Plan Something Unplanned

Plan Something Unplanned

Early on in this blog adventure, I mentioned I was building my son atreehouse. Well, I’m still at it and it has gone from a couple of 2 x 6’s bolted to a tree to a partially-finished structure with a floor, trap door, and some walls. I have good hope of completing the thing over the next couple of months, and—shocker alert!—I did itwithout much project planning at all. What a relief that’s been!

It’s important for us planner types, whether you use planning as a coping mechanism for your natural state of disorganization (like me) or you are instinctively drawn to it, to take a break from the listing, dating, work-breaking-down routines we are so used to. Pick a project or an activity and just do it with as little planning as possible. Give the spontaneous part of your brain a chance to carry the load for a while and let the organized parts rest a bit.

As for treehouses, it’s impossible to build one without any planning at all, but you can cut way down on the project discipline. I bought a couple of books to get a general idea of what to do, made a couple of drawings and then just went for it.

It hasn’t been perfect. The floor wasn’t square, so I had to take up all the big pieces of plywood I originally used for it and use planks instead (cut the planks from the plywood to save money—lots of extra work!), because I could make them fit better. I built the house structure more or less to square, but didn’t take into account how it would wrack out of shape as I fit the sides together, which meant I had to custom-cut each wall panel (more extra work!). I had a couple of hinges on hand that I used for the trap door, but they were too small and are gradually tearing out, so I need to replace those (extra work again!). Some of the floor planks have too much give because I didn’t put in enough joists (yet more rework!).

My experience has been one of build a part, screw it up some, fix it, repeat. I’ve learned a lot and, most importantly, it’s been fun! No doubt a thorough project plan would have made the project go more smoothly, but to simply head out to the back yard with my toolkit and plan in my head no more than a couple of steps ahead at a time is liberating and invigorating.

This is at least part of what Stephen Covey means when he suggests you sharpen the saw. If I work on my treehouse project on the weekend, I feel fresher when I come to my project management tasks for the week.

My suggestion, then, is that you pick an activity—nothing necessary to career or survival—and just go for it! You’ll gain some valuable brain-breathing space and probably learn something in the process.

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