Planners and Spontaneous People: Honest Thoughts from a Planner

Like oil and water, those that like to plan their schedules in advance and those who operate with nothing but spontaneity don’t mix well. At least under natural circumstances.

Planners, of which I am one, like to know what is coming up in the week or month ahead. While I obviously can’t speak for all planners, I like to carefully arrange my schedule around the fixed commitments I have each week.

The thought process of a planner

I have certain evenings of the week that are spoken for. Of the two or three that are taken, date night is flexible, able to be moved to a different night to accommodate things that come up, but by default, it is Friday or Saturday night.

With the remaining evenings and weekend time available, I plug things in like chores, hobbies, get-togethers with friends and family, side business projects, etc.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I need recovery time between events. Thus, I no longer pack every evening after work with an outing like I used to. I’ve also found that if I’m not careful, my calendar gets fuller than I intended in a big hurry. So I have to be selective about the things I say yes to if I want to keep from getting myself overloaded.

Something I don’t always do, but have found is most helpful, is keeping one or two unscheduled evenings per week to relax or catch up on projects with which I am inevitably falling behind. These nights have become more necessary over time, considering my regularly scheduled activities. I’ve come to rely on them, and without at least one in a week, I feel tense and overloaded, even if my packed week is all things that I enjoy.

In short, I like to know my plans for the upcoming week early so I can work in the unscheduled stuff around them. It helps keep me sane. Enter the spontaneous person …

The thought process of a spontaneous person

I can’t say for sure, but here are my guesses on how a spontaneous person operates. They take great delight in having the ability to be flexible and seize great opportunities when they come up last minute. They hesitate to plan ahead because something more appealing might come along in the time slot already committed to something else. They may be slow to sign up for anything that requires a regular time in their schedule. Something unforeseen could always come up, and put them in a bind, unable to attend to that which is more desirable. If you are a spontaneous person, I welcome your edits and additions to this.

When the two worlds collide

My husband is a naturally spontaneous person. Between marrying a planner and the realization that some outings need to be arranged in advance for optimum results, he has become more likely to plan since we’ve been married.

We’ve been blessed to have multiple dear friends who are almost 100% spontaneous. This could be highly problematic under certain circumstances. See my explanation above about preferring to plan my week in advance.

When last-minute invitations for things ranging from dinner, sporting events and even camping trips come through, it has the potential to get me ruffled. The selfish part of me thinks, “But, but … I had such and such planned! How about 24-48 hours notice? Please?”

But when I step back from my control freak episode, I am usually able to think more clearly and 1) recognize and appreciate that people I care deeply about want to spend time with me; and 2) evaluate what in my schedule can be rearranged to accommodate last-minute invitations. By the grace of God, I am learning that people are more valuable than to-dos so I can put that into practice by saying “yes” with little notice if I can when control freak me would rather say “no.”

But the unfortunate reality of being planners amidst so many impromptu types is that we do have to turn them down a fair amount when they spring a fun idea with no notice on a night that has already been spoken for.

As an aside, planning and preparing go hand-in-hand to me. If I am invited to do something for which I am not prepared, I am prone to resist. For example, if I get an invite on a Thursday night to go camping that weekend, but I know that I don’t have camping food in stock, and maybe the gear needs some TLC, plus I had already set aside Thursday night to get “X, Y, and Z” done, that is problematic.

As much as I would love to jump on any opportunity to go camping, I had already planned my Thursday night. Truthfully, the things I intended to work on are probably overdue. So when I am put in the position of doing those things or running to the store to get items for camping and frenziedly packing, putting those tasks off and claiming my weekend, I hit a crisis and am apt to say no.

Oddly enough, the same invitation given just two days earlier could make a big difference. With a couple days lead time, I can add camping items to my shopping list (for when I grocery shop Wednesday night at 9:30 p.m. every week – see I’m a planner), move things around accordingly and make it happen if at all possible.

With that being said, I’ll offer a few points of advice to both types of people.

Advice for spontaneous people with planner friends

I imagine you cherish spontaneity as much as we cherish planning ahead, and that is OK.

  • If you recognize that some of your friends often have plans already when you make a same-day invite, try giving them a one, two, or multi-day notice once in a while. You might find that you’ll have a higher success rate.
  • If your friends turn you down, don’t be discouraged. Keep inviting. It’s likely that they would love to join you if they could and will take you up with the right timing.

Advice for planners with impromptu friends

I covered two main points above so I won’t repeat them here. Additionally:

  • Be flexible when you are able.
  • Honestly evaluate if your schedule is too rigid or self-serving. (E.g. you have too much going on, are unable or unwilling to make accommodations, or you are binge-watching a show and don’t want to be interrupted.)

Conclusion

God wired us all differently, and those differences add life-enriching variety. I firmly believe we are better off when we surround ourselves with people who think and behave differently than we are naturally inclined. It helps give our personalities and character more depth. So regardless of which camp you find yourself in, I hope you’ll embrace your natural tendencies while being willing to accommodate those who do things differently.

Are you a planner or a spontaneous person? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic or any ideas I didn’t think of for how to interact with the other type.

 

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About Summer Sorensen

My aim: to live out Jesus' greatest commands (Matthew 22:36-40) & have the most fun while doing it.
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2 Responses to Planners and Spontaneous People: Honest Thoughts from a Planner

  1. Allie Walker says:

    Thanks for sharing! I’m a spontaneous person but am slightly becoming more of a planner.

    • Summer Sorensen says:

      Nice. I don’t think there is one that is inherently better than another, for the record. I just wanted to share my perspective.

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