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Planning For The Unexpected. How Over-Planning Causes Undue Stress

June 2, 2010 · 12 comments

in Life

I am a planner.  I love to plan.  I feel better when I have a plan in place because I then feel better equipped to handle whatever comes my way.

However, I am learning more and more that even the best-laid plans can have a giant wrench thrown into them.  As a matter of fact, I spend a large portion of my day making sure everything is all set and that everyone and everything is all taken care of.  Now that I think about it, I may be more of a control freak than a planner…

FYI this is not me...

This past weekend was a great lesson in expecting the unexpected.  I won’t go into details about my situation as it would bore you to tears.  Needless to say, I experienced a lot of heartache over a decision that took months to make, and the end result was completely the opposite of what I expected.  I had created plans that would resolve a situation that never even came to be.  Not to mention, I felt stressed, I bored people talking about it endlessly, and it was all for nothing.   What an absolute waste!!   Not to mention, this has happened to me countless times.  I am obviously a slow learner.

Over-planning can also affect your financial life.  At times, my expenditures will greatly exceed my very well thought out budget, and there is nothing I can do about it.   As much as I try to plan and predict our family’s spending, I cannot account for every possibility, and I have to stop trying.    While it is great to have a budget, life happens, and I can’t allow myself to stress when I cannot meet my goals.  In addition, as much as I try to plan what we will have saved for retirement and such, I cannot control the stock market, weather, oil spills, European markets, and more.  I just have to go with the flow and accept a more ‘fluid’ plan.

So my newest plan is to plan less.  I want to become more like those wonderful Type B personality people that just sit back and take things as they come.    I am sure it will not be as easy as making a proclamation, but I am really going to try.  I will still make sure I have everything slotted properly on the calendar, but I can’t let myself worry about something going awry, or trying to imagine all kinds of possible scenarios for different situations.  Maybe some of my brown hair will kick out the new grays that are starting to come in, and the stress-wrinkles on my forehead will be a thing of the past.  Ok, that would require hair dye and surgery, but if I can find a way to ‘unplan’ myself, I may find some inner contentment!

Is there anyone else out there like me?  If so, maybe we can form our own support group!  If not, it will be obvious I need more help than I think.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Budgeting in the Fun Stuff June 2, 2010 at 10:13 am

I need to mellow a little more. I’m go-with-the-flow if someone else is obviously in charge, but when it comes to my own life, I hold the reigns tight enough to leave marks. 🙂


Kris June 2, 2010 at 8:40 pm

BFS – I love when someone is in charge. But I am so ‘me’ that I end up being in charge most the time because nobody else will step up to the plate!

Let go of those reins some! See how easy it is for me to give advice that I would never follow myself?


FinEngr June 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I overplan at times too. You hit it on the head with “I cannot account for every possibility”.

You could break the planning into these steps:
– Factor in all knowns (regular monthly)
– Estimate upcoming unknowns (car repair, doctor appt)
– Throw on a cushion factor (5-10%)

and call it a day from there…


Kris June 2, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Hello FinEngr – That is some good advice. I have to admit that I am already making progress. I was starting to worry about something coming up this weekend, and I just let it go. Nothing I can do about it, and no amount of planning will fix it.

The cushion factor is a good idea.

Thanks for commenting!


Vitaeus June 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm

Having a cushion is the secret to a budget, if you plan out where every single penny goes, you have no reserves to deal with “life, another thing i have been trying to do lately is use my credit union’s bill pay, I can put in just about anything that has an address and an account number so , as a bill comes in i “pay” it by scheduling it. Touch once and monitor is way less stress. Find the stuff you really have to plan on to make happen, let the rest be a bit more free form.

Thanks for letting me ramble


Kris June 2, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Vitaeus, please come by and ramble anytime!

I generally have a very flexible budget. However, there are some months that are just outliers, and even a cushion wouldn’t help. I would need more like a giant bounce-house to absorb the shock. That’s when I get a little nervous.

Thanks for visiting!


Money Reasons June 2, 2010 at 9:13 pm

When it comes to money, I have a death grip on spending, saving, and investing. But with most things I’m more of a B type personality…

I use to experience more anxiety with respect to the stock market, but after living through the “Great Recession” and the fact that my house is paid off, I’m much more relaxed…

As for other things, unfortunately since it’s expected that you will take charge, nobody else will step up. If you want to step back away from the over-planning stage (or taking charge all the time), you’ll have to delegate the responsibility to others, and make sure they do the task (until they have the confidence and skills to do it themselves).

My problem is that I think that nobody can do it the way that I like things to be done. Even with things as trivial as washing the car. I’m working on letting things like this go, but it’s hard… I’ve made some gains, and my other family members (especially my kids) have gained some confidence. Finances, I still have a death grip on though! 😉


Kris June 2, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Money Reasons – The ONLY thing I am great at delegating is chores, probably because I hate them.

I too have learned to better handle stock market swings. I just keep remembering that I still have years until I will be accessing the money, and that I am buying low on down days. Your death-grip on finances has paid off for you so keep it up!!


Rebecca The Greeniac June 2, 2010 at 11:44 pm

Hmmm… well my first thought is that there’s a big difference between planning what you’re going to do and getting totally invested in the outcome. There’s some phrase that my yoga teacher is always saying… something like “absolute determination for process with no importance given to results”. (She says it much more eloquently.)

Sort of like the garden. You can plant all sorts of things and some will yield a bumper crop while others languish… and 9 times out of 10 it’s the weather, or the birds or some other factor over which you have very little control. So you’ve just gotta accept the bumper crop as a gift from the universe and figure that maybe the flops will work out better next time. Which doesn’t mean you don’t try to figure out what you could do better, it just means you don’t worry too much about it.

I also have found that much of my need to control things was actually a need to feel important and indispensable. I used to have terrible problems delegating, because I was afraid that people would screw things up. But then I realized that I wasn’t doing them any favors by making them dependent on me, and robbing them of the opportunity to learn from their own mistaskes.

Isn’t there something called the “alcoholic’s prayer” (I have NO idea why it’s called that)… I think it goes something like this: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.



Kris June 3, 2010 at 8:34 am

Hi Rebecca – I think it is obvious I need yoga and or meditation. People say it does wonders, but I get bored. 🙂 Isn’t that pathetic? I also think I must do yoga all wrong because after I do yoga, my back is killing me. (I do have back problems though.)

I do like your garden analogy too. There are just some factors I can’t control, or plan for. I need to do a better job of sitting back and let things unfold as they do instead of trying to anticipate every possibility.

Thanks for commenting!!!


Melissa October 19, 2011 at 12:30 pm

I am so glad I found this. Makes me feel like I am not alone. I am a compulsive planner as well. I am fully aware of how I am although I can’t seem to break my patterns. I cause myself way too much worry and stress by trying to overplan for non-existent situations. I have a problem letting others help or plan anything in thought that they won’t do it or it will fail, therefore I take on too much. The older I get the more I realize how ridiculous it is and how I wish I could just chill out and let someone else worry about the small stuff for a change, but how?


Kris October 19, 2011 at 7:48 pm

I totally get it. I try to anticipate every event in life, and drive myself nuts in the process. I have found that no matter how well I plan, something always comes up and throws a wrench in the plans. (Sometimes it is a good wrench though and something is actually easier than I planned.)

I envy those who can ‘wait’ for life to happen to a degree, but there has to be a balance where you still get things taken care of.


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