planning and to-do lists

The power of planning: Embrace mindfulness and prioritize with ease

By Kimine Mayuzumi

In a world that seems to revolve around deadlines and outcomes, I’ve found myself immersed in enlightening dialogues with clients about the power of planning. 

One question, in particular, lingers in my mind: 

How do you navigate planning when it tends to make you become outcome-oriented?” 

Echoing the ethos of our “Be mindful, Trust the process, Let go of outcomes” philosophy, this query on planning is especially relevant in today’s fast-paced world, where time management is paramount, but so is the call to be present in our own lives. 

An intriguing paradox arises as we encourage embracing “being lazy” as emptying a need for results with the passage of time. The act of planning, seemingly rooted in chasing outcomes, remarkably intertwines with our mission of mindfulness, process trust, and outcome detachment. The client’s inquiry ignited a profound contemplation on the very essence of planning and how it actually co-exists with our core beliefs.

We plan not solely for the sake of results, but to carve out space and time just to be without the relentless pressure of the clock time, acknowledging our humanity over mechanization.

As we pursue our aspirations, including the cultivation of mindfulness, it’s essential to pause and consider the role planning plays in our lives.

When planning starts to counteract the aspirations – to be mindful, trust the process, and let go of outcomes – it’s a sign that our approach needs reevaluation. 

Instead of rigidly adhering to plans, let’s ask why we create plans in the first place.

To schedule priorities

For me, planning is about scheduling our priorities, not prioritizing our schedules. When we plan our summer or any other aspect of our lives, it should not be a reason to beat ourselves up or obsess over lengthy to-do lists. 

I recently witnessed my 16-year-old son’s frustration when he couldn’t complete his extensive tasks. Sometimes, we get caught up in the wrong intention, evaluating our worth based on unaccomplished goals. The act of checking items off our list becomes the sole purpose, overshadowing what truly matters.

However, if we don’t make plans deliberately, we run the risk of procrastination or overlooking vital matters when they arise. Planning is about reserving the necessary space, time, resources and energy for our priorities. It ensures that we allocate the attention these aspects of our lives deserve.

To bring ease

Moreover, planning should bring us ease rather than anxiety. When we face a myriad of tasks, planning serves as a tool to assess the time and energy we have available. By prioritizing and eliminating nonessential tasks, we create space for crucial activities, including much-needed self-care. Planning allows us to find the breathing room we need between tasks, fostering a sense of balance and wellbeing.

To refine standards

Furthermore, planning forces us to refine our standards of the projects and tasks for the given period of time. It enables us to even lower our standards where appropriate or necessary.

As our priorities become clearer, we can determine the tasks that require significant energy investment and those that do not. We can also reevaluate whether other tasks really require our attention or not, and how much/little they do in a realistic view. 

By doing so, we become more intentional with our time and energy, focusing on what tasks are absolutely important at the given moment instead of spreading ourselves too thin. Overflowing tasks can be delegated, postponed, or discarded altogether. 

To be mindful of the present moment

Another significant benefit of planning is the gift of mindfulness. When we allocate specific time slots for tasks, we can fully immerse ourselves in the present moment without constant worry about future obligations. By consciously shifting our minds and focusing on the designated task or break at hand, we experience a sense of ease and enhanced productivity.

To filter new requests

Additionally, planning empowers us to make informed decisions about new requests or commitments. During the academic year or even in the summer, when our schedules might be intentionally open, planning our priorities becomes the foundation for deciding what else we can take on. It allows us to evaluate whether saying “yes” or “no” aligns with our objectives and capacity.

 

In summary, planning is a powerful tool that, when used wisely and where it’s relevant, can bring immense benefits to our lives. (Remember, planning is not about perfection or checking off endless tasks.) Instead, it allows us to prioritize our true objectives while fostering mindfulness, trusting the process, and letting go of outcomes. By understanding the true purpose of planning and making necessary adjustments, we can harness its power to enhance our journey.

As planning is a dynamic process that evolves with our needs and circumstances, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your own planning practices (or even its absence in your life): 

Are your planning practices serving you in the way you intended? 

Are you finding mindfulness and ease within your plans? or 

Do they leave you feeling overwhelmed and rigid?

Or is making plans even relevant in my situation? (Yes, I am aware that in some situations, planning doesn’t work for many. This would be a separate topic to discuss.)

If frustration or disempowerment creep in, it’s a clear sign that adjustments are needed. Consider how loose you want your schedule to be, the amount of empty space you should reserve between tasks, and whether you tend to underestimate the time required for certain activities.

Ultimately, there are many ways to approach planning, and it’s essential to find what works best for you. The key is to strike a balance between structure and flexibility, aligning your plans with your values, priorities and overall wellbeing. 

Wishing you a spacious rest of the summer filled with moments of joy, growth, and mindful planning.

 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

About Kimine Mayuzumi

Dr. Kimine Mayuzumi is the co-founder of "Being Lazy and Slowing Down," a personal/professional development initiative committed to supporting higher-education professionals to enhance their wellbeing. She brings extensive research experience, particularly focusing on the challenges faced by minoritized groups in academia. Having supported hundreds of overwhelmed academics, Kimine’s approach emphasizes reclaiming inner balance and clarity without compromising productivity. Through her teachings, she guides individuals to rediscover their sense of wholeness, gain clarity on their life goals, and cultivate sustainable practices for personal and professional fulfillment. Kimine also enjoys Tai Chi and her family time with two kids and her soulmate/life partner, Riyad A. Shahjahan.