How Planning Affects You

What is Planning?
The word "planning" is hard for many people to understand because it is a concept, not something you can hold in your hands or visualize easily in your mind. For those who work in the planning field, the vagueness of the word and the wide range of issues and activities it embraces makes it difficult to describe the nature of their work.

At its most basic level, planning is the process we use to make deliberate decisions. It begins with a vision of what you want to achieve. You then compare the vision with where you are now and determine what you need to do to get where you want to be.

Why Is Planning Important?
You use planning every day. Everything you prepare for (what to wear, what to eat, where to go for a vacation) requires planning. In fact, it is almost impossible to imagine how we could conduct our daily lives without it.
A large brick building along a city street.
In essence, the ability to plan is one of the basic defining qualities of self-awareness. It sets us apart from all other species and empowers us to alter our environment to suit our needs. Without it, we would not be able to create or sustain the complex society and quality of life we enjoy. Planning is such a basic concept to humans that we could not have become what we are without it.

For example, planning a vacation forces us to make many advance decisions, such as when to leave, where to go, how to get there, where to stay, how long to stay, what to do while we’re there, what to bring along, and how much money we need. Planning helps make our lives more successful and pleasant by reducing the amount of uncertainty and stress we must face. It brings order to our lives. Planning also helps us use scarce or sensitive resources wisely and efficiently.

While planning is very important to our personal lives, it is even more important to our economy and communities. The more people involved in or impacted by a decision, the greater the need for planning to achieve common goals and address common needs. Just as every business needs a plan or strategy to be successful, every community needs a plan to manage scarce resources, provide adequate services and infrastructure to its residents, create capacity for growth, and address public needs and issues. Planning a business or a city is more difficult than personal planning because more complex decisions are required and each of those decisions affect more people. That’s where professional planners enter the picture.

Planning Resources

If you would like to learn more about planning and the planning profession, please access the American Planning Association website or call 312-431-9100. You may also access the Maryland Chapter’s website.  You also can learn more about planning in Maryland by reviewing the City of Cumberland's Planning Commissioner Training Series, which is available on the Municipal Planning Commission page.