Planning fatigue: It’s a thing

I will be honest: I am not loving February. The kids have been trading around a stomach bug. I have been feeling queasy for the past week, though I have mostly kept it together. The weather is bad. The schools had a two-hour delay on Monday for ice. We had one this morning too, which soon morphed into a total closure. Not that I got to sleep in as a result; the 3-year-old bounded out of bed, yelling for me at 5:30 a.m.

So I am in a bit of a foul mood, which is probably why I am writing about today’s topic: planning fatigue.

I am, by nature, a planner. I think about what I need to do, and what I’d like to do, and I figure when these things can go on my calendar.

From studying a great many time logs, and from interviewing people who manage to do a lot professionally and personally, I know that being a planner is generally a good thing. The planners are the ones who exercise regularly, because they’ve thought to set their alarms in time to get to the gym in the morning. The planners are the ones carving out Monday mornings for their top priority work, which they get done, thus making progress toward their professional goals. They are the ones who think to book a babysitter and see if friends are available, and then make the dinner reservation. They understand that you can do all sorts of things with a demanding job and a demanding personal life, you just have to make arrangements ahead of time.

Those of us who are planners naturally wind up doing a lot of the planning for our families. The issue is that once you start doing the planning for other people, it can get tiresome. You are not just planning in the things that you want to do, you’re planning in things that other people want to do, or say they want to do but then argue about, or don’t really want to do, but have to get done, and so forth.

And this can lead to resentment. And rebellion.

Which is how I have found myself in full-on planning fatigue. After planning various other things of late, I announced that I simply could not plan spring break.

My husband has said he will do it. We shall see how this goes.

I suppose I will snap out of this eventually. I do know that when I think through my weekends ahead of time, they go much better, which is somewhat of a motivation to suck it up. Thanks to my post-holiday winter fun list, I have already planned a few fun things for future weekends (like an early March one that will involve a Sixers game AND the flower show). I have also been putting time limits on things. Like hunting for the exact right block of tickets at that Sixers game. There were many options; I went with the best one I could find in five minutes.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to go on a wonderfully well-planned vacation that I DON’T HAVE TO PLAN. A girl can dream…

Do you ever suffer from planning fatigue?


33 thoughts on “Planning fatigue: It’s a thing

  1. This post speaks to me. I often feel so fatigued in general that planning for myself for my limited free time feels overwhelming. Plus I usually end up responsible for everyone else in the family including our au pair. Like somehow it’s my fault if they don’t get to do what they want. I really do hope your vacation ends up planned and spectacular, because you should not be the sole person responsible for the happiness of your entire family. And seriously st this point — eff February. I am also over it. I hope it gets better at your house. Here’s tos new week!

    1. @Omdg- I hope it ends up planned and spectacular too. I did specify that when one is traveling with children one must absolutely know where one is staying for the night. Ground rules.

      1. OMG so funny you had to stipulate that! Can you imagine if you just got off the plane and he was like “so now we have to figure out lodging” . . . .

        I hope it’s fabulous, too!!!

        1. @SHU- when we traveled around various places as just the two of us, we often figured it out when we showed up. Sometimes that meant we found charming places we wouldn’t have otherwise. Sometimes it was an incredibly stressful experience. With kids, it would be more likely to be the latter, so I take nothing for granted!

          1. Haha, as a kid, we did plenty of traveling without plans with my parents. I still remember biking through an island (no cars for turists) across the Netherlands trying to find a hotel, while it was pouring rain!! I was 9 and my brother 10. My dad really liked that type of travel, and my mother stressed a bit but generally enjoyed not having to be in charge of the travel plans. It helped that they were 2 peas in a pod!!

  2. I could have written this. February is the shortest yet cruelest month (particularly if you live where you’re getting winter weather, as I also do). I am the planner for my family because it matters most to me (not my partner), I’m good at it, and I think it increases overall happiness and ease in our family life. But I am also feeling VERY over it right now. I could barely make a decision about a rental car this morning – though I find that using time limits really helps. I wonder if it’s a new-year-planning-hangover? Like many people I plan out the year in January in terms of goals (some might go with resolutions) and major commitments (travel that I already know about, etc.) and I think that after considering a whole year’s trajectory my brain needs a break.

    1. @Ariel- definitely part of it – the new year hangover. I’ve figured out camp, summer vacations, and then more immediate stuff: four well-child visits, three parent-teacher conferences, two kids getting their passports renewed, one crazy winter/spring activities schedule. Plus the kitchen/bathroom/living room remodel stuff. Too much.

  3. I am a general life planner but hate planning trips. I appreciate the spontaneity but realise that if I had 4 kids, I might feel very differently. My husband isn’t awesome about the life planning but is pretty good with holidays. We argue about destination a bit (me, European city, him, cottage on a Scottish island) and then he takes over from there (with the stipulation that I want a cool AirBnB).

    I don’t even plan when I’m travelling on my own. I had to spend a few months on fieldwork and he printed off a map with directions from the station and grocery stores etc marked on it. I’m a pretty confident “I’ll figure it out” traveler which I think makes him nervous.

  4. So funny – I originally read this as “Planning for Fatigue” – which I could also use. Sorry that February has been so cruel so far.
    And I so thought of you when I was about to go into my next 1/2 hour looking for best Elton John tix. I kept thinking that Laura would say find “good enough” and move on.
    @CBS – I can totally relate about being a planner who doesn’t like planning trips (too many choices – like seats for games/concerts).

