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Before I learned to plan, I flew through life by the seat of my pants. I was always rushing around at the deadline trying to get something finished. I was never early on anything.
I didn’t think about dinner until 5:30 and my stomach started growling. I forgot to ask off for work until the day before a doctor’s appointment. You name it, I did it. I didn’t plan. I thought planning was too restrictive.
I have since changed my tune about planning and now I love planning. I plan once a week what I’m going to do for that week. The easiest planning method for beginners is something called time blocking.
Time blocking (according to Todoist.com) is a time management system that allows you to divide your day into blocks (or chunks) of time. Each block is dedicated to a specific group of tasks.
Questions to ask (or think about) before learning to plan:
When are you most productive?
When are you the most productive? Are you a night owl or a morning person? Do you always tend to get a little sleepy right after lunch? Just realize when you’re the most productive will help you so much with your planning.
When do I start losing focus?
When do you start losing your ability to focus? For most people, it’s for sure when they’re hungry, but it can also be at other times too. Maybe when you get closer to getting off work or mid-morning.
When are my children in a better mood?
When are your children in a better mood? This will help you in planning activities with them. Generally speaking, most kids get cranky around nap time. Or maybe you have one child who is a night owl and one is a total morning person.
Preplanning: Before You Start Time Blocking
1. What roles do you have in life?
Think about the roles you have in life. What are the titles you carry? Wife, mom, employee, Sunday school teacher, therapist (for your child), cleaning lady, family finance guru, personal assistant to your special needs child, etc. What are all of the roles you have in life? Write out each of the roles you have. Write out the tasks you generally do in a week for each one of the roles.
2. What are your priorities?
When you’re learning to plan you need to know where your priorities are. You need to know how you want to make that person/thing a priority. If you said you want to make your husband a priority, what would that look like?
Maybe it means date night once a week and spend every night for 30 minutes together before bed. Just figure out what your priorities are and how often you want to spend making the person/thing a priority.
These are whatever appointments you have for the week. They can be anything from taking your child to the doctor, getting a haircut, or a pest control appointment.
Setting Up Your First Time Block Schedule
What you’re going to do is to group like things together and form a time block for them. You will weave these things into your schedule along with your priorities and appointments. So we need to create the blocks and add them to the schedule.
1. Add your priorities to your time block schedule
The first thing you always schedule is your priority time blocks. Whatever you wrote down previously for priorities needs to be added to your calendar in time blocks. When you add your priorities to your schedule first, you are giving them priority over the other things you have in life and saying they’re the most important.
2. Add in your appointments
The next thing you want to do is to add your appointments to the calendar in time blocks. Don’t just write out the time you think you’ll be in the appointment, you need to add the time it takes to get there and get back home (or work).
3. Add downtime
This one is hard for most moms. You don’t ever schedule in down time. You don’t think you have time for down time. You think taking downtime will mean you won’t be able to get everything done.
You feel guilty when you sit down to catch your breath because you think you’re being lazy and you have too much to do. Let me just break something down for you. You’re not exempt from needing to take breaks. You need to rest and recharge. You can’t operate on an empty tank.
Add in your other time block categories. These are the roles we discussed earlier. Disregard any tasks that were covered in your priorities section. These are the other things that are important like going grocery shopping, errands, creating a meal plan, etc.
Create a theme block (like make phone calls) and put the time on the calendar. Example: You make all of your phone calls on Tuesday from 8:00 – 9:00. So on Tuesday from 8-9, you would block out your calendar for phone calls. Then when you get a phone call, you will add it to that block to make sure it gets done.
5. Add in buffer time
You need time to switch from doing one task to another. You can’t stop one task and start another task immediately. You have to have a little bit of time in between. It takes your brain a minute to go from one task of mind to another. Slow down, schedule buffer time, and allow yourself time to get started on the next task. You can start with 10 minutes in between each time block.
You can’t just keep doing things the same way without seeing if they actually work or not. You need to analyze what’s working and what isn’t.
If something’s working– great. Keep doing it.
If something isn’t working– you need to fix it.
Just ask yourself why something isn’t working and what steps can you take to figure out why it’s not working and fix it. For example, if you want to cook dinner, but you never do, figure out why.
Why are you not cooking dinner? It is because you plan on doing elaborate meals, but you’re too tired to cook? Is it because you will leave out half of the ingredients because you didn’t meal plan before you went to the grocery store? Figure out why something isn’t working and fix it.
Planning is a skill. This is great news because it means you can practice and get better. Anyone can get better at planning. You don’t have to be born with a natural tendency to plan. You don't have to have a type-A personality.
You don't have to be born with a love of planning. You can just plan. Planning will help you work on the tasks that matter to you and get them done?
Want to take this work to the next level? Be sure to grab our free Create a Smarter Schedule workbook. After completing the Create a Smarter Schedule, you’ll be able to make your busy schedule a little more manageable. The best part is it’s totally free. You can grab access to this life-changing workbook by clicking HERE.