In the case of “planning is good, doing is better”, the whole point is to have your goal in mind and get to work immediately.  It doesn’t really matter if you are not completely clear or know exactly how you’re going to get there.  Of course you never want to jump into doing something blindly as it usually just leads to frustration but over thinking and too much planning will often keep you from ever acting in the first place.  It can literally put you in standstill.  That’s the way it was for me, at least.

The point is to have a goal and a plan but more importantly a lot of action put forth by you whether or not the details are completely ironed out just yet.

Here’s How I Do It

Each month on the first or the second I sit down for about 30 minutes and write out what I need or want to accomplish on a big white board.  I pick two to three tasks to focus on for the month.  I write down what I want, why I want it and a quick strategy on how to get there.  I write it on a white board so I can go back and edit if need be.  Nothing is set in stone; this is strictly a guideline.  An example might look like this:

Goal:  Publish 8 Fitness Articles at a rate of 2 per week.

Why: To connect with readers, gain more exposure, address common fitness questions and/or debunk myths/dogma.

Strategy: Get up an hour early on Monday and Thursday to write the articles, edit them when I get home and publish the next morning.

Once I have all of my monthly goals on the big white board, I hang it above my computer desk for me to see every day.

Then each night before I go to bed I spend 20-30 minutes relaxing and winding down, clearing my head and thinking about what I need to do the next day to accomplish my tasks.  Then I take 5 minutes to write down a to-do list on a small note pad and leave it right by my keyboard for me to see the following day.  Once I wake up, I sit down, have my breakfast and start checking off my list.  As the day goes on and I get more stuff done, I check more off the list.  If I am not able to get to a certain task, I put a circle by it and revisit it the next day – no sweat at all.

By doing it this way, the majority of my plans are set forth from the beginning of the month.  All I have to do is take a small step each day to reach the end result that is on the white board.  The only planning I have left is the small to-do list that I make the night before, which only takes five minutes or less.  No more wasted hours are spent on pointless planning but lots of time spent doing.

Photo by Muha

23 thoughts on “Planning is Good, Doing is Better”

  1. Great wisdom.

    Too many people (myself included) spend so much time researching and evaluating that they never get anything done.

    Some personal examples, I have written dozens of detailed business plans for ideas I did nothing with. The only successful businesses have been the ones that I just got to work without too much planning.

    I used to chart and plan workouts in lots of detail. All the planning and recording made me hate the workouts. I dreaded the recording more than the actual exercise.

    1. @John Bardos – JetSetCitizen,

      No doubt about the “getting to work” part.

      I too, used to record every little detail about my training. Now I just record the major lifts and focus on progression. All the small stuff is still accounted for, just on a smaller scale.

      Everything I have been successful at was because I learned just enough, then jumped in and started doing. It’s never been the other way around.

  2. Truly. If I look at the people around me that are highly successful, they are good doers first, good planners second. Even if you start something with a bad plan, action is a very good way to get feedback and adapt your plan as you go, eventually ending up with a good plan.

    The only problem I see is that of people tend to go into extremes: they are either just planners, or just doers. This doesn’t seem to work very well, unless you get a planner and a doer to collaborate as one :)


  3. Exactly! thank you for putting together a nice template for “getting things done.”

    Great to see you’ve a mentor. We all need mentors as well as mentoring. Its just a natural way of living and learning.

    1. yea, having a mentor is crucial to shortening the learning curve. Is it completely necessary to have one? No, but your chances of success are far greater when you have one to bounce ideas off of.

  4. Hey there

    I really enjoyed reading your monthly goal setting process. A lot of it reminds me of the 80/20 principle wherein you only find that 20% that needs to be focused on to take action with each day. I think the “why” part is a big one, because a lot of times people write monthly goals down just to write them, but the “why” provides the extra fuel to follow through. Great post here!


    1. Thanks Baker. I always put a “why” behind anything I’m doing so later on when I think to myself “why in the world am I doing this again?” I have a reason to keep going.

  5. Hi JC .. I like the remembrance to clear the desk and have a ‘to do’ list ready for the morrow – very sensible to follow through and that way you’re always up to date – it may not be perfect as you say, but life is flexible and life changes, so your ideas will change – but some things, most things, on the to do list need to be done and so can be ticked off .. action done.

    I also like the idea of “why” am I doing this, or need to do this action .. so it’s not there in a month’s time still waiting for an action ..

    Thanks – good thoughts – plan, but more importantly act with the why in front of you.
    Hilary Melton-Butcher
    Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

    1. I agree 100% about having tasks to check off on the to-do list. That is definitely crucial to building momentum throughout the day.

  6. you have just talked about one of the very popular problems lots of people face, and yes i do agree that a checklist is one of the best methods to get things done

  7. Thanks for sharing your tips, JC. I find that planning and doing are a balancing act that many of us have to juggle with. Many times, we find ourselves either planning too much and doing too little, or we dive straight into doing without planning. It’s a timely reminder to do both as the year draws to a close in about 2 months. It’s time to put some good habit in place that includes both planning as well as doing.


    clearly you’re following your own advice by spreading the glory elsewhere online :)

    post is super on point – specially now that i’ve got exams, i’ve been spending ample time planning to study but :)

    …weird thing i noticed is that once i know that i can do something, i tend to not do it. like get bored. ish. weird but getting through it.

    the other problem with planning i’ve had is that you plan to do things based on how you feel right now. like. if you’re feeling logical now you’re gonna plan a whole bunch of logical things but might be in a creative space at the time you’ve planned to do logical things. then your whole plan goes outta wack and you stop sticking to it. and then don’t wanna do any because you don’t wanna admit that you haven’t done the rest perfectly. weird creatures us humans :)

    rocken. non. stoppen.

    keep well mate. and keep lording it up :)
    alex – unleash reality

  9. I love your Mentor, JC! The “doing is better” philosophy is one that far too few people grab hold of. I’m glad you not just heard it and talked about the idea but actually followed through and put the concept into action. (Yes, people even talk about the importance of action instead of acting on it.) ;)

    1. Hey Alex, thanks so much for stopping by. I have lurked around your site many times.

      I know all about talking about action. I was of that crowd for some time but thanks to some great people in my life guiding me, I have made the transition to actually acting on my ideas instead of just babbling about it.

  10. I love this post. Most people get so caught up in the planning stages they never move into action. Often times, I wonder if this is do to fear or nervousness or maybe even a way to procrasinate. What I like about your post is that you give concrete examples of how you use goals and planning to move into action.

    1. Kim, glad you enjoyed the article. It’s probably due to fear on some accounts but I bet it’s mainly due to disbelief in what the person is aiming to do.

  11. The quote, “all this planning and focusing is good but doing is better,” certainly has its place. We must start with our idea of spark of insight and certainly put pen to paper or pedal to the metal so-to-speak. And the quote, “those who fail to plan, plan to fail,” is also true. So it seems the balance of planning and doing is important. I would add that taking the time to connect deeply to ourselves helps also, which helps us in fulfilling our deepest purpose. This keeps us from just “doing” aimlessly or over planning as a way to not fulfill our life’s purpose, therefore helping us and the world progress, grow, and evolve.

    Dr. Jennifer Howard

  12. This is good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    I just found my actionable thought for the day – “Planning is Good, Doing is Better”.
    Now time to go DO!


    1. Thanks, Shawn!

      I didn’t realize how powerful this phrase was until I wrote the article. Just got an email notification of your comment and I agree, it’s time to go DO!

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