The Concept Of Slow Planning

To listen to the audio version of this blog post tune into Episode 1 of The Quiet Voice podcast. (OR search 'the quiet voice' on iTunes, aCast app or Soundcloud).

Who else felt an ounce of excitement at the thought of the 1st of the year being a Monday? It felt fresh and full of potential. To start off 2018 I want to talk about goal planning. It’s the kind of thing that can be quite hit or miss especially at the start of a new year. Let’s approach this as a fresh start in what I like to call "slow planning".

Slow planning is about breaking things down into manageable, purposeful steps. It’s grounded, realistic mapping out of ideas and a journey. Finding clarity in what and why you want to achieve something to the point of that goal resonating with your current self. Not a future self 6 months from now that you imagine might have more money or be more confident or have traveled across Europe. Slow planning is about taking your time and planning across days rather than hours. 

Slow planning is about giving yourself space to let your ideas sink in and merge with your reality. Slow planning is playing the long game, which, when you are working with big goals or dreams, is needed.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon this German word "Luftschloss". Luftschloss literally means air-castle. Air-castle refers to a dream that is unattainable. It's about indulging in big dreams whilst being realistic about how hard it can be to fulfil them. It resonated with me as a reminder that sometimes when we set down that path of planning and goal setting for something as mammoth as a new year, we can put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

In 2017 I wanted to launch my business, blog consistently, become a freelance photographer and run a stock photography Etsy shop. I spent A LOT of time mapping out what I wanted to achieve but never how I was actually going to do it. The first half of my year was a blur. An unpredictable, hamster wheel of a blur. Too much time spent preparing and building up to these big goals. But not enough time understanding how to navigate a path to the goal or getting really stuck in.

Towards the end of the year, I took on a more active approach. Focusing on what steps I needed to take to achieve a goal and how I was going to complete those steps. Each day was about finding focus and clarity in tasks and not just basking in the excitable feeling of having a big goal. Back then I was burning motivational fuel inefficiently. This reminds me a little of back in my school days. I remember we were always told to make a detailed essay plan during exams. If you ran out of time for writing your essay, they would refer to your plan and give you additional marks based on that content.

Slow, purposeful and thoughtful planning is not lost even if you change your end goal.

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Okay so, what does this mean? If you feel overwhelmed at the thought of setting goals or a fear that you won't achieve them, these are the 4 aspects I consider to be integral to the (probably made up) concept of slow planning:

 the concept of slow planning inspired by the German term luftschloss which means "air-castle"
The four aspects essential to slow planning
 slow planning to start 2018 without the overwhelming burden of having big goals and no path to navigate to achieve them

1. Change the wording of your goal definition. It's easy to create an "air-castle" vibe where the goals sound infinitely large and unattainable. Like "have a successful podcast" or "boost traffic on my blog". These are very much what I call "how long is a piece of string" goals. Instead "launch a podcast" or  "write at least one blog post a week" sounds attainable and is a clearer vision.

2. Spend more time reflecting. Real, internal reflection. Your goals should never be a picture formed from other people's plans or how they excitedly might glamorise their path. Ask yourself why you want to do something. Is it for money? To change your routine? Work from home? Have flexibility? Fulfill creative passions, hobbies or learn a new skill?

Two questions I asked in my first newsletter of the year (scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe) were:

What do you want more of in 2018?

What do you want less of?

They sound really simple but the more time you spend reflecting on them it can provide such powerful insight into your current state of mind and how you want to move forward.

3. And then spend more time reflecting again. I spent some evenings towards the end of 2017 doing just this and realised that I didn't want to start over for a new year or month. I just wanted to continue and gain momentum in the creative work I'm currently pursuing.  Part of taking your planning process slowly is that you can identify whether or not you're actually searching for a drastic change or small tweaks. If you’re driving at a slower speed you have more control over the direction you steer in. This is individual to you and can't be answered by looking outwards into the world.

4. Take an active approach. Prep the steps and what you'll need to set yourself up on that journey towards your goal. I tested this approach and how it might work for me with this podcast. Here's a bit of honesty - I woke up one morning and decided that in 2018 I wanted to start a podcast.  I wrote down my theme ideas, name ideas, specific topics I wanted to cover and then how to record, upload it and all those faffy internal bits. And within a week the trailer was live and the mirage of a castle goal started to become the real thing. That was only possible because I slowed down, took an active approach in the moment and didn't shelve it as a big air-castle goal for the next year and my future self.

And that brings me to the final part of the "slow planning" approach. Self-belief. You can only go as far as you believe you can go. 9 out of 10 times we are standing in our own way. This is a topic I'd like to delve into more in a later episode. It's why "believe" is my word of the year. Not just in a personal spiritual aspect but in a sense of self too.

I'd love to know if you have a word or phrase of the year? It was never my kind of thing but a first try with "gratitude" being my word for 2017 had a real impact on my year. I found it grounding.

I hope that you can start your new year or month or week without the heavy burdens of carrying intense goals on your shoulders. Stop, take a step back, reflect and actively pursue your air castles and ground them.

Additional Resources

Download "The Art of Writing Purposeful To Do Lists" pdf ebook

Download "Slow Pages" Printable