Fuel Your Dreams with Simple Daily Habits

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.” ~Proverb

My name is Katie and I am an over-planner. I spend way too much time laying out meticulous plans as if they were exquisite bejeweled gowns. I spread them across beautiful handmade notebooks, trim them with pink and green headings and sub-headings, and step back to admire them when I’m done.

They are tomorrow’s plans. Each one more stylish, more elaborate, more organized than the last. Each one the perfect plan. But in reality, not one of them is. Once the latest plan has been printed or pasted or posted, I grow weary of it and want another.

I’m addicted to perfecting my plans, but not actually executing them.

This repetitive crafting of the next best laid plan has me caught in a time warp where I’m forever looking ahead, forever color-coding the future, forever laying out a decorative path that I don’t have time to explore because I’m too busy planning and perfecting.

My perfect plans are nothing more than plastic-sealed sofas no one ever touches or perfectly manicured rose gardens no one ever smells.

They are an illusion, they are excuses, they are busy-makers, they are attempts to control the chaos, and they only succeed in helping me avoid the real work of digging and pushing and acting and living today, not tomorrow.

Maybe your plans feel this way too. Do you find yourself planning and organizing and researching and preparing, but never really getting down to mastering anything except planning?

You could be like me—a bit of a perfectionist, a slight over-achiever, a touch bossy, a tad of a control freak, but I bet you are a whole lot more than that. You’re also likely a soulful human being with dreams and goals and a desire to live purposefully and joyfully.

If so, here's a new plan of attack that just might get you out of your perfect planning rut. Choose a simple, heartfelt habit and do it every day. Don't worry about being perfect or doing everything all at once, just repeat this habit each and every day.

Today, I will walk the dog, grab a coffee, then come home and write a few pages of my novel. Now there’s a good plan—a plan that I can do today and maybe even repeat tomorrow.

Maybe I’ll end up getting in shape, feeling good about life, and finishing that book I've been writing.

Maybe simple daily habits will fuel my dreams. Maybe action trumps perfection. Maybe my purpose in life is not way up ahead buried in the folds of some perfect plan. Maybe it's right here inside my life. I just need to step towards it with a good plan in one hand and a dog leash in the other.

Photo by Steve-h

About Katie Tallo

Katie Tallo is the proud mother of a new puppy named Levi. She writes about simple, joyful life change at Momentum Gathering and runs a course called The Habit Course with Leo Babauta and Barrie Davenport. Spring registration begins next week.

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  • Zina

    That is spot in Katie! I just realized I, too am an over planner. Thanks for this, its so simple but really eye opening for me.

  • Just so you know, the thoughts you have shared in this area have helped me tremendously in moving forward.  I have suffered from the same thing.  I think of myself as living a richly colored life.  However, so much of it has stayed on my own little notebook and the big plan I had didn’t manifest.

    In the last year it has begun to seriously change in this area. The color is spilling out in, around and all over the place. Your writing, your gift of sharing the essence of the down deep struggles have been a part of of it.

    Much Aloha to you Katie.

  • Maria

    Amen to this post! As a recovering overachiever, I’ve learned the hard way that perfectionism is nothing more than a socially acceptable, even glorified, form of self-abuse that holds women back from growing into the leaders that our world needs us to be. 

  • Planning is so often the sneakiest form of procrastination. “When you feel overwhelmed with all you have to do, just pick something- anything!- and do it.” The daily habit you propose sounds like a wonderful way to practice mindfulness and progress simultaneously. 

  • I love this post! Well done. 

  •  Sweet!

  •  Yep, my favourite kind of procrastination, Angela. You’ve hit upon what works for me – mindful action. Thanks for the support.

  • Well said Maria. I think you’re right. My self talk when I kick into perfection mode is often riddled with “you’re not good enough”s. Not very empowering language for anyone. Great insight.

  • Thanks for your loving support, Jt. It’s inspiring to me to know many of us share in these same struggles and search for similar manifestations of our dreams. I wish you much success in moving forward in all aspects of your lovely beach life.

  • Zina, I’m so glad this resonated for you. Sometimes it’s the simple realizations that can free us from our stumbling blocks. Best of luck in harnessing your over planner.

