Big Ideas and Small Tips on Planning

I’m going to begin by saying I love that January feels like a long month. It feels like it gives me more time to plan, to evaluate the year, and reset from the holidays.

But I already hit obstacles to my plans – only a couple weeks into January! The ink in my paper planner was still fresh, and I was already losing time and things felt hurried. I hate this feeling, and I specifically plan for work only 3 days a week to avoid this. But I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Why I felt stressed, burdened down and struggling to get anything accomplished. Many things I planned were let go.

When Planning Doesn't Work

I was tumbling into remorse for not even being able to follow through with anything. Do you know that feeling? Then, in an amazing way, I was gifted with coming across a podcast episode by Andy J. Pizza. It was a long one, but in the middle of it he made a statement: We need to Marie Kondo our lives sometimes, and January seems like a good time to do that.

If you aren’t familiar with Marie Kondo – she teaches organization and cleaning by holding every item in your hand and asking if it brings you joy. If it doesn’t it gets thrown in the trash. So Andy asked, what in your life isn’t bringing you joy, and can it be thrown out. A lightbulb went off in my head and I paused the episode to think about what I was doing in my days lately (I created a habit tracker for this.) Then I realized there were two things that were sucking up a lot of time, and I find no joy in them.

Once I was able to target those two things, I made a decision to remove one entirely – it is volunteer work I do but it is so demanding this time of year and if I can’t approach it with joy, what good am I doing? And the second I can’t do much about right now, but plan on delegating down the road. Until then it will get pushed down on the priorities. My problem was I allowed it to become one of my top priorities.

So my big idea on this is: planning is one thing but it isn’t until we become intentional with our plans that things begin to happen. I’ve always been a planner – I love the organization of it – but I always felt like life happened and my plans were always thrown out the window. In the end, I would blame life, not myself. I think we all have experience with this now.

But I want to encourage you to instead of blaming life, get intentional. When life does get in the way, what can you do instead to help further your plans. Is there a way you can pivot, or do you just need to put your plans into the first priority of your day?

Even if it is only for an hour that I get to create art in the morning, I do it no matter what, because that is a part of my plan. My journey may take longer but at least I’m on the journey instead of putting it off for the obstacles in life.

Small Things to Try

That’s my big thought – every single day be intentional with your plans, Marie Kondo your life if you need (here’s the tracker if you need it and here’s how I use it), and make your plans a priority every day (even if it is only for an hour). Now, here’s a few smaller things I do to make my plans successful.

  1. Build in Margin – I actually only schedule my to dos on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, leaving Tuesday, Thursday and the weekends free. This isn’t to give myself more free time but instead to give myself margin. Because I tend to overplan and stuff my to do list full, I allow my to do list to overflow to the next day. So if I don’t get everything done on Monday’s list – it overflows to Tuesday without me feeling bad about it and I get it done on Tuesday. I am actually also better at not stuffing my list which leads me to tip 2.
  2. Don’t overstuff your list – instead prioritize and batch. I actually brainstorm a list once a week that is my dump list of to dos. Then I pick and choose 3-4 items for each day I plan. That’s it. And if I have a bunch of small items that need attention I try to batch them all into one day instead of stringing them out. This way I know my most important items are scheduled in and prioritized. Which leads me to number 3.
  3. Plan your most important or most difficult items for when you work the best. For example, I know if I plan anything for after 2 it’s probably  not going to happen. So I put the easy stuff for that time. I put the deep work, or the work that I feel resistance for in the morning when I am at my peak. This is just when I know I focus best. Some people focus better at night – find the best time for you to do your deep work and schedule it for then.
  4. Batch things. I’m not sure how you work but if I have to transition from one item to another, I usually find myself lost somewhere in the transition. Probably on social media, texting or finding myself doing some sort of menial housework. Instead I try to batch items together because while my mindset is on writing, I might as well do all the writing I can otherwise it’s hard to get back that mindset. Same goes for creating art, building a content and marketing schedule, marketing even. I’ve found I’m much more productive if I work bundling like items together.
  5.  Know yourself – your weaknesses and strengths and play to your strengths. Don’t worry about fixing your weaknesses but be aware of them. Use the time you work well to work. Give yourself rewards if it works for you. Use visual planning if it works better (I love Trello for this). Put your phone in another room. Take inventory of what is keeping your from working your plans and what is helping you move the needle on those plans.
  6. Set Boundaries – make them known and stick with them. This is the hardest for me to do. I’m a recovering people pleaser and I will drop everything to help you out. Well, I used to – I may still depending on if my boundary flags are up. In fact, for the past couple of years my husband and I decided we’d subsist off of his income so I could focus on my art. We both know if I jump into even a part time job, often that job will consume my hours. It’s how I work and I needed this time to solely focus on my art while learning to set boundaries. I’m still learning, but I’m more aware. Say no without remorse to anything that doesn’t line up with your vision, with your plans. Your plans and most certainly your vision matter, so make it be known that it does.
  7. Don’t be indecisive about what you should do in your plans – Indecision is a key landmark that you are lost. Stop and review your vision. If you don’t have one here’s my ideas on creating a vision. If you do and you still aren’t sure what lines up with your vision, ask for help.
  8. Don’t be afraid to change your plans – It’s ok to get it wrong, or just to change your mind. Be sure first though. I’m in the midst of making some changes to my art and it kinda ruins some of the longer goals I had but I’m ok with it because I’ve discovered something that is more me and even more in line with my larger vision for my life.

That’s what I have for you today. These are the things that I believe made the biggest impact on my plans. And please remember your plans matter. Make them matter.