Have you had the experience of having your schedule interrupted? I am going to assume that you have. I am actually going to assume that everyone on the planet has. So, with that assumption made, what can we do about it? Can we plan with flexibility to cope with this? Maybe, like me, you have at one time or another gone with the option of…’I’m a failure, schedules don’t work, I can never get on top of things, life is overwhelming and I can’t figure out how to plan in a way that helps.’ Ok, that is an extreme reaction, but I can tell you, that when things get overwhelming these can be the thoughts that automatically come rushing into our minds.
Let me tell you the good news!!
You can master your planning system, you can eliminate overwhelm and you can make good decisions that keep you on track and feeling good. It’s taken me a while, but now that I have worked out my solution, I want to share it, so that potentially you can get to the same place.
Build a good relationship with time. Let me tell you an illustration as an example.. Imagine you have a shoe rack that holds 10 pairs of shoes. You currently have 10 pairs of shoes. If you are out shopping and find a pretty pair of heels, you need to make choices when you get home. You can throw them on top, now your shoe rack is over full, or you can take a lesser loved pair of shoes off the rack and put the new ones in their place. Many people experience overwhelm because they try to fit into their time all the things they have planned and they try to include all the extra things that come up and get interrupted with. We have a finite amount of time. Fully accepting the time that we have to work with and embracing the choices we have to make around that will mentally keep us from trying to cram our time with too many activities.
Macro plan first, then micro plan. Many people use a time blocking system to schedule their day and some go as far as micromanaging every minute of the day. If something comes up that changes our day, it can take a lot of work to figure out where we will be able to reschedule tasks. Rather than doing that, divide things into larger categories, like: work, housework, self-care, and events. If we do this, we might just need to make a small adjustment to our plan. Personally, I find time blocking doesn’t work for me at all, so I go for writing down time goals in a to-do list style. I plan nine hours of activity, which leaves me some contingency time, so a day might look like this for me:
- Housework 3:00 hours [change sheets, tackle cat-hair, scrub grout in shower, clean behind toilet and sink, shopping, ironing]
- Work 5:00 hours [update profiles on social media, write blog post, make new listings for shop, start on next month’s printables]
- Self-care 1:00 hour [call family]
These will be the general goals for the day and I can stop and have a break when I want. I have interruptions generally quite often in a day, but my goal is flexible enough that I work around them or move things on. I find working with goals like this much easier than specific schedules.
Consider your energy. This is something I hear a lot of people struggling with. They plan working out at the gym, then work, then running to the shops, then cleaning the house, all in the same day. They are all high energy activities. When planning consider how tired you might be after a gym workout, maybe on that day plan some other lighter activities but that are still beneficial like reading, studying, or phone chats with family and friends. That way you are more likely to feel like you can keep going and less likely to collapse on the sofa and binge watch your favourite show because you are exhausted.
Practice good decision making. Like we said at the beginning, we all experience interruptions. Maybe, you were planning on spending the evening practicing your piano homework and a friend calls and wants to meet you for a drink after work. If you go with your friend you sacrifice something. This means we need to learn the practice of deciding what is more important to us. Choices mean sacrifices! This is part of life. Rather than focusing on short term rewards, try to get into the habit of making decisions based on our long term values and priorities. For example, we might decide that spending time with loved ones is actually more important to us than piano skills, so we can go and enjoy our time without feeling guilty. These choices become easier with practice and we can really make sure our life is heading in the direction we want rather than sacrificing what’s important for something that we just felt we couldn’t say no to. So, start now in making those choices and practice making them clear in your life by choosing what is important day to day.
Hopefully those steps if implemented will help you keep on track and not get too stressed by an overburdening plan. Life is short! So, keep things simple and focused on spending your time doing things that you really want to be doing. Thanks for reading, happy planning!!