In Defense of Not Being a Planner

in defence of not being a planner

A few weeks back, a friend of mine sent me an article in The Atlantic about how, in our uber-busy modern lives, millennials are turning to shared Google calendars to schedule friend hangouts. Her response was along the lines of hmm, interesting. Mine was somewhere between disgust and mild horror: Is this what friendship has become in 2019? A series of color-coded time slots and reminder notifications?

I have never been, by any definition of the word, a planner. In Myers-Briggs parlance, I’m squarely on the side of Perceiving (as opposed to Judging), which translates to statements such as “I like to stay open to respond to whatever happens,” “I like to keep plans to a minimum,” and “I am stimulated by an approaching deadline.” (If “am stimulated by” could be replaced with “would get nothing done without.”)

This might sound like some sort of contrived free-spirit mantra about living in the moment but that’s not it; something about organized fun just feels slightly uncomfortable to me, like a shirt that doesn’t fit. So much of our lives is scheduled already—work, yoga classes, doctors appointments—do I really need to add “happy hour with Jess” to that list?

Last month, I’d been invited to two social gatherings: my book club and a dinner party. Both events had been planned for weeks; both would be attended by women I knew and liked. But in the days leading up to them, I felt uneasy—I’d had somewhat of a rough month, and suddenly didn’t feel up to putting on my best face and forcing myself to make small talk. Or worse, having to field questions about my own life to a room full of people.

Here’s where I mention that I’m also an introvert with a touch of social anxiety. Which isn’t to say I’m not outgoing—smaller group hangouts are my bread and butter, and in the right context I love a good party (please refer to photos of me on every wedding dance floor I’ve ever encountered). But I’m also, for lack of a better term, moody: Not in the sense that my moods themselves are volatile, but that it’s hard for me to ignore them, to push aside however I’m feeling and turn on the “social” part of my brain without considerable effort. And if a scheduled event arrives on a day when I’m more in need of a restorative night at home than a reunion with my grad-school friends, my lizard brain kicks in and basically lights up like a neon sign obnoxiously flashing cancel! cancel!  

For the record, I’ve tried to train myself to be more like my structured friends at various points in my life—with spiral-bound planners, Post-It lists and, yes, even Google calendars—but it never sticks. There are things that I’m able to go against my nature for, namely traveling, which requires forethought for obvious reasons. And by no means do I resent my more scheduled friends—the world needs people like them to function; otherwise it would just devolve into one big group text of people saying “let’s play it by ear” over and over for eternity.

I’ll concede that I don’t have kids or a partner or even a pet whose needs/activities I have to take into account. (But my plants have a very strict watering schedule…jk I water them whenever they’re looking thirsty.) I fully understand that the more lives you have directly linked to your own, the more complicated it gets.

But I also remember that my parents managed to juggle both their jobs and four kids’ extracurricular activities and still have a social life in a time before the cloud. (They also occasionally forgot to pick me up from said activities on time, but it’s fine, everyone’s fine.) I also remember impromptu hikes and last-minute movie nights and friends (of both generations) dropping by our house constantly, sometimes for an afternoon, sometimes for a weekend. If my parents passed along their off-the-cuff tendencies to me, they also provided me with a blueprint for how to make them work.

For what it’s worth, I ended up going to both the dinner party and the book club—and was rewarded with two evenings of great conversation and a reminder why it’s sometimes worth overriding my impulsive instincts and committing to the plan. And in turn, I like to think my calendar-loving friends appreciate the spontaneity (and OK, occasional inconvenience) I bring to their lives.

So please forgive me if I RSVP “maybe” to your birthday party…or don’t RSVP at all. But if you get a text from me that says, “What are you up to? Wanna grab a drink?” know that it’s exactly what I want to be doing at that moment in time. 

How to Be a Good Friend When You’re an Introvert

purewow author


From 2016-2019 Carolyn Kuang-chen Stanley held the role of Editor covering food, travel and all things nyc.