In my second book I reference the fact that I used to be horrible at planning. It’s not in my nature to be structured and organised.
However, it is VERY useful. Being able to plan and organise my life is a skill that I honed and trained to the level that I needed in order to function. At 32, I am a lot better at it than honestly anyone could have predicted.
I know most of my appointments and responsibilities, I am on top of my inbox, work to-do’s and personal to-do’s and I make sure to never forget anything high risk (like traffic fines or taxed). Sure, I’m still shit at birthdays and always have to look for my stuff, but other than that I’m doing pretty great. It paid off to train my planning skills.
It was only recently that I realised that it hasn’t just been the Pomodoro technique, to-do lists and the Passion Planner: I also have two of my other activities to thank for the improvement in my planning and organisational skills.
Driving and cooking. I’m serious. Let me tell you about driving first.
I got my driver’s licence at 21, after -hold onto your butts- a whopping 120 hours of lessons and 4 attempts at passing my driver’s test.
First time I wasn’t ready.
Second time I had an intervention within the first minute: A maniac drove way too fast on the main way I wanted to turn onto, so the examiner had to pump the brakes and before even leaving the parking lot I knew I had failed my driver’s test again.
The third time I had forgotten my ID, which means you can’t do the tst. I was inconsolable that time, because now I KNEW that I could drive. That my forgotten ID was what led me to another failed attempt was hard to deal with.
The fourth time I passed. I wasn’t perfect, but I was good enough at driving to get my licence.
Once I had my driver’s license, my dad made me drive all the time. My parents bought a second hand car “for mom’s work” (which she did use it for, but come on the play was so obvious) and I was allowed to drive both the cars when they were available.
I hated the driving lessons, but I started to like driving. I became a good driver (and I can parallel park — AS LONG AS NOBODY IS WATCHING) and I enjoy it.
Driving Trains Planning Skills
Plus, driving from point a to point B requires all sorts of planning skills. Thinking ahead, continuously paying attention, anticipating on external factors and situations.
I plan a lot of things before I leave: my route, the time I have to leave so I’ll. be on time (I’m usually early), where I park, where I can park if I can’t find a spot in the first location, what music I want to listen to during the drive. Pre-drive I text my friends when I leave (because I NEVER text and drive)
During the drive I also have to keep planning and thinking: You have to keep paying attention, keep anticipating on other drivers and their decisions, what road constructions or traffic jams you might encounter,
You gotta keep assessing and adjust what you’re doing accordingly — just like you need to when you’re mapping out your day-to-day life.
Through having to think through all these things and having to make adjustments as I drive I think I became more used to doing these things.
Driving has taught me to:
- think ahead (do I have time to drive there and get back before my next appointment, do I have to anticipate delays, where do I park)
- prep (is there enough gas in the tank, what type of music do I want to listen to on the drive, do I want water or snacks on the road)
- focus (when I have to drive for a while I have to keep paying attention to the road and how and where I’m driving)
- anticipate (where are other cars on the road, how are they driving, where are they moving, how fast are they moving
- make decisions (will I make this move when car X and car Y are where they are, will I run this yellow light or do I wait, do I make that crossing or do I want for the coming car to pass)
All this training has transferred into the rest of my life.
Thinking ahead: I manage my daily schedule better because I also think about days or weeks to come: I go to the library before my books are due because I know on the due date I have other plans and I keep time free during a busy weekend.
Prepping: I keep an eye out for things I need. If I know I’m almost out of garbage bags, spinach or dish soap I’ll grab them during a random supermarket run. I’ll lay out the hospital ID the day before I need if I have a checkup the next morning. I put out my gym bag at night so I can run to the gym at 07:00 AM.
Focus: Although my attention span is somewhat…challenged (I was diagnosed with ADHD in September) I had a very differentiated test result. Although scoring very high on impulsivity and hyperactivity on the computertest, my focus was average: I have trained myself to focus when I absolutely need to. So when it’s necessary, I can do it.
Anticipating: When I know colleagues of mine have a lot going on, I keep an extra watchful eye on the general inbox. When Vin and I are both busy, , I cook bigger portions so we can have more leftover nights. When I suspect I need to help out a friend with something over the weekend, I make sure to get some errands out of the way early Saturday morning so I can help distraction-free.
Make decisions: When I have enough information to make a decent decision, I just make the call. When someone asks me if I want to do something now or later, if I have time I’ll do it now. If I have to decide what to make for dinner, I just take one look in the fridge, scan ingredients and pick the thing I’m in the mood for.
The interesting thing about experience and skills, is that you don’t necessarily know how else it might benefit you and different areas of your life. You learn nothing by doing nothing (unless you’re meditating, but then you’re not doing nothing – you’re meditating!), but whatever else you do?
Whatever it teaches you, it is valuable and might transfer. It could make your life easier in unexpected ways.