Plan Like a Weatherman

Do you check the weather forecast? Most people do. Sometimes the prediction is “spot on,” while other times it completely misses the mark. Regardless of whether the previous day’s forecast was accurate or not, each morning my local meteorologist appears on my screen with a big smile, telling the viewers what weather conditions to expect in the upcoming week.

I have to admit, this seems like a pretty good profession. After all, how often can you make mistakes at work and still have a job? Clearly, there is something to be learned here. Upon reflection, I’ve come up with four lessons we can learn from meteorologists that can help us as we plan for the day ahead.


4 Planning Lessons To Be Learned From the Weatherman


LESSON #1: Be Informed

As simple as the job may seem, true meteorology requires a lot of work. The basic requirement for becoming a full Meteorologist is a BS degree in Meteorology or Atmospheric Sciences. Many professionals also hold a Masters and/or Ph.D. degree. While your local TV weather reporter may not have these degrees, he/she still spends time analyzing available research, studying models and reviewing maps to provide an informed opinion about what conditions are likely to be. In other words, the weatherman doesn’t show up at the studio 5 minutes before going on camera and wing it.

Planning should likewise be something in which we invest both time and energy. It is wise to thoughtfully consider everything that needs to be done and what time we have available. A strong planning system should allocate time for appointments, tasks, travel, meetings, meals, exercise, hygiene and whatever else needs to be accomplished. Also, it is helpful to strategize both short and long term goals. Anything that keeps falling to the bottom of the list may need to be broken down into smaller pieces. Beginning the day without an agenda (or with an unrealistic one) is a surefire way to have a bad day.


LESSON #2: Expect the Unexpected

Weathermen seem to be experts at hedging their forecasts with percentages and probabilities. This comes from experience. Small shifts in the jet stream or wind patterns can result in drastic changes. This doesn’t prevent the professionals from making predictions, but it influences the way they communicate their message. Managing viewer expectations is part of the job.

Similarly, it is helpful to remember that the day may not unfold the way we had anticipated. Maybe we’ve planned a day of errands but then wake up with a sick child. Perhaps we’ve scheduled a meeting but at the last minute find out that a key participant cannot attend. Flat tires, forgotten cell phones, power outages and other unexpected glitches all interfere with the day unfolding “according to plan.” This doesn’t mean we are bad at planning, it means we live in a dynamic world where circumstances are always changing. Therefore, it is wise to build a little “wiggle room” into the schedule if possible, to acknowledge in advance that we can’t control every detail, to avoid over-promising and to stay calm when plans fall through and need to be altered.


LESSON #3: Adjust and Adapt the Plan

Weathermen are always adjusting their forecasts. In the morning, there may be an 80% chance of rain, but by the lunchtime broadcast, the chance has suddenly dropped to 10%. A wise meteorologist is always monitoring the models, maps, radar, wind, etc. and fine-tuning the forecast accordingly.

The goal in planning is not to create a rigid, minute-by-minute schedule of tasks and events. Instead, the purpose of planning is to clearly articulate priorities so that we can stay focused on what matters most, regardless of how the day unfolds. Some days we will check all the boxes on our list, while other days we may need to shift things around a bit. This is normal. A productive person will refer to his plan throughout the day, tracking progress and making necessary changes. At the end of the day, whatever wasn’t completed should be thoughtfully and intentionally rescheduled for another day.


LESSON #4: Show Up Tomorrow

I always find it impressive that a meteorologist can give a forecast that ends up missing the mark, but still show up the next day and talk as if nothing went wrong. Furthermore, I’ve never seen a meteorologist dissolve into self-recrimination or quit the job simply because the forecast was off. More often than not, they smile and laugh, perhaps give a brief explanation for unanticipated shifts in the previous day’s conditions, and then move on to what we can expect today. These people are resilient!

This is a helpful model when it comes to planning. While it can be frustrating when things don’t work out according to plan, it shouldn’t cause us to completely implode. Plans get changed and interrupted all the time, so we might as well see what we can do moving forward, rather than dwell on the plan that fell through. Maybe you made some poor choices, or maybe forces beyond your control interrupted your well-planned day. Regardless, every 24 hours we have the chance to start over. Learn from any mistakes, sharpen your planning skills and try again.


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Are you a good planner? Do you fall apart if the plan gets knocked off course?