Margaret Lukens, owner and principal
For years I was a planner and organizer. I got places on time. I kept things tidy. I managed to get groups of people moving in the same direction, literally and figuratively. I always made checklists and plans.
At the age of 24 I made an ambitious annual plan: I would finish my MBA. I would win a major promotion from the corporation that employed me. Then I would arrange for that same corporation to transfer me from Chicago to New York.
Granted, I had set some of these plans in motion years earlier; no one finishes a graduate degree in under a year while working full time. But during the coming year, I promised myself, I would carry these plans across the finish line. And just for good measure, I’d take a vacation with Outward Bound, the outdoor survival school. You know, because as a girl, I had missed out on bootcamp.
One by one I ticked them off — June graduation, July promotion, August bootcamp, September packed up the houseplants and drove to my new home in New York.
When the end of the year rolled around again, I looked at all I had accomplished. And I was miserable. Not just a little disappointed, no. Deeply, deeply miserable.
And then I made a big mistake: I blamed the act of planning. Planning doesn’t help, I told myself. Plans can say whatever you want them to say, but they can’t create a good life. The things I really want, I can’t plan for, and the things I plan for, I don’t really want. Planning takes too much time and returns too little; sometimes it even accomplishes nothing.
I gave up on planning. During the next decades I left my career in New York. I began to study for another graduate degree (in theology), I took jobs in various non-profits, I started a gourmet food store, all without a stitch of a plan.
I saw other businesses fail despite their elaborate plans, while my business continued to grow (if not exactly thrive). “See?” I told myself, “Plans don’t get the job done.” And I looked at what I had accomplished without a plan, which was not nothing – many people admired all that I had done. And I still was not happy. Waiting for something interesting to come along wasn’t working any better than my old take-the-world-by-storm plans that I had made at 24.
Eventually my older and slightly wiser self tried something new. I figured out a method of planning that wasn’t just about ticking off accomplishments. I brought my business school, my corporate career, my theology training, my non-profit work, and my small business expertise all together to create a process that tapped into the things that would give me both success and deep satisfaction. A method of planning that didn’t take a lot of time. A process that was fun and surprising to do. I planned to thrive.
Based on what I learned, I built a new business, New Leaf, this time with a plan. (I’ve done it both ways, and believe me, building a business is better with a plan.) Now I share this planning method with individuals and groups. I work with professionals who want to get rid of the clutter (mental and physical) and have more time – time for the things that truly matter, in their work and in their life.
There is a saying that those who know what they want get what they want. And those who don’t know what they want get what they get.
Somewhere inside of each of us, I believe, we know what we want. Bringing that desire to the surface and turning it into a plan makes everything possible. Let’s start the conversation.
Read more about my Plan to Thrive program, and see if it’s right for you. Or if you’re the sort of person who likes to act fast, go straight to my calendar to schedule a live conversation (no obligation, of course) by clicking here.
A quick brag or two: In 2007 I was given the honor of being chosen president of the 200-member San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers.