We've all had those times where we've had something in our mind that we wanted to do but then watched time slip by without it ever happening. Life is busy and we can't accomplish everything. But, how do we make the things happen that we really want?
For you dreamers out there, I want to talk with you about how to make your dreams happen, and for you free-spirits out there, don't tune me out yet.. planning doesn't have to box you in, it can set you free. For you busy parents and career drivers.. I hope these tools will offer relief to a packed schedule.
Art Markman, PhD and author of Smart Thinking and Habits of Leadership says, " For a long time, I resisted to-do lists. I wanted the flexibility. I felt that if I kept a list, it would tie me down to a particular set of tasks. Gradually, though, I came around. The busier my work life became, the more crucial it was to have some sort of running agenda on hand. Before long, I even started adding some of those items onto my weekly calendar. In other words, I'd reluctantly become a planner."
He notes that there are at least three psychological benefits to the simple act of drawing up a list of top-priority tasks—whether or not you actually accomplish them.
// Writing makes your memories job easier
Taking time to plan or make a list is actually an act of prioritizing. It helps your brain decide what is important information to remember right now and what can wait for later.
// Planning turns abstract goals into concrete work
Dreams only stay in your mind until you decide what little steps it will take to make the big dream happen. Same way with training your children, working towards a vacation and decluttering your home.
// It helps to clear the weeds you couldn't see
It's amazing how much time we can spend on menial things that take up time we could be spending getting valuable goals accomplished. When you make a list it forces you to find time in your day to accomplish it, which naturally weeds out the things you would otherwise waste your time on. When you don't assess what you want to accomplish, things like tidying, making breakfast and running errands can take up more time than they actually need to and cut into valuable work time.
With that in mind, I'll give you some tools for planning to get you started!
Carve Time In Your Schedule to Plan:
1 day every year
1 hour every month
30 minutes every week
15 minutes every day
In order to reap the benefits of planning we have to first make time to plan. This minimal amount of time will increase your productivity and help you accomplish your goals infinitely! So take time now, and jot this into your schedule.
1 DAY | EVERY YEAR
You'll want to start with big picture thinking - this is for you dreamers - spend a focused day every year mapping out how to make your big-picture goals happen. Don't worry, these may change and you will refine them with time. Every person needs to spend time doing this. You'll be amazed at how in-control of your life you feel when you take time to brainstorm what you actually want it to look like instead of letting life happen to you. This can include goals like starting a business, navigating a stressful or busy season, instilling certain qualities to your children, deciding what kind of you impact you want to make on your clients/ readers/ family this year, taking more adventures and spending more time with your friends. Just imagine jotting down practical monthly goals that will take you one step closer to your goal each month, reserving weekends of the year for adventure taking (so that other people's plans don't take over your life), brainstorming with your husband what your goals for your family are for the year and posting them in the dining room or making room in your 40 hour workweek to have a hobby or relax!
1 HOUR | EVERY MONTH
Every season/ month sit down and make your big-picture plans more concrete. Brainstorm again for seasonal goals you want to accomplish. Contact the friends you want to invite over for dinner and find a time that fits their calendar too. Break down your big-picture goals into small steps and make deadlines to accomplish each one.
30 MINUTES | EVERY WEEK
Now you're fitting your goals in with your responsibilities. Add in sports practices, meal plans, working out and rest time. You probably won't have any problem filling up your schedule, so this is what will help you remember to focus on your priorities and streamline or weed out the less important stuff.
WEEKLY CATCH-ALL TIME // I'd recommend making time at the end of every week to do those little, still important, but non-priority things that don't get done during the week like, folding the laundry and tidying. For example, carve out 2 hours every Friday and power through those little tasks.
