March 6, 2005


During the race and the weekend of fun that followed, E2 and I had time to talk through quite a few interesting topics. One of them was planning.

Generally, I'm a planner. I feel safer, comfortable, and less stressed when I have an idea of what is going to happen when, even if it's completely and totally wrong. I get a perverse sense of happiness from a todo list. So, I don't regret time spent planning that eventually is wasted due to changed circumstances. I'm also a goal-setter. I rarely just do something on the spur of the moment. Rather, I DECIDE to do something on the spur of the moment and then plan how to follow through.

E2, on the other hand, is not a planner. She hates the act of thinking about doing stuff when she could just be doing it. While we were talking about planning, she mentioned that she would be much more efficient if she were more organized.

This got me to thinking about the difference between spatial organization and temporal organization. Temporally, I'm German. But, spatially--I'm Italian. I lose my keys at least once a day. I put the phone in the fridge and the laundry in the freezer when I'm not paying attention. I lose my car in the parking garage by school so often that the parking attendants know me by name and often point my car out for me when I get off the elevator. It annoys the people who have to deal with me but it's just not important to me at all. I can't imagine anything more boring than putting together a plan for where stuff should go. And I probably wouldn't follow it all the time anyways. So why bother? I suppose that's how people who aren't planners see the numerous lists and date-blocking plans I make.

E2 and I are both reasonably successful in our own realms. But we have completely different approaches. When it comes to planning, she's a satisficer and I'm an optimizer. Certainly, we both fall prey to the pitfalls of our extremes: I will overplan in my desire to do things the best possible way, and in doing so, I'll miss out on actual "life." She will settle on a plan that is acceptable to her and just do it, but in doing so, will miss out on steps in the process that are better for her needs and wants. Except, generally, she'll finish quickly. I don't mind wasted time spent planning because I consider it an investment in the enjoyment of the thing being planned, she prefers the spare time to be spent doing other things she enjoys.

Someone once told me that satisficers are happier, overall, than optimizers. I think that's probably not true. There's probably some inherent value judgment that makes us each choose our way with respect to various topics. I'm not always an optimizer. I detest shopping. And when it comes to shopping, in stores, I'm a satisficer. I will buy the very first thing I find that meets the minimum necessary constraints (color, fit, and price, generally). Then I get out of the store and go home and plan my next vacation, or read a book, or plan a list of books to read. E2 is much more of an optimizer when it comes to shopping. Needless to say, she's better dressed than I am.

Quite a bit of this thinking took place instead of work on my note. This weekend was so perfectly enjoyable, with the weather, a race, a party with friends, and relaxation that I couldn't bring myself to spoil it with the note. And that's not an optimal decision for time management because it will bring me more misery later tonight and tomorrow. But, it was a decision that optimized my sense of instantaneous happiness. And, pushing the work off to a big time crunch will still satisfy the requirements. So, I acted like a satisficer when it came to working on my note this weekend. And I'm happy. Talk to me tomorrow, though...

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