Like many introverts, every morsel of my being craves predictability. What if I cut things too close on a work deadline? What if a much-anticipated bike ride gets rained out? What if I run out of snacks? Being planful helps me deftly navigate a sea of unknowns, and it’s one of my greatest assets.
To others, my thoughts and actions may come across as excessive worrying, overthinking, or even borderline OCD. What they don’t know is that my need to be prepared isn’t rooted in fear or doubt. Quite the opposite. Having a plan makes it possible for me to proceed with confidence no matter what life throws at me.
I Am. Therefore I Plan.
With two school-aged daughters, two working parents, and a calendar replete with activities, being planful gives me the structure I need to keep my household in order.
In fact, among my mom friends, I’m considered the “organized one.” Want to know which summer camps my kids are signed up for? You’ll have to think fast, because registration opens in February and camps fill up quickly. No worries over here, I’ve got it all charted out on a color-coded spreadsheet.
I don’t consider myself a control freak or neurotic. You see, having a plan is the best defense against my introverted and highly sensitive nature. When there isn’t a plan or life becomes too hectic to follow one, I don’t sleep well, I get easily overwhelmed, and in general, I’m not fun to be around.
When there is a plan, I know what to expect and all feels right in the world. Even the act of planning helps me achieve a zen-like state. Mentally playing out different scenarios ahead of time allows me to bob and weave through challenges from a place of calm instead of the heat of the moment.
Why Introverts Are Such Good Planners
Planning comes naturally to many introverts. Our flair for critical thinking means going a mile deep instead of a mile wide. We’re listeners and value the ideas and opinions of others. We can also be methodical and detail oriented, carefully boiling down gobs of context to reach salient points without losing sight of anything important.
Research shows that the part of the brain responsible for planning and problem solving is notably more active in introverts than extroverts. For many of us, we just can’t stop thinking about what lies ahead because we want to be ready for it (especially if it involves talking to people). And, our propensity to plan means we don’t miss a beat when thrown a curveball.
If I don’t have the information I need to make a plan, I go into ninja mode and find it. I’m a voracious researcher, uncovering helpful details in the unlikeliest of places. I also have mad interviewing skills. I love talking with content experts to boost my knowledge on unfamiliar topics.
Introverts Who Plan Are Just Like Elephants
As an introvert, I have an innate desire to ponder before committing to anything — especially when it comes to my work as a writer. Doing so helps me avoid uncomfortable situations, like not being prepared for a meeting, which might test my introverted sensibilities.
Turns out, elephants are the same way. What elephants lack in speed, they more than make up for with wisdom and decisiveness. In fact, elephants are one of the smartest members of the animal kingdom. Their tendency to look before they leap helps many elephants live well into their seventies — one of the longest lifespans of animals in the wild.
Elephants use reasoning and draw on their exceptional long-term memories to decide when to rest, where to find food, and how to spot predators. Having a plan helps elephants handily navigate life in the wild and avoid getting eaten by a tiger.
I Can Be Spontaneous When I Have To
There’s an old Yiddish saying, “we make plans and god laughs,” meaning there’s no guarantee that life will play out according to our plans.
So why bother? Because an introvert’s mind runs in high gear and planning helps us put that energy to good use.
And I’m not just talking about making grocery lists or social plans and abandoning them when things go sideways. One of the biggest benefits of being a planner is that I’m in tune with my wants and needs. This helps me stay cool under pressure and even make major life decisions without a script.
This internal compass came in handy when my husband’s job moved our family from Minnesota to Northern Virginia. To complicate matters, I had never been to Virginia and didn’t know a soul. We had already sold our home in Minnesota and needed to put down new roots fast.
As one who needs a lot of time, information, and a plan, this time I was out of luck. Instead, I just trusted my instincts (and my husband). Less than 24 hours into my very first visit to Virginia, we made an offer on a house. And nearly six years later, we’re living in that same house and feel we couldn’t have chosen a more perfect community for our family.
An Eye on the Horizon While Looking Out for the Tribe
My ability to think three steps ahead allows me to make good decisions that benefit myself as well as the people around me. I can’t tell you how many times in the midst of chaos I mentally switch gears to plan B and just kept marching along. It’s how I like to roll, and it also keeps my tribe happy.
When there is an unexpected school closure, I always have a trick up my sleeve — more like a craft project in the closet — to keep my kids busy. I come up with creative solutions when there’s a setback on a writing project, so my team never misses a deadline. And no matter how hectic life gets, I always have snacks on hand and some to share.
So the next time someone raises an eyebrow because you’re being planful, just smile and say, “You’ll thank me later.”
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