STREAMLINE // For things that happen every week like eating and doing laundry - streamline those tasks. Spend 10 minutes every week during your 30 minutes of planning time to plan your meals and have a list ready for the grocery store. Then designate a weekly time to get groceries. - Maybe around another time that you're already out, etc. This prevents making multiple trips to the store and the stress of coming up with dinner at 5 pm every day. Designate a day for laundry too - make it known to your family and have them all bring their laundry to the laundry room on that day - maybe start a load the night before and have it sorted before morning so you can get started right away. Make it your goal to get everything done and put away by the end of the day - but if not, let it fall to the end of the week "important/ non-priority" time. You can do the same thing with cleaning, appoint it a day of the week (or every other week) and give it a time slot (3-5pm every Tuesday) so that you ensure it gets done but you'll have to ignore your desire to deep clean your china hutch until later because you've got a time limit. When routine tasks are dragged out they become an unnecessary burden hanging on your mind. There are tons of ways to streamline important but non-priority tasks that happen all of the time and it will help them from taking over your life.
15 MINUTES | EVERY DAY
At the end of every day, look at the next day and the things you need to accomplish and give them time slots. Even if you don't want to follow this time schedule you will at least set yourself up for success by knowing what time you need to get up to make it all happen and how long you can spend on a task to fit it into your day. In the same way, you will realize what things won't fit into the day and can move them to later in the week. At the end of the day, if you don't accomplish everything, don't fret, fit it into the next day. By doing this, you will learn how to be a better (realistic) planner and how to be more and more productive.
// Remember: In order for the magic of planning to work - you HAVE TO DO IT! If you don't accomplish any other task on your list, accomplish the planning time for the next day, week, month and try, try again! I would recommend creating a reoccurring event on your calendar for each day, week, month and year (if you know you won't look at your paper calendar, put it on your phone).
// Realism: Let's talk about some grace now. The goal of planning is not to become a super-human that completes all of his/her plans all of the time! You will not always accomplish everything that you plan (actually, you probably won't many days, although you will become a better planner with time) - however you will most likely accomplish your top priority that you put at the forefront of your schedule. And you can't do that without deciding what your priorities are and making time for them. So, remember that the goal is not to accomplish everything, but to decide your priorities and make time for them.
TOOLS FOR SUCCESS
// Calendar - I recommend a calendar that has a monthly overview and a weekly/daily overview like this one, this one, this one or this one. You can jot down your monthly goals on the month-view pages and then put your hourly breakdowns on the daily pages. I like to use a paper calendar because it is easier for me to look at as a year and comprehend what is going on. I add important dates to my phone calendar as well which syncs to my computer calendar. If you work on a computer and prefer a calendar online - Outlook is a fantastic resource for hourly management and also syncs to your phone.
// Notebook - I use a simple lined notebook like these ones (Moleskin, Rifle Paper Co) that can fit easily in my purse or just stay by my desk to jot down anything from brainstorms, to ideas, to notes, to event plans. I use the same one for personal and work use and transfer the information to my computer when I am ready for the project and then just toss the notebook out when I've filled it. You can file it in your bookshelf if you feel the need. It's important to me to have only one notebook so that it stays simple. I don't have to wonder where I wrote something or decide which one to take with me.
// To-Do List - You can jot down your lists in your calendar if you have a weekly/ daily planner that allows you to or you can keep a small pad for those daily lists.
// Phone - It's vital to have a way to keep on top of things when you're not with your calendar or at your desk. I use the reminders app and notes app a ton on my iPhone. This way, I can remind myself to do something at a certain time when I'm out, or keep a running list of groceries that I have with me anytime I'm in town and can jot down ideas if my notebook isn't with me. Evernote is a much-loved app for note-taking as well.
I'd recommend having a strategy for staying organized. Keep one calendar, one notebook and one place for notes on your phone so that chaos doesn't abound. When it comes, yearly, monthly, weekly time to plan - you will know where everything is.
<< IN SHORT >>
I hope that this is helpful and there is one, if not a couple useful tools you can take away with you from this post. I know that not everyone loves task-managing - but I hope that the promise of making your goals a reality will make this doable for you! All my love,