Do you identify yourself as a planner?

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Someone in a talk recently said that there are two types of people: those that believe there are two types of people, and those that do not. Humor aside, there are people that plan a lot, especially at work. Some die-hard planners plan everything in life, while other planners are selective about which aspects of their lives they plan. There is also a time-element to it. Some people planned a lot before they got married and their spouse did all the planning subsequently (okay perhaps not work-related). Now back to the two types of people, so who are the non-planners? There are a few options for that to elaborate on: folks that are spontaneous, folks that are doers, and folks that are followers.

People that are spontaneous, as the name suggests, take life as it comes. They generally may not have a goal that they wish to attain in a day, week, month, year, or even a decade. They get to work, someone asks them for something and they get that done. Of course, they may prioritize tasks or switch between tasks. However, they constantly have a set of tasks that they need to get to. While there are tremendous benefits in living in the moment, one of the downsides is that things may get longer to get done. However, having teams with spontaneous persons would greatly benefit in generating new ideas, think outside the box, and bring levity to the discussions. They manage change and uncertainty well.

The second type of non-planners are doers. Here the key aspect is that doers jump into action right away while planners as the name suggests plan first and only when everything is perfectly planned, they start doing. A classic example of that are planners would elaborately plan a meal, get all the ingredients on the kitchen counter along with the recipe book, and then start cooking. The doers on the other hand would grab an onion and start cutting it before even thinking what to cook with it. The same happens at work too. I am sure you know people that that start writing a program or put together PowerPoint slides as soon as they heard what to do.

Based on the above two cases of non-planners, some of us may relate to the planner in the first but non-planner in the second, or vice-versa. For the last of the type of non-planners let us contrast against followers. Although one typically thinks of leaders and followers, the main distinction here is that a follower just simply follows a plan and does not necessarily create it or have a vision. This happens a lot at work where a team leader puts together a plan of action and the rest of the team follows the directions given by the planner. In this case the follower may neither be spontaneous nor be a doer. They may be a planner who did not make the plan in question.

So, there are a couple of things to note. One is that everyone is not a planner, and the definition of a planner could change depending on what is considered as not-a-planner. Other is that any team could be made up of planners and non-planners. Nonetheless, here are some things to consider for those of us that identify ourselves as planners, no matter how we define it.

If there is one activity that forces us to not plan, that is improv. In case you are not familiar with improv, do watch a few on YouTube. It is a lot of fun. Although improv is often associated with comedy, it is really about being in the moment, paying attention, and displaying levity (a wonderful book Humor, Seriously by Aaker and Bagdonas emphasize the importance of humor for business and life in general). If you are looking for an improv class, Improvolution is a wonderful character-based improv school that also offers online classes (

Some of us tend to think that everyone belonging to a job classification are of the same personality type. If you think so, I invite you to check out the page about understanding the four personality types: A, B, C, and D. You will notice that there are people in your team or department that could be of different personality types. The website helps recognize that different things drive different people, what motivates various personalities, and other things.

There are tremendous benefits as a planner, but do try and be a non-planner for a bit. Of course it would be outside your comfort zone, but it might give you the relief you are looking for. One way is to try things without planning too much such as: call a meeting without an agenda and let people just talk. Form a team with someone who is of a different personality type, or just not a planner (in any of the three cases of non-planners mentioned above). You can test Benjamin Franklin’s quote: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.