  5. Oh yes, I get this, too! I basically refuse to plan date nights for me and my husband: he’s in charge of that. Perhaps because of that, we don’t go out that often even though my sister lives in town and is generally happy to babysit. But I plan vacations (mostly- the whole family gets involved, but I create and own the planning document), I figure out how to make our weekly schedule work out, I figure out how to fit special kid things in on the weekends. For whatever reasons, planning date nights is just more than I am willing to do.

  6. I can so relate to all of this. Sometimes I just announce, “I’m done. Someone else figure this out” (my boys are teenagers, although my oldest is autistic but pretty high functioning) and I get a bit of a reprieve. My husband usually knows that is his big hint to step up a bit in this area because I’m burnt out.

  7. So true! How about spring break with NO plans? I sometimes feel people try to out do each other with their vacation plans. It seemed when we had school age children, parents competed in planning the best trip. Ok, I’ll step down off my soap box now. 🙂

    1. @Beth – we didn’t do anything for our winter long weekends – MLK day or President’s Day (which is coming up – we have a 4-day weekend with the kids’ school, so it would be quite possible to go somewhere). I somewhat rebelled on planning those too, but I figure if we didn’t do anything for those maybe we should do SOMETHING for spring break.

  8. Hi Laura , I’m currently doing a bucket list type thing to celebrate my 40th birthday happening in June this year. I’ve got loads of stuff ‘planned’ including a trip to Harry Potter Studios in London (I’m in the UK). Some things I’m doing for myself but a lot is with other people and I’ve found that because it is ‘my’ birthday, the planning is all down to me and it is INCREDIBLY stressful!! A lot of it has started taking away from the fun it was supposed to be inducing :-/.
    Anyhows, what I’m astounded at is how much you can fit in when you actually plan! Taking on board a lot of your tips from your books has been an eye opener :-).
    I was planning on spending all year celebrating my birthday but looking at my calendar now I think I’ll need a break by September, ha ha. Which is our 10yr wedding anniversary so we need to ‘plan’ something for that too!!
    Love your work Laura :-).

    1. @Nicky – I’m sure the birthday celebration will be awesome. But now you’ve stressed me out since I’m a fellow 1978 person, which can only mean one thing. And I’m sure I’ll be planning my birthday celebration too… Add it to the list!

  9. I am totally the planner in my family, for kid stuff, vacations, date nights, everything. That being said, we have a rule that unless you help plan it, there is no complaining about it! That makes it a bit easier because I know I won’t hear complaints about the plans I make – I already take everyone’s enjoyment into consideration. 🙂

  10. I had exactly this recently when I was sat planning our vacations for the coming year! I have told my boyfriend to plan one of the trips for the year….he is more than capable but will happily sit by and let me plan it all. I am generally happy to do it in fairness but even the planners need a break occasionally

  11. As a teacher, I have to plan as part of my job, so I do more than just the family planning, but my personal planning and planning for my students too. I do try and batch plan as much as possible, and my Google Calendar has saved my butt more than once. I think those people that have high-planning jobs cetainly feetl this.

  12. I’m really in the same place right now. After spending January planning our summer camps, vacation dates, all of our social activities for the next two months, dates, work events and deadlines ?etc),8 threw a mini tantrum and said I wanted someone to plan something for me for once! I definitely get the resentment part of this. Also, there are just some things I can’t do for my husband, like schedule his doctor appointments, because I don’t have access to his work schedule. But that just results in me nagging him once a week to get it done. . Anyway. Just solidarity here.

  13. I’m in this same boat, and had even emailed Laura about precisely this topic. (And thanks, Laura, for your reply!) In mulling it over, perhaps my key thought is that I need to be kind to myself. Planning is kind to my future self — but when I’m suffering from planning fatigue, taking a break from planning is kind to my present self. If that entails winging something, so be it, and it’s likely that no one will die.

    1. * And I know that we often joke about “no one will die” if we don’t do such-and-such … but after helping a close relative do all the planning necessary to get through a horrible cancer diagnosis and then a life-saving stem-cell transplant and its long aftermath/recovery, that criteria — will anyone die if I don’t do this? — truly impacts my thinking. Yes, it’s nice to plan and it’s kinder to my future self, but when your present self is burnt out and needs a break, you can often take it without it being a life-or-death decision.

  14. Oh yes! I am (so far) the only planner in the family. And having just planned our summer vacation, I am a bit fatigued. Plus we’ve had more winter weather here (Texas) this year than usual and I’m coming off of a 3 month illness.

  15. The first time as well as every time I read the title of this post I think of planning for fatigue 🙂 eg planning (and hoping the kids cooperate) for extra rest after busy days (which lead to fatigue).

  16. So true I am over planning for everyone from work to home and have gone on strike. At home it started when I was the only one concerned about 5 year old birthday party and the child care chaos start of school would cause(in New Zealand they start the on or shortly after bday) My solution was to say I sorted out my return to work you sort this out and I can help one afternoon only. Not much has happened but it is totally his problem to do and if after school is not sorted he will be the one with less work hours. I know it will be a problem and working on sticking to my guns.

  17. I am suffering from overall decision fatigue. But planning is a lot of those decisions. It’d be nice for someone else to just figure it all out for once. Especially as I’m gearing up to plan out my week today.

  18. Yes!!!! I’m a planner of almost every part of my life (work/ family/ friendship initiator of note) so for holidays (vacations), I do almost nothing. I just have to approve the accommodation and that’s because I’m fussy, but I do no research!

    I love that I now have something to call it – planner fatigue!

  19. YES! I do get planning fatigue, and I have it right now. I took a look at all my lists, my planner, my goals workbook and said, “enough.” At least for right now. I feel like I’ve planned out every minute of my life, and I’m just plain tired. I know this, too, shall pass, but for now I just want to sit on the couch and drink coffee and do nothing.

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