In my early twenties, disgusted by my lack of progress in life, I disassembled and threw away my bed. I wouldn’t allow myself a bed to sleep in until I made something of myself.
Maybe a little over the top?
Yeah. I agree.
I decided I would build myself a loft bed. And so, I got pen and paper and drew up the plans. Measured the room, measured the wood and cut.
Now, I don’t have a “handyman gene” in my body. I can’t build stuff. But my bed turned out pretty darn good. There was enough room underneath for my desk and dresser. It was cool.
The learning piece however, was that something happens when you put pen to paper and plan! The power of thinking before you take action is often key to success.
Planning with good old-fashioned pen and paper has many benefits. The following are 5 perks of personal planning on paper.
1. Planning Sorts It All Out
What is it you’re trying to do?
When you accept there are only so many hours in the day and that you won’t be able to do it all, you’re forced to choose what you’ll spend your time doing. You are forced to face that certain tasks just don’t serve us in the pursuit of our goals.
The simple act of writing down our goals has great impact. In the act of writing, you identify what is important to you. Implied here, is that you are also noting what is not important to you by not writing it. You’re filtering what is and isn’t important1.
You are 42% more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down2. There is a level of accountability and clarity achieved by this simple act.
By handwriting your goal as part of a plan, you are deciding on a direction. If you decided to go west, you cannot also go east, for example. You are narrowing your focus.
Emily Balcetis, psychologist from NYU, believes that simply rearranging the way that we see things visually, changes the way we perceive them. And further, by narrowing our focus, we can achieve more3.
Narrowing focus leads to a greater likelihood of achieving what’s important.
2. Planning Reduces Anxiety, Stress and Fear
Writing a simple to-do list can reduce anxiety and give structure to what needs accomplished4.
The Zeignarnik Effect refers to the mind’s inability to let go of tasks until they are complete. Often the impact is raised anxiety. The simple act of writing it down helps ease this effect5. Just making a plan to get our tasks done can reduce anxiety6.
3. People Who Paper Plan Achieve More
Those who write clear, specific goals become oriented towards that goal. The act of setting a goal sets you in motion towards that goal. Handwriting your goal with specificity increases the likelihood of achievement by 1.2 to 1.4 times8.
Writing helps with a neurological process called encoding. Encoding is the process that determines what will be a long-term memory and what wont. Writing goals down helps them become encoded as long-term memories8.
In a famous Harvard Business study from the 50’s, the 3% of the class who had written goals and a plan to support the goal earned more than ten times the other 97% of the class9.
4. Planning Provides a Competitive Advantage
Most people don’t plan.
As a result, a shocking 92% of people don’t achieve their goals! For a variety of reasons, this is true. Planning enhances the likelihood of achieving goals where others are less likely to follow through10.
5. Planning on Paper is Better for Your Brain
Putting pen to paper to write stimulates neural activity in the brain. The effect is similar to that of meditation11. Writing down the plan can take your brain out of reaction mode and put it in long term thinking mode, lessening the release of stress hormones12.
Relatedly, stress reduces our ability to make informed plans14.
The act of setting goals changes the neural pathways in the brain, optimizing to achieve. The stronger the emotional energy associated with the goal, the more quickly our brains will change to accomodate achievement. In other words, the more you want it, the more your brain sets you up to get it13.
I use and recommend a planner called the #ThisIsMyEra Planner. It is a 90 day planner, totally customizable. Start with your vision of what Your Era should look like. Fill out your master goal list. Break them down into S.M.A.R.T. goals. Then, there is a monthly view, a weekly view and a daily view. Also, a system for daily gratitude and review.
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