Let me check my calendar: Is over-planning actually effective?

March 1, 2017, 6:42 a.m.

Last Thursday night after a stressful day, I decided to treat myself and do something relaxing. A typical girl would probably spend the evening painting nails, trying a new mud mask and watching her favorite chick flick. Don’t get me wrong — I love a good spa session. But my personal version of pampering also resulted in stress acne prevention: planning every class for my remaining time at Stanford.  The finished color-coded Microsoft Excel spreadsheet was the result of four hours of researching required classes, scanning elective lists and counting units.

I’ve always been a meticulous planner. Living out of my high school assignment book, I crafted a tight schedule of homework, extracurriculars, an after-school job and social activities. In that sense, I’m not unique.

My surrounding peers had similar — probably more jam-packed — days and still managed to be functional human beings. Now a freshman at Stanford, I still spend any free time planning, but I’m beginning to question my growing obsession.

As your stereotypical Type A personality, I often “become impatient with delays and unproductive time, schedule commitments too tightly and try to do more than one thing at a time.” I envy others who can mentally keep track of their to-do list without forgetting a single thing. I’m a forgetful person, so keeping an extensive checklist helps keep all my ducks in a row.

Specifically, planning the start and end time for each task borders on self-micromanagement. Completing a four-page essay between 1:30 and 3 p.m. isn’t a realistic goal; life interruptions are inevitable, no matter how determined you are to finish.

According to “The Perils of Overplanning,” spending too much time over a calendar can also turn into procrastination. I am completely guilty of planning future activities to avoid doing the reading for class tomorrow.

The feeling of precise organization connects back to preventing future stress. If I know what I need to accomplish later, I can then refocus on the present unfinished task. Although my four-year plan is likely to change with class alterations, the spreadsheet provides me with a solid foundation and internal comfort.

Between over-planning and browsing beautiful calendar inspiration from Pinterest, it’s a wonder I get any work done at all.


Contact Emily Schmidt at egs1997 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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