Summary: to answer this you need to check what your need is at the moment, performance or learning, and check what is your natural tendency, planning or action.
That’s often a question when starting a new healthy lifestyle development.
Shall I start right away with an activity, and do something, to get out of my box and break the inactivity cycle?
Shall I first create a good plan, so I know what, when, and why I’m doing, and stop repeating my mistakes?
If you expect that I will magically answer this question for you now, is it A or B, black or white, planning or action, unfortunately, I have to disappoint you. However, I can explain how you can find the answer for yourself.
This question often rises in everyday and business life. I worked for years as a project manager in research and development, and this was a daily question for me. To make it more complex, the management culture often had fallen to these two extremities on the scale of planning vs. action:
a) Jump into action right away, and start doing doing doing, and hopefully learning by doing. Usually the lack of a plan resulted in overwork, extra cost in time or money for the changes, and a relatively long finish time. But we got moving, had the image of “business” that we are in action, tried many alternatives, and learned a lot in the process by trial and error. For larger and longer projects it was expensive, needed either lots of time or money, or just sheer energy to go with it.
b) Planning for ages, and then refining the plan, go through review one, review two, review the revision of the plan. This long lead time often resulted that the competition was already out with their second iteration, or when finally we started to get into action, we realized that we missed the original business opportunity as the World has changed. But we were crazy efficient when we were in action, no failures as there were good backups, we didn’t waste much money on resources and double work, and something got done anyway during the lot of planning.
Having worked with teams from many different countries, I experienced that some cultures, countries, companies favor more action, others favor more planning. When I proposed more planning and the response was resistance, and an urge for start the trials next week with some preliminary prototype, it was that the value was more on doing. When I was requested right away to make a report on possible opportunities, costs, lead times, organize a meeting with management and stakeholders to get agreement before we do anything else on the lines, it was obvious the value is on planning.
My experience is that both ways can lead to a good result, however it is vital to have awareness about what is happening, and what my intent is, so I can make adjustments to have the right mix to reach my objectives.
First question: What is my natural tendency regarding a healthy lifestyle?
Jump into action right away and almost no preparation?
Plan-plan-plan and have difficulty to get out?
An easy way to check this: how do I usually start my day? Get up and start with something that seems important, and thinking about sitting down to make a to-do list brings up resistance (=action preference)? Or I already have an optimized list of things to be done, to optimize my list further looks like a wonderful task, but quickly starting with something on the list brings up resistance (=planning preference)?
Then the second question is: What is my intent now?
Performance: get results now, maybe not the most efficient way, but it’s more important to get results now vs. learning something new in the process. If my intent is performance, than I follow my natural tendency, and start with either planning or action.
Learning: I want to try a new way of doing it, and it’s OK if it takes more time to do for now. Because I do it for the first time, I’m trying something new, I might be slower, clumsy, inefficient, but my reward is that I will have the knowledge about a new way of doing things. If my intent is learning, do the other way that you usually do, start with action if you are a planner, or plan first if you are a doer.
When working with clients, we spend some time at the beginning to discover what is your strength, planning or action, and what is your hidden need – finally have some results, or besides do it in a better way. My experience is that people like to change the intent from time to time from performance to learning and back, and like to learn the missing skills of both planning or moving into action. However, if you look into available books, articles, blogs, you often see one or the other promoted, depending on the strengths and intents of the author.
How does starting with planning looks like?
You spend time analyzing your needs, reflect on what was working and not before, set goals about your future self, spend time looking for the good exercise and nutrition habits, develop an action plan for implementation. During this time, you don’t start new activities, you don’t start going to the gym if you haven’t done in the past, you don’t change your eating habits, and you don’t buy fresh exercise gear. You only start doing these later, based on your plan. The downside of starting with planning is that for the time of the planning, it looks for the outside World as you are doing nothing, you might feel like doing nothing. The naysayers are quickly nothing this, and let it know you. The pitfall of planning is perfectionism: you want to find the perfect exercise routine, the flawless gym, the perfect diet, and you spend so much time with planning that the environment changes, and the plan is not valid anymore.
How does starting with action look like?
You set aside your doubts, plans, big future goals, and start with something simple that worked for many people. Maybe you decide to drink eight glasses of water a day, or buy a membership card in the nearby gym and do exercise. The downside of starting with action is that if you find out that this was not what you wanted, in a sense your time and energy are lost; of course, you can extract the learning, but if, for example, your body needs strength training to get into shape, and you jumped into doing cardio for a few months, no surprise you won’t see the results wished.
A strategy that I use with my clients is to check for your strength and intents, bring awareness about it into the process, and then intentionally alternate these phases to have optimal results.
You can write me an e-mail through the contact page, leave a comment here on or write to me on Facebook/Linkedin/Twitter, I will be pleased to read how it is going on for you. If you struggle to get started, or keep on going, just drop me a note, I’d be happy to give some constructive feedback (no cost). I reply all e-mails.