If you're an entrepreneur, you're probably the type of person who visualizes something you'd like to happen and then takes concrete steps to make that vision a reality. That's probably true in your business dealings--and I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that for a lot of you, it's also true in your personal life. You're always the one arranging the friends dinner, setting up the fundraiser, or planning the reunion.
And I'm also willing to guess that sometimes you resent or worry about that imbalance in social initiative. Are you bothering your friends? Do they not value and appreciate you? Are you perceived as pushy?
These concerns are completely human, but according to two fascinating and complementary articles by a time-use expert and a therapist I stumbled across lately, they're also misplaced. Don't take it personally if you're always the planner, they both argue. You're not bothering your friends, you're providing a unique service that they probably deeply value.
Planning isn't as easy as you make it look.
Author Laura Vanderkam is the author of several books on time management and productivity, so it's no surprise that she understands the plight of the planner well.
"You organize get-togethers with your friends all the time. That's why you have wonderful things going on in your life! The only fly in the ointment is that sometimes you might wonder why other people don't do as much or even any of the planning. You might wonder if they're as invested in the friendship as you are. When you like people, you extend invitations for specific times. If other people don't do that, is it because they don't like you as much? You might hold back, worried that you are misjudging things," she wrote on Forge recently.
It may be natural to assume that other people don't plan as much as you do because they don't like you or are lazy. But Vanderkam believes another explanation is more likely. Planning may seem easy to you, but that's because you have a knack for it. Other people find this kind of thing far more difficult than naturally entrepreneurial types often realize.
"Many people find it challenging to imagine something they would like to do in the future, think of the people they would like to do it with (and who would probably want to do it, as well), and coordinate schedules and logistics to make it happen," she reminds her fellow planners. "If these people are friends with you, well, it's like wanting to eat great foods and being friends with a talented chef. Inevitably, you are going to be the one doing the metaphorical cooking."
Or to put that another way: You are almost certainly undervaluing how unique and valuable your planning abilities are. If you're the planner of the group, it's probably because you're better at planning and everyone knows and respects it. Take others' lack of initiative as a compliment not a discouragement.
Share your gift, don't question it.
That is one great reason not to get frustrated when you're always the first person to say, "Hey, why don't we..." But therapist Kathleen Smith has another. Questioning whether your friends' lack of planning prowess is a sign they don't like you is probably making you unnecessarily miserable.
"People bring a lot of fears to therapy. One of the most common ones I hear from young adults is a fear of annoying their friends," she reports in her own recent Forge article. If being the one to always propose plans is stressing you out, you're not alone. But the problem with this worry, Smith explains, is that it is "other focused." You're constantly trying to read the tea leaves to figure out other people's feelings, probably without a lot of data to go on. And that turns people into anxious wrecks.
Far better to be self-focused, Smith insists, and focus on what you can actually know and control: yourself. Rather than asking, "Am I bothering them too much?" Smith suggests you ask yourself, "How do I define being intrusive or pushy?" Instead of, "Why don't they ever initiate plans?" try asking, "Do I want to see them enough that I'm willing to contact them first?"
Go ahead and "bother your friends," Smith concludes. Which strikes me as sensible advice for life, as well as business.
Planners often take others' silence, whether it's about a business proposition or a potential social get-together, as a sign of their lack of interest. More often, it's just that you don't appreciate fully how much less organized and entrepreneurial many other people are. Nudging people with plans and ideas (done within sane bounds of course--no one likes a stalker) isn't a sign you're annoying or disliked. It's a sign you have the gift of making things happen. Don't hold yourself back from sharing that gift by overthinking it.