What do you do when the system stops working?


April 11, 2014
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Stuck moment: You love when things run smoothly — some say you’re a master at it — and right now it’s the opposite of that. As far as you can tell, nothing has changed. Still, you’ve started over…several times. Checked and rechecked. Even referred to the manual. Why. Won’t. This. Work! 

Such is the frustration of Perplexed Planners. So full of determination to make it work that they can only see what is, not what could be. And that’s a major handicap when it comes to solving a problem. 

We’ve all been there from time to time, but not always in the same way. There are at least three shades of Perplexed Planners. To find out your tendency, take our mini-quiz below. We’ll follow up next week with tips for each type of Planner.

MINI-QUIZ:
Think of a time when a tactic that’s always served you well stopped working. It might be how you communicate with someone. How you complete a work project. Maybe it’s your method for tracking your budget. What did you Feel, Think, and Do at that time? Pick one answer from each group. This works best when you answer quickly, following your gut instinct.

What did you Feel when you were perplexed?
A. Uninspired.
B. Like a failure.
C. Afraid you’d be found out.

What did you Think when you were perplexed?
A. I wish this came with instructions.
B. Ugh. Do I have to learn something new now?
C. This will take me forever to fix.

What did you Do when you were perplexed?
A. Declared it broken and stop trying.
B. Nothing. I didn’t want to mess things up more.
C. Stayed quiet about it as long as I could.

If you chose mostly A answers, read about By-the-Book Planners, below. Mostly B’s, you’re likely a Perfect Planner. C’s are Peerless Planners. If you had a mix of letters, you’re a hybrid, which means you’ll find parts of yourself in all three types.

A. By-the-Book Planner. There’s a reason rules are made, and the primary one is to be followed. There’s comfort in knowing what to do and what to expect — because it usually works for you. Why reinvent every time when you can sail smoothly ahead instead? But when the waters get choppy, you may find you’re not equipped to improvise.

You need to believe in your creative abilities. Perplexed Planners get stuck by the clutter, and in your case, it’s the rules that are clogging up your brain. It’s hard to think creatively when you’re clinging to one right way. Embrace the idea that there’s more than one answer to any given problem.

B. Perfect Planner. Details are your friend. You coax and cajole them into shape like few can — and that’s impressive. Whether it’s an annual report or a dinner for 12, everyone knows you’ll make it just so. That’s why a change of plans can be so disruptive. You’re not sure how to adapt and still keep the system in shape.

You need to believe in the possibilities of failure. When plans go askew, your mind heads to that scary place where everything goes wrong. Your thoughts swim with possible errors and the unknown. And you don’t want to take a chance on making any of it come true. But if you don’t try, things aren’t going to get better.

C. Peerless Planner. You’re known for being head and shoulders above the crowd. It’s a point of pride, and you’ve definitely earned it. But this can make the words, “I don’t know,” difficult to utter. You might lose your status as the person with all the answers. And that leaves you stuck pretending.

You need to believe that everyone needs help. Whether or not you feel the confidence of a virtuoso, it’s important that others see you as one. Faced with a kink in the system, your certainty may plummet. And the worst part is imagining what others may think of you. Instead, consider this: The mark of a true expert is knowing that you don’t know everything.

PRINTABLE TIP CARD #22: What kind of Perplexed Planner are you?

Next week: 12 ways to clear the clutter that’s keeping you stuck
Last week: Unstuck Hero: How a grilled cheese sandwich saved the day

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