We’ve all done it.

Sat at our desk with clear intention to get something done.

Then had the thought, “I’ll just check my emails” (What could be the harm in a quick scan, right?). You find one email to action then you realise you have to check something else before sending and…. BAMMM!!

Into the quicksand of distraction you’ve leaped. The crispness of your original intention is now blunted.

What’s actually gone on here?

Well setting your intention (standard goal setting) is what I call ‘Yes Planning’. ‘Yes, this is what I want to get to’.

This is the structure of traditional planning… perceive, conceive, believe and achieve… once written, achieving those SMART goals is inevitable.

The assumption is… because of the aspirational element of the, I can’t wait to get started… completion is a forgone conclusion. [Yeah right!]

What this ‘Yes Planning’ does not take into consideration are the distractions, the disappointments, or the delays. All the micro-barriers (micro-bes) between Point A (starting point) and Point B (outcome sought).

This form of planning has no immune system to prevent micro-bes that will, through stealth or imposition, derail your original intention. You need to protect your intention line between Point A and Point B.

Examples of gremlin micro-bes

  • Procrastination / avoidance at the point
  • Interruption by someone / thing
  • Something else arising as a potential ‘higher’ priority
  • A conversation not going the way you had intended
  • Etc. You get the point

What is needed is a concurrent ‘No Plan’ alongside your ‘Yes Plan’.

‘If… , Then…’ Planning

‘No Planning’ anticipates and prepares for the likely distractions AHEAD OF TIME. It’s called ‘If… then…’ planning.

Say you want to write an article and you set time aside for it. The usual ‘Yes Plan’ would be something like, “write article for website” on your To Do list.

I am suggesting you have a second element to your planning: including multiple ‘If… then..’ elements. For example

  • If… the creative juices are not flowing, then… I will write for the rubbish bin (just put words on the page, stream of consciousness)
  • If… typical distraction (like the phone ringing), then… I will not answer it
  • If… I don't like what I have written, then… I will review it a day later

Another example could be a date-night with your partner next Tuesday night

  • If… come Tuesday night I feel flat, then… I will drive home with a smile on my face singing my favourite song to get my energy up
  • If… come Tuesday night, s/he [my partner] feels flat, then… I will make him/her smile and then laugh
  • If… I have extra work to do, then… I won’t stay late, I’ll get up early on Wednesday morning to do it.

You can apply ‘if… then…’ planning anywhere. It builds a greater robustness in your considerations.

I recall a story a colleague told me recently. She is a senior Fire Engineer – investigates fires, designs sprinkler systems; deals in facts and detail. Facts are Gods for her, they're the ultimate truth.

She was meeting with lobby-ists of property developers to persuade them about the need for greater fire prevention measures and presented her facts (all validated and verified). The lobby-ists just ignored them and talked of other things.

She was speechless, flummoxed, completely thrown. She had not even considered the need for ‘If… then…’ planning in her meetings. She does now.

So, my suggestion is to practise by selecting an important activity for you:

  1. Write your intended outcome (i.e. what you are saying yes you want)
  2. Consider all the probable blockers to its achievement and complete ‘If… then… statements to mitigate each likely derailer (i.e. what you need to say no to, to succeed).
  3. Do that important activity


If… this process didn’t work for you, then…