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?

26 thoughts on “Plan Like a Weatherman”

    1. I love their optimism, and also their ability to say the same thing over and over for 2 or 3 hours without going crazy! I also love how excited they get when covering “big” weather events.. of which there seem to be many lately. The lesson for me – stay nimble!

    1. They don’t even seem to remember that the incorrect forecast was made, unless it was a prediction of a major storm or something. I love their optimism and forward-looking perspective!

  1. One of my favorite things is to take something we all recognize (like Weather forecasters) and relate “lessons learned” to other experiences. You’ve done that so beautifully. I especially appreciated the theme of flexibility, adaptability, and self-compassion that you wove throughout. For me, I think becoming a parent really helped me with exercising that flexibility muscle. Kids and all things kids-related are unpredictable. I had to learn to work with a plan that was easily bendable according to life’s surprises. That “training” has helped me in so many other situations. Understanding your priorities, yet also having the willingness to be flexible in terms of timing or process is key.

    1. I couldn’t agree you more about the lessons of parenthood. That was a big adjustment for me, because I was used to being largely in control of my own time. When I had children, I realized any number of things could come up that would throw my plans off. Perhaps the biggest change I made as a result was to take action in the moment, rather than wait for the future. If I can do it now, I do it!

  2. Intriguing title, Seana! I’m all about following the ‘expect the unexpected’ lesson. I always try to build buffer time into my day to plan for unexpected obstacles. Managing expectations is never 100 percent in our control!

    1. Especially when you are responsible for small children or ailing loved ones! Seems like there are always unexpected developments to manage, many of which are urgent. If you can have some “crisis management” time built into the schedule, it always pays off!

  3. This is so spot on. I often wonder how anyone can be a weatherman (although being one in San Diego might be a sweet, boring job) but I think that it’s ok to find that balance between being prepared (enough), but knowing that it might not go according to plan.

    1. Exactly. Being prepared is smart, but being realistic is smart too. Not sure I could stand the redundancy of being a weather reporter in San Diego. Seems like the hurricane center people have the most “fun” at their job!

    1. I’ve observed that people who succeed tend to roll with the punches with ease. This is something I have to work on, as it doesn’t come naturally. Hopefully, I’m getting better!

  4. I really like lesson #4. The life of an entrepreneur (or meteorologist) is filled with ups and downs. When things don’t go as planned, you have to dust yourself off and as you said, show up the next day. And, sometimes, amazing things happen — those stumbles can lead to (unexpected) success. Great post!

    1. Some of my best professional connections have come from either plans that went awry or things that weren’t planned at all. So important to just keep showing up, and if you can show up with a smile and some optimism, all the better!

    1. I think it is probably a great career. Very interesting, a common topic on pretty much every news broadcast and something we all think about, every day. The frosting on the cake is the permission to be wrong… as long as you are wrong with a smile and good attitude, right?

  5. I love this post Seana. I am a bit obsessed with the weather! Always checking it, planning for it, etc. So this really resonated with me. I love the analogy to being prepared in life and planning ahead. My husband and I tease that the nice thing about a weather person is that he or she doesn’t need to be right! Perhaps that is a good lesson for all of us as well. We don’t always need to be right! Try our best, plan ahead, expect things may change or go wrong, and then deal with that the best we can. 🙂

    1. Exactly.. we don’t always need to be right. But we do always need to be prepared, flexible and open to adjusting the plan. A healthy does of optimism doesn’t hurt either:) (I am also a weather geek… can’t get enough!)

  6. I watch the weather every morning over my cup of coffee so that I know what to expect for the day, and how it might change my plans. I also keep an umbrella in both cars, and a mini one in my purse at all time, because you just never know…..

    1. I have an umbrella in my car, but otherwise, I pretty much wing it. I could use a good raincoat with a hood. Somehow, mine went missing. Wonder if a visiting daughter found it useful LOL!

    1. Being able to go with the flow is a real asset. Some people really struggle when things don’t go according to plan, and it can be hard to adjust. But knowing that plans can be reworked can quell the anxiety and keep you moving forward!

  7. I was drawn to this post partly because my husband is obsessed with the weather, and partly because my dad and I often talk about this being one job where you can never make a mistake! (70% chance of rain = 30% chance of no rain)

    These are great analogies and I think most of us would do well to follow your advice.

    1. My Dad is obsessed with the weather too… and I have to admit, I like watching myself. Maybe my next career will be meteorologist!

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