Planning for Change and Uncertainty

Feb 1, 2021Publications

Originally published at Ideas on Fire, February 1, 2021

Welcome to February! This month at Ideas on Fire we’re diving deep into planning mode.

As many of you know, I adore planning. Identifying goals, developing big-picture strategies, breaking it all down into scheduled and doable tasks, and ensuring all the elements work together in a cohesive ecosystem gets my nerdy heart pumping.

But like a lot of folks over the past year, I’ve had to seriously rethink how I approach planning due to the pandemic.

Temporal disruptions

One big part of this change is temporality. Normally, successful planning takes a long-term approach to projectsplotting out on a calendar when and how the different pieces of a project will be completed. This temporal horizon is what makes progress possible and it gives our schedules structure so we can see what we should be working on each day to reach our goals. That temporal horizon provides predictability, which is the bedrock of my usual planning techniques.

But the pandemic has messed up this long-term sense of time, as our schedules are more uncertain and change rapidly on a day-to-day basis.

Futurity looks different

Whether you’ve experienced job loss, complicated new online teaching tools, a shifted academic calendar, childcare upheavals, health crises, or vaccine rollout plans that seem to defy logic, planning for the future is a lot more challenging right now since none of us is quite sure what that future will be like.

When life changes rapidly, it can feel futile to design a summer course when you’re not sure how long the term will be or whether you’ll be teaching online or in person. And it can feel discouraging to think about publishing goals if you’re not sure when you’ll once again have access to archives or fieldwork, not to mention how much time each day you’ll have to get words onto the page.

Plans that embrace change

So this month the Ideas on Fire team will be focusing on how you can identify and make progress on your goals through plans that embrace rather than resist the changes we’re all living through.

We have podcast episodes, articles, videos, and resources tackling the basics of planning amidst uncertainty, including making realistic calendar decisions and building your support network. We also will be deep diving into tools and workflows that can help keep you on track and make things easier.

Our goal this month is to give you the resources you need to figure out what’s truly important to you right now and build flexible plans to support your career, your life, yourself, and your community.

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