Unplanning and the Magic of the 3 Foot View

“E.L. Doctorow once said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” You don’t have to see where you’re going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you’ll pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I’ve ever heard.” — Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I’m learning how to unplan lately.

Which really means that I'm letting go of my instinct to overplan. 

(Undoing the habit to plan in large periods of time is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.)

Learning to say “yes” to more spontaneous experiences. 

Learning to say “no” to my nagging Practical Voice that demands to know every detail in advance. 

It’s challenging, but oh-so important.

Hear me out.

I’m part business owner, part project manager, part creative director.

Part juicy-soulful-vision-filled writer, part analytical content strategist, part design advocate.

Part significant other, part pet parent, part fitness enthusiast, part twenty-something. 

I’m trying to be more tuned into the frequency of all my processes I switch in and out of throughout my days.

The ebb and flow and rhythm and push-pull that comes with all of them. 

But one of the best things I’ve begun to ask myself each morning is this: 

“What’s your 3 foot view?"

Instead of having a 30,000 ft. view of a project, a trip planned down to the mile, or a move planned six months in advance, I’m trying to plan only as far ahead as I need to be organized while retaining enough flexibility for serendipity and magic to play a role.

See, here’s the thing about planning.

Extreme planning is the enemy serendipity.

And serendipity is what makes stories and storytelling and well, life for that matter, so incredibly soul-stirring. 

Planning is also terribly overwhelming and crazy-making.

Overwhelm causes creative strain.

Too much weight, and the well doesn’t only run dry — it cracks. 

So, while I thought planning down to the grain was an advantage in the name of diligence, I’m quickly realizing that it’s only a drain in the name of creative output.

I’m actively learning how to plan just enough to create structure and stability, while unplanning just enough to allow for serendipity and happenstance to chime in as my muse. In business, in writing, in fitness, in my relationships, in my nights and weekends. The wiggle room allows for more space for the unknown, which is what living a creative life is really all about.

Planning for the day is planning for the week. 
Planning for the week is planning for the month.
Planning for the month is planning for the year.

Day by day things happen.
Little by little, progress reveals itself. 

When you're not planning for large swaths of time all at once — when you commit to planning only for the day, for instance — it adds up to pieces of time and projects that connect. When one project spills over from one week to another, it won't be forced to awkwardly overlap with something else that was pre-planned. When an unexpected project comes in the door, it can be neatly placed into the day without having to rearrange the entire month or year ahead. When an unexpected road trip happens, it can be an opportunity for getting work in while bumping into new faces and places along the way.

The Five Year Plan is dead.

The 3 Foot View is the only way I'm traveling these days.

Because in the end, The Five Year Plan lives inside the 3 Foot View.

It's just smaller parts of the whole.

That's the beauty of unplanning.



Amanda Serfozo