I am a creature of habit, and I like things organized, no surprises. Every conceivable type of planner has passed through my hands. Day-Timer, Day Planner, Day Runner, Day Minder, the original Franklin Planner, FiloFax, Circa, Opus Domini and now Franklin Covey. I've managed differing time increments with varying degrees of success. Daily, weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, annually. I plan short term, I plan long term, and my contingency plan has a back-up plan. It's what I do and who I am.
Thirty plus years of working in Corporate America means my planning skills are super sharp, and I can slice and dice any time increment with surgical precision. Not only do I manage a tight schedule, my penchant for anticipating disaster is unrivaled. I plan not only what will be, but also what might knock me off course.
So where does this leave me in the spontaneity department? Rather flat-footed. Spontaneity suggests "in the moment", "impulsive", "unplanned" or "not premeditated". Egad! There is nothing in the world of organizing that prepares planners for such an ambiguous concept.
My schedule oftentimes is so full even a potty break is impossible. You've been there too, I imagine. Things are even worse in the world of shared electronic schedules, where just about anyone can see your calendar AND put himself or herself on it without asking. Just when you think there is a free minute, some time-thief disguised as your boss, your spouse, your children, your neighbor, your co-worker, a random telephone solicitor slides in, happy to spend your time for you since you are obviously not that busy.
Out of necessity comes invention, and I decided to invent the "planned spontaneity" technique. Here's how it goes. On occasion, I pick one unscheduled hour on my calendar and reserve it for me. I actually put my initials into the Appointment Description like this: "MJK - DO NOT TOUCH" or some other forbidding warning. If a schedule conflict arises, as will sometimes occur, I don't delete the appointment, I move it to another slot. At the allotted hour, I drop everything and, in the moment, decide what I want to do. In the past I've strolled the office corridor and introduced myself to someone I didn't know. I called a friend I haven't spoken to in years. I visited with a staff member who needed some cheering up. I grabbed some crayons and drew a picture for a friend. I did something spontaneous. You get the idea.
The result? I am able to retain my need to plan while building up some "spontaneity muscle". It is a small victory but a significant one. In that one small hour I feel unencumbered, free, eager to explore, curious, and energized! So go ahead, declare an hour just for you, and do something spontaneous. If an hour is not realistic, even fifteen minutes can make a huge difference. The excitement and energy you create goes a long way towards a balanced state of mind.
Though the concept of planned spontaneity is an intuitive contradiction, in fact it's a great way to give yourself permission to explore. And what fun is life if every moment is planned? Do yourself a favor and introduce planned spontaneity into your schedule! You may even find that being spontaneous in the moment comes easier once you've exercised the spontaneity muscle!
-Originally published 20 February 2013