Planning is Everything

– How to reduce the stress of uncertainty by planning

By:  Susan S. Askew, PE, CSEP and Rebecca Falcon, PMP, CISM of Black Swans Rising, LLC

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower. 

It’s May and families are celebrating accomplishments (and survival!) of the 2020-2021 COVID-19 school year.  Now it’s time for graduations plus all the changes that come with them.  From Kindergarten to college, changes can be exciting, intense, even scary.  How we approach change helps manage the natural anxiety that comes with uncertainty.  Learning to plan is a key life skill that will reduce change anxiety and your family can use the methodology forever.  Teach your children how to plan early and help them practice on the little things first.

The best way we’ve found to manage the anxiety of new challenges (good or bad) is to do intentional, thoughtful planning.  Think “what is THE WORST thing that could happen?”  If you have a plan to handle THAT outcome, you can certainly handle the lesser outcomes.

How do we start the planning process?  We recommend following basic risk and opportunity management techniques used in business: 

  • Identify risks & opportunities. Whether the situation is a new school, job, or life situation, step back and assess the good (opportunities) and bad things (risks).  What could possibly happen as you pursue your goal?  List as many things as you can in 1 minute.  Add to this list later as needed.   

  • Analyze impacts.  Little things can have big impacts – like missing a registration or application deadline!  Analyze the things that MUST be done (critical) or need to be done NOW (urgent).  Prioritize your list – 1 critical and urgent; 2 critical but not urgent; 3 urgent but not critical; and 4 not urgent or critical.  Focus on a plan for the 1’s and 2’s first, get to the 3’s if you have time, and re-evaluate the 4s to see if they merit action at all. The 1’s and 2’s should be tied directly to your highest priority goals.  If not, rescore them.

  • Develop plans and mitigations.  Create a calendar of deadlines for the next 3-6 months.  Put blocks for trips, summer schoolwork or activities on your calendar to ensure you have time to do everything needed before Fall.  Break bigger efforts (leaving for college) down into smaller tasks that can be done on shorter timeframes (register, room selections, packing, etc.).

  • Implement Plans.  Get to work!  Start with the end in mind and add to your plan if new things pop up but keep the biggest prize in sight!

  • Monitor and adapt as needed – even the best plans rarely survive without changes.  Review your plan and update it regularly.  If your priorities change, adjust your list, and plan again.

Life changes can be scary, even when the expected outcomes are terrific things.  Good planning = less worry and anxiety.  It all starts with the end in mind.


Susan Askew and Rebecca Falcon live and work in South Huntsville.  For more than a decade, they have supported the Huntsville community, professional organizations, small businesses, educational groups, and non-profits by bringing their business experience to bear helping solve technical, strategic, resource, and risk management challenges.

They started Black Swans Rising (BSRi) with the purpose of continuing these efforts with a lasting presence providing sustainable and innovative solutions.

BSRi serves businesses and education communities with cybersecurity, engineering, and management consulting services and products.

For more information on what BSRi can do for your organization, contact Susan and Rebecca at  “Black Swans Rising – Delivering the Unexpected”

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