  • It’s called “creative avoidance”. I have been doing the same for years. Best thing to do is list things, prioritize, and get one at a time out of the way. Then, of course, I make a list of my lists and end up doing what you do. I have to break this habit and implement a new one that actually works!

  • tfjell

    I’m totally like this. I get stuck, not just in planning, but anything I can do to procrastinate 🙂

  • Annie

    Thanks for this post. Sounds like there are many like-minded souls out there.
    Some thoughts… Focusing on the future like this can be a sign of depression about where you are now. Two things I’ve done that help are – not to talk about my plans as this seems to seep the energy out of them (I was almost finished with my first book before I told anyone I was writing it), and as was mentioned here – to just do one thing. I have a mantra that helps me – Don’t look up. as in don’t look too far out, just focus on now.

    Heidi Grant Halvorson’s book Succeed has some interesting thoughts on this as well.
    Agin thanks for your story.

  • Wonderful advice. I know what you mean about telling people and having the energy seep out of a project – sometimes that comes back to self esteem too since others’ opinions seem to carry a lot of weight — especially with heartfelt creative endeavours. I’ve found blogging has both a positive and a negative effect on me sometimes – I tell all, but then feel as though I’m not always living up to what I promise or hope for myself. Although it does seem to help others to know I’m aspiring and faltering all at the same time, so I keep doing it for now. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • I hear you … my online life has become a bit of a procrastinating go-to. It takes discipline and focus sometimes to do what we love the most. Good luck, tfjell

  • Mark, if I had a dime for every list I wrote, I’d be rich and I’d have written a lot more than the unfinished novels. The key for me is starting my day with my important writing and tasks. Once that’s done, I can write lists to my heart’s content if that’s what comes next. I’m hoping to break the habit by creating a new one. I’m also getting rid of all my lovely notepads and notebooks. Good luck.

  • Anneka

    Katie, gratefully i thank you for holding up this mirror for me when i needed it; and giving me a lightbulb moment of clarity about myself. I hope planners like me out there put down their lists, and just start doing. peace to you.

  • This reminds me of my college days. I “took care” of a lot of things and even change my personality in a way to accommodate people. Now, I was stressed and ‘abuses’ I guess. Now I just want to live the way I want.
    Thank you!

  • Inside all of that accommodating and taking care is fear. I have it too. Fear I’m not good enough or perfect enough – but as I move into my daily life and connect with nature, with people and with myself, I see that’s all just wasted energy. I wish you much joy in living the way you want. Good for you, Glori.

  • I hope so too, Anneka. Our lists are just resistance to what we truly need to be doing. Peace to you too.

  • Nette

    Thanks for this. Too easy. I can do this. 🙂

  •  Go for it Nette. I like your spirit.

  • SO true. I needed this read right now! Sometimes I get so caught up in planning what I have to do that I never actually accomplish anything on the list – and then I feel even more stressed! Sometimes it has to be an organic process. You start somewhere and go with the flow – even if it’s not exactly according to plan or your list – and it’s amazing what you can do. With a lot less stress!

  • I’m always looking ahead, always dreaming, always planning the next big thing. I constantly feel restless, as if something else still needs to change before I can be happy. I know the value of being present and living in the moment, but it’s something I struggle to put into practice.

    Thank you for reminding me to slow down and enjoy the moment, and that small habits can lead to momentous changes.

  • Eva

    Good Morning Katie, when I first read your blog I needed to double check it as I felt I was reading about my daughter who also goes by the name Katie.
    She too is a writer and wonderful lady who I am so proud to call my daughter.Please keep blogging. Expectations of self and others can lead us into much mind confusion and sadness..not a bad thing to breathe away or at the very least to lighten the hold.
    At times it’s simply good to just laugh and let so much of what we believe to be important GO..each day has it’s own surprises first one being we’re here! Enjoy the the here and now..and keep writing it’s in you to share…

  •  Thanks for this Eva. You put a smile on my face. I was just writing an essay about some of these very things. xo

  • Hi Rebecca, I think simple habits can lead to that change we seem to crave so much. Much of that restlessness we both feel comes from our hearing a message over and over that we should change. Maybe we don’t need to change as much as embrace who we already are. I hope this helps.

