On Over-Planning and Igloo-Building

by Abby on March 23, 2015

I am a sucker for an online quiz. You know those ones that tell you what country best fits your personality or what your spirit animal is? Well, a while back I took one on happiness. To my surprise, the results indicated that I highly value spontaneity, and that some of my happiest moments were unplanned. This was shocking to me.

See, I am a planner. Of course, most women — especially moms — I know are. You have to be, or you’ll get steamrolled by soccer practice, baseball tryouts, birthday party invitations, parent-teacher meetings, science projects, Grandparents’ Day, work deadlines, and doctors’ appointments before you can blink an eye. How many of you already have your summers planned out? Camps, vacations, etc.? See what I mean?

In one sense, planning in advance can give a person a feeling of control and order. If we know what we’re doing and when, every day is not a chaotic exercise in finding lost permission slips and last-minute lunch-packing. (Although believe me, that still happens more often than not.)

But there’s a downside to being overly scheduled. A few, in fact. For one thing, it can make you feel like you have zero free time. Secondly, if one thing on your jam-packed calendar changes, it can make the whole day or week collapse like a row of dominoes. See: every snow day and school delay we’ve had this winter. And lastly, over-planning can mean that if you DO find yourself with a rare afternoon off, you have no idea what to do with yourself. Boredom, frustration, and excessive screen-time ensue.

What’s a spontaneity-craving planner to do? First, recognize the problem. If someone invites you out for coffee and your first opening is in 3 mos., you’re too tightly scheduled. If you’re changing checkout lines in the grocery store like a NASCAR driver switching lanes, only to have your whole day thrown off when you get stuck behind a senior citizen clutching a fistful of coupons and paying by personal check (doh!!), you’re too tightly scheduled.

Second, make room for spontaneity. By leaving a weekend afternoon open, yes, you risk having nothing to do and being assaulted by bored, whiny kids who resort to tackling each other for entertainment. But you might also find yourself enjoying a beautiful day building an igloo with your neighbors. Huh?

That’s what happened on our street the first day of Daylight Savings. The late-day sun and warmish weather lured everyone outside. Some of the neighbors we hadn’t seen all winter. A couple even had new babies! The kids were playing, the grownups were chatting, and it appeared that maybe, just maybe, spring was finally on its way. Of course, there were still piles of snow everywhere.

Then someone suggested we build an igloo. An igloo? Why not? Our intrepid team leader and the kids got to work – scooping, shoveling, packing the snow. Cardboard boxes were pulled out of the recycling bins to use as brick forms. Soon, the other adults joined in. The igloo began to take shape. Even the littlest kids helped out. A pegboard roof was procured, and an old blanket for the floor. Someone found battery-powered Christmas lights, and my younger son made a flag to stick on top.

Our all-ages igloo-building crew

The kids were thrilled. They piled in several at a time while the parents took pictures. It’s not every day you find yourself part of an all-ages igloo-building crew. Then one by one, each family made their way home for dinner, everyone tired and wet and happy. And still the late-winter sun shone on, signaling the hope of spring and more spontaneous Sunday afternoon adventures, if only we leave space for them.

our neighborhood igloo


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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello March 24, 2015 at 12:25 pm

I take almost all the quizzes as well, but, never post results. I don’t think anyone is very interested if I have a flamingo personality or scored 14 out of 14 on car engines. They are fun to do, though. Great observations on when one finds oneself overscheduled, I have done this too many time and still working on doing it better. For a retired person, my schedule seems to fill up with Rotary stuff and then some personal stuff squeezes in and all of a sudden, I am Bozo the Juggler of Time. YIKES!!
Love the igloo and the neighborhood camaderie.


Abby March 25, 2015 at 10:34 am

I find that it sneaks up on you. You take on one thing, then another, and before you know it, your schedule’s packed! It’s a juggling act, for sure.


Angie Mizzell March 24, 2015 at 6:54 pm

I’m not a planner. But I’m often overscheduled. I do crave spontaneous igloo building and a day to be bored. So, what I’m getting at is, I’m the kind of person who benefits from blocking out or “planning” time to have nothing to do. 🙂 So cool to see all the neighbors gathered outside. Good stuff!


Abby March 25, 2015 at 10:36 am

You kinda do have to plan to do nothing sometimes, or you’ll get stuck doing something you may not want to do. Like laundry, in my case!


Kathleen Basi March 27, 2015 at 3:12 pm

LOVE this.


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