Recent anthropological approaches to temporality and spatiality can offer particularly important insights into established planning theories. In this introductory essay, we consider planning as a manifestation of what people think is possible and desirable, and what the future promises for the better. We outline how plans can operate as a particular form of promissory note, and explore how plans may be seen to perform a particular kind of work, laying out diverse kinds of conceptual orders while containing a notion of the state as an unfulfilled idea. The task of the ethnographer is to chart the practices, discourses, technologies, and artifacts produced by planning, as well as the gaps that emerge between planning theory and practice. We consider the changing horizons of expectation and the shifting grounds of government in different phases and forms of neoliberalization that are characteristic of planning in the contemporary world.