  • Great advice Kate. If something stressed you it might be time to let it go – that’s what I’ve had to tell myself. I’m weaning myself off my lists by simplifying my life and narrowing my focus. A list of two or three things I want to accomplish that day takes seconds to create and then it’s on to the organics of what you talk about. Good luck de-stressing.

  • Hi, Katie. I’ve been revamping my daily activities. I felt the necessity of letting go for a while so I let go. For a while. I’m treating my life like a broken heart, putting it back together with love, care and understanding now that I can devote myself to it full time. Putting it back together…right.


    Writing has been at the top of every list I made. Even without attending to a list I write, yet my writing hasn’t narrowed to one place, with one focus, on a daily basis. I’ve set the stage for that. Now, time to attend to a daily wake-meditate-exercise-write ritual. Maybe call it a writual.

    Thanks for your insight.

  • Interesting. I’ve been feeling a little broken-hearted lately. Maybe I’m in a similar place.

  • That last paragraph is golden! Such a nice, gentle wake up call to just DO. 

  • As a recovering perfectionist I can totally relate to this. Over the years I have been learning the beauty and power of taking imperfect action. The momentum of the results that taking imperfect action brings allows me to release the need for perfect in favour of action and moving forward. My mantra of choice is Good Enough is the New Perfect.

  • Wow… this could have been written, word for word by me. That’s scary. Okay.. off to “plan” what my daily habits will be. 🙂

  •  carolyn, scary but funny. Thanks for the laugh. Nobody’s perfect.

  •  Ali, great mantra. Let’s all move imperfectly towards good enough. It’s so much kinder.

  •  Thanks Courtney … gentle wake ups often get us moving in more interesting ways, than trying to hammer something into our heads does.

  • Wow- so true!  As long as you’re busy making plans and composing to-do lists, you won’t ever actually have the time to DO, and you can avoid the fear of failing or being imperfect if you never have to actually execute your plan or complete your list.  As a fellow perfectionist, I know this tactic all too well, but am making steps in the right direction.  Great post! 

  • This reminds me of Steve Pavlina’s 30-day trials as well as Tyler Tervooren’s seven note card method of developing habits or overcoming challenges, which was mentioned a while back on this site in a post titled ‘The Tiny Risk-Taking Challenge.’

    The same amount of time that we put into so much planning, or rather, over-planning could be used in actually doing what we were “planning” to do in the first place. I often realize this while organizing blog posts or articles to write for a later time or on a future date. When I realize what I’m doing, I usually stop and start filling in all of the empty spaces and voila! It’s all done! Something that I planned to put off for another time actually gets completed when I start to notice that I’m essentially already working on the task — just not being very effective with completing it during all of the planning and organizing.
    While we’re planning, someone else is out there doing and while we’re “busy” organizing, someone else is working with what they have, regardless of whether or not it’s perfect.

  • Agree! I am an advocate of doing what I feel as opposed to what is planned (of course unless this effects others in adverse ways) – being more authentic to ones desires if you will. Life is dynamic, days are dynamic and bound to be influenced by unforeseen elements – flexibility is key to a stress free life. 

  •  Here’s to going with the dynamic flow. Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm, Bret.

  • Hello TheMadlabPost … and plans are far from perfect if never executed. Good for you for recognizing when planning is getting in the way.

  •  Kristi, I think that’s one of the main reasons many of us over-plan, we’re afraid we might not get it right, we might fail. We stagnate and sit with our perfect plans hoping they’ll somehow magically come into being. I’m glad you’re moving in the right direction, away from perfection and into action. Good on ya!

  • Thank you for your post! I definitely do this too- plan, plan, plan and rarely follow-through. I think you have a great idea to start by forming simple daily habits to make progress in the here and now. Hope all is going well for you! 🙂

  •  Thinks are going very well, Emily. I’ve really made progress on some things that are very important to me, like my novel and it began with simple daily habits.

  • Justin

    I think this article addresses an important yet under-appreciated problem faced by many people. Especially as it relates to health, time management and prioritization of important versus urgent matters is an ongoing challenge. I personally find it helpful to have a fun, visual platform with which to design my day, called Owaves ( Hope this is helpful a relevant audience.