Do you ever feel like your whole day, every day, is spent putting out fires? And that you never get to the end of them? It’s like the Hydra — cut off one head, and five more grow back!
Some days you wake up and hit the ground running, and you don’t stop until you lay your head back on the pillow at night. And you wonder if you will ever get ahead, or if you will constantly be trying to catch up.
There is a solution to this phenomenon. (LOL trying to type that word I was like Nemo saying Anemo-nemo-nemone — kept getting my m’s and n’s mixed up!) The solution is to plan ahead.
BUT WE KNOW THAT. We KNOW we should plan ahead — but we never have time to sit down and do it!! We are running, and putting out fires, and almost always late for the next thing.
So here’s this simple organization hack for today: actually PLAN time in your schedule to PLAN.
The fact is, most of us already do this with lesson planning. We take time on a regular basis to sit down and plan lessons for the next week or semester or whatever. So you might be thinking to yourself, “I don’t overlook this. What is she talking about?”
Here’s my question to you: do you do it for the other aspects of your life? Do you take time to sit down regularly and plan the big picture? Do you know what’s coming up next week or at the end of the month? Do you think about where you’re going, not just what you’re doing?
I have to admit, this is a relatively new concept for me. I was filling my schedule full of “important” stuff without ever taking time to step back and look at the big picture. I would know I needed to, but the days were too full — I kept waiting for a magical block of time to appear during which I could re-evaluate my life. Guess what? It never appeared.
Until I started putting that magical block of time into my schedule with intention.
Here’s what I mean:
At the end of each month, I try to take some time to look at the entire next month. Who has a birthday? Are there any holidays or school breaks? What long-term goals or projects do I want to work on? Can I pick certain tasks that will get done each week? Such as decluttering the bathroom one week and painting it the next? I don’t plan the minutia of exactly when each item will happen, I just make a general plan that will get adapted as the time gets closer. Planning the month out in advance, even if only generally, means there is less chance of larger projects going undone because I forget about them in the midst of the everyday mayhem.
On Sunday afternoons, I will often take an hour or so to look at the week coming up. I jot down what will be for dinner each night. I figure out when those items that I assigned to the week during my monthly planning can actually happen. I make sure I can handle the logistics of getting the kids everywhere they need to go. Basically, I look at my whole life for the week and make a realistic but not too-detailed plan for how to get it all accomplished.
Then, as part of my morning routine each day, I will usually plan out that entire day with a specific time for each task. This is where the detail comes in. I plan to the minute when I will leave the house to take my son to work, and when I will get back. I schedule the tasks from the list I made on Sunday. I decide exactly when I will start to prepare dinner. I plan when to put the laundry in and when to take it out.
I personally find that I am much more productive when I make all these decisions early in the day and then just follow the plan for the rest of the day.
A daily schedule may be something you already have set up for you and your kids. (More on that on day 16.) Then you would use the morning planning time to figure out how anything not already scheduled, but needing to be accomplished today, can fit in.
Another option is to make a list the night before. I find this very helpful when I know that the next day is going to be a busy one, and I’m afraid that I’ll forget something. So I get it all out of my head onto a piece of paper before bed. Then in the morning I figure out how to do it all. At the very least, this helps me sleep better! :-)
Around this time of year, another great planning session to engage in is a yearly goal-setting retreat. Or even just an afternoon at Starbucks, either alone or with the hubby, to think/talk about your life goals and how you want to get closer to realizing them this year.
“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.”
Now, I will be the first to admit that I don’t perfectly follow this organization hack all the time. Sometimes I let weeks go by without ever sitting down and planning either the big or the small stuff. AND YOU CAN TELL. LOL. But when I do take the time to do so, I feel so much more in control, and my family can sense that. The world really does spin more smoothly for all of us.
That’s because planning to plan, i.e. purposely setting aside regular time to set both long- and short-range goals and figure out how to make them happen, is how we keep our eyes on the big picture. This is how we get away from fire patrol and the tyranny of the urgent. Yes, fires still happen, but they don’t characterize our lives. We’re not constantly in catch-up mode. We can have intention each day to accomplish real things and have the satisfaction of actually doing them. It’s a good feeling!