When Planning Becomes our Enemy

March 15, 2014

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In the leadership world, there are countless resources on planning, productivity, scheduling, and execution.

Is it possible for planning to become our enemy?

Can we become too ordered or calendar driven?

I am naturally a planner, even jotting down activities for my day off. However, I see an unhealthy tension grow in myself when life brings me events which have not been anticipated.

Even good things.

I was reading a passage of the Bible this morning which sparked these thoughts. In John 5, there is the story of the invalid whom Jesus heals on the Sabbath.

The response of the Jews to this man is what caught my attention.

“So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” (John 5:10)

You can’t do this!
It does not keep the rules!
It does not fit the calendar!

I know this is a picture of religion, of legalism, and of the prison of “doing the right thing”

Photo By petradr

Photo By petradr

But it is also a picture of the inability to see something good, which does not line up with our daily plan.

“We do not schedule miracles on the Sabbath.”
“Please phone my assistant and set up an appointment at a better time.”
“Crisis are only managed Monday to Friday between the hours of 9 and 5.”

Jesus valued the Sabbath and the principle of rest. He ultimately fulfilled it!

But he valued people more than planning. This man had a need and he was going to meet it.

How can we be ordered, but also maintain the ability to respond to the people or projects we value?

The Pharisees and Jews whom Jesus interacted with, were pictures of being enslaved to religion, tradition, and the rules.
Jesus is a picture of freedom to respond based on his values.

Are we enslaved to our appointment books and our productivity tools?

Too much planning can cause us to:
– Miss out on spontaneous blessings and special events.
– Not have enough margin in our lives to respond when friends or family need us.
– Be unable to respond to “good” interruptions.

Don’t get me wrong. Many people need more planning, more structure, and more discipline so they can up the level of their productivity.

But in the same vein, we must not swing to the other extreme or we will miss out on the much of the beauty of life.

Leadership gurus espouse the value of “managing by wandering around” made popular by Tom Peters in In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America’s Best-Run Companies.

A good friend of mine recently wrote on Leading by Interruption. He maintains that Jesus did not lead by limiting interruptions but rather responding to them. We cannot schedule these into the calendar.

I’m good at planning. But I also need to be good at responding spontaneously to things I value.

To people.
To my wife.
To my kids.
To a friend in a crisis.

Overcommitment can actually cause us to miss some of our best moments to lead, to parent, and to love our spouse.

I do not want planning to be my enemy, but my friend.

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A missionary teacher for 24 years currently living in South Africa. I am a recovering superhero, daily in need of the grace of God