*Author’s Update: I’ve just been advised, post-publication, by the DH that the term “pantsing” isn’t universal. In fact, based on his research, it has something to do with underwear and a swift yank. Just to be clear, amongst writers (at least in my experience), “pantsing” is lingo we use ALL the time. As in, “I totally pantsed my way through that chapter.” Or, “She can do that becuase she’s a pantser”. My apologies if you thought I referred to something else.
You know that feeling when you finally figure out what makes you tick?
If you’ve been working for awhile, you’re probably well aware of when you’re in the groove, the zone where your best work happens. But every now and then, you hear yourself described to a “T” in a new way. I don’t know about you, but when that moment happens, SO many things make sense.
Hey, that’s me!
Last weekend I attended a writers’ conference in my city, and I heard myself described for the the first time in a workshop as a Pantser. She wasn’t talking about me specifically, but the glove fit.
What’s a Pantser? It’s code for “fly by the seat of your pants”, as in dive right in and go for it (the floundering around comes later). If you’d asked me before, I’d have said Planner for sure. While I’m a stickler for structure in technical documentation (I can structure the hell out of anything), and I love thinking about and creating outlines, for me the actual process of putting words together is pure intuition. Pure pantsing.
A Planner on the other hand, is someone who meticulously researches every option before making a move. They’re information gatherers, they don’t like to be out of the loop. They make lists and set goals. They like maps. Not only to they make outlines, they love following them. My husband when he cooks likes to have all the ingredients measured out, the pots, pans and tools organized and at hand before he begins. The Planner.
Where do you fit? The Pantser and Planner Profiles
Why make a point of knowing where you fit?
Because as you’re trying to shift gears into something new, leaving behind a well heeled career you know inside and out, you’ll be bombarded with information.
There are thousands of courses, programs, tools, books and conferences out there, all made by well-meaning people who want to to get you moving in the right direction. But recognizing your pantsing or planning tendencies from the beginning will help you choose the strategy that will work best for you.
Check out these basic profiles of Pantser and Planner:
- When you get an idea, you like to dive in, and run with it. Very fast.
- You may be too impatient to prepare much.
- You ask questions and figure things out as you go along.
- You know roughly where you want to go, but you’re not so worried about every step along the way.
- Detours are fine.
- You see new paths and opportunities everywhere which sometimes work to your benefit, sometimes not.
- Your heart guides you.
- You read everything you can about The Thing before you make a move.
- You don’t like surprises.
- You don’t like looking or feeling stupid.
- You make lists.
- You’re slow to launch but once you’re in motion you’re like a freight train.
- You are focused, single minded, and a little scary (get the hell outta my way, man).
- Strategy is your middle name. You live it, breathe it.
- Your head guides you.
Okay, I made this one up but I suspect most people have a little of both.
For example, I’m a total Pantser when I sit down to write. I’ve got a vision in my head of what I want to create, especially if it’s a new shiny idea I’m in love with. I want to get going. I’m a Planner before I write, when I’m in unknown territory, or I’m not sure of myself. I don’t like not knowing things, or feeling stupid, so I make lists to compensate.
Choosing Pantser-Planner strategies to get stuff done
Whichever camp you’re in, one thing you can’t ignore is execution. At some point, the Planner has to ship. The Pantser has to pick ONE direction to go.
What’s funny is that both MO’s will get you there. Neither are inherently wrong, but when you know yourself, working one style of play over the other will keep you happier.
For example, Planners who find themselves pantsing unwillingly can find it stressful, and vice versa. Pantsers who are forced into following a structure or workflow aren’t happy either.
Internet marketing programs and online business communities appeal to Planners big time. They offer frameworks and checklists, forums and roadmaps. They offer teaching, learning, and mentoring to your heart’s desire.
On the other side, following gurus and thought leaders who inspire leaps of faith, taking risks, and executing without fear of failure are a Pantser’s dream. For you, Pantser, this approach can fill you with confidence, and can-do.
Here a shortlist of some great resources I’ve used, and got results from, whether pantsing or planning:
- 7DayStartup – Build and launch a business or product in 7 days. Dan Norris shows you how. I had great fun with this and recommend his ebooks and mastermind program too.
- 10,000 Subscribers Course – Attention Planners, from Bryan Harris on how to build an email list. I’m just starting this program but so far so good.
- #AskGaryVee Book – This latest by Gary Vaynerchuk is typical Gary Vee in your face. But if that’s what you need right now, read it. The Pantser in me loved it.
- 99U – A blog that speaks to the soul as well as the practical.
- Chris Guillebeau – Author of The $100 Startup, founder of the World Domination Summit. His latest book, Born for This speaks to an unconventional method for finding your perfect job.
- Marie Forelo – Weekly videos and sage advice from this lady on how to live a full life in business and everything else. Very thoughtful.
- Creative Confidence – By Tom and David Kelley, the force behind Ideo, this book was a game changer for me. Read it.
The truth is, you need a little of both pantsing and planning, in the right amounts, and at just the right times.
What are your pantsing or planning skills? Share in the comments.