The Improvised Life: Making Plans for No Plans

Does your calendar look like this?

Does your calendar look like this?

If so, you may be suffering from overplanning: the act or instance of planning excessively. Symptoms of overplanning include colorful calendars as shown, asking your friends to schedule time with your robotic assistant in order to spend time with you, and not sleeping or showering.

When you read my improv story you’ll learn that I used to be a master of plans. My life was planned down to the minute…wake up at 6 am, run at 6:30 am, shower at 7:30 am, walk to class 7:45 am, arrive to class 8 am, class starts 8:10 am, and so forth. That’s right…it wasn’t so bad that I skipped on showers. Please. My google calendar looked like a gay pride parade advertisement with all the colors to signify different types of plans.

During my time at The Second City, I made a plan to make no plans. The only thing I planned was class from 10 to 5 every day. I’d wake up and depending on how I felt I would workout, read, or stay in bed (or couch in my case that summer). It was way outside my norm, which is, as you see from my calendar screenshot, incredibly planned.

There were three key recognizable benefits from less planning:

1. A clearer calendar created space to develop close friendships. I made close friends, who I actually saw more than once per month. Imagine asking a friend to hang out and then scheduling out a time to see each other 6 weeks in the future. Seems ridiculous, right? This was the norm (and still is, for some) for my friends in San Francisco.

2. A clearer calendar created more space to discover new activities I like to do. Long walks, late night talks, comedy and variety shows, different types of restaurants. Activities I didn’t spend time doing before because I had already made plans to do other things.

3. A clearer calendar, like a clearer mind during meditation, created space for self-discovery, reduced stress (it’s so much more relaxing to not be running late to meetings/commitments all the time), encouraged a healthy lifestyle (despite sleeping on a couch all month, I slept the best I’ve slept in years), and in general improved happiness.

After leaving Chicago I vowed to maintain my spontaneous scheduling. However, the moment I stepped foot back in San Francisco I recognized this was going to be harder than I thought. During the first couple weeks back in San Francisco my evenings filled up and my schedule soon started to look like someone vomited on it. I caught onto this quick and realized I was making choices that led to my packed schedule. This was the lightbulb moment when I realized I had the power to make different choices. I could not make plans.

Rather than frame this as “not making plans” I turned to spin it more positively, as “creating space for spontaneity”. I recognize that a life 100% spontaneity isn’t realistic, nor desired, for me. But, I do find joy and value in creating space for spontaneity. Making plans to have no plans.

During this month I created a space to say “yes, and” to new experiences without hesitation. I didn’t need to say “no because I have plans”. I was open. I had space to allow for “yes”, and I was saying “yes” to creating that blank space, “and” enjoying the benefits because of it.

Try it for yourself.

Take a few weeks and put on your calendar “MY PLANS FOR NO PLANS” in blocks of a few hours, or an entire day if you dare. And if you do try this, please let me know how it goes for you.

Keeping saying “yes, and”…

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