I’m standing in the kitchen surrounded by sounds of children playing. They are deep in a building project, discussing the best placement of blankets and pillows for their “house.”
My mind is running a million miles an hour with ideas, dreams, goals, and projects. I clearly have a window of opportunity, but I stand paralyzed, unsure of what to do first.
That used to be my reality. When I had a spare moment to myself, it took me forever to figure out what to do and I would feel guilty for wasting that time. And when I wanted to be engaged and present with my kids, my mind would not turn off.
I decided I would get a planner, a tool that I relied on heavily in my single days but had abandoned completely once I held my first baby in my arms.
I wanted a planner that would have a place for every thought in a way that would turn ideas into actions—not forgotten items on a long list. But I couldn’t find one that met my needs. So I spent the next three years building a system that would let my brain rest, while still allowing me to build a strong family and move forward on other personal goals.
Part of the puzzle was discovering and building an organized command central. I created spaces for papers, different weekly to-do lists, and context lists that I could refer back to no matter how long the pause. But I still had a lot “on the brain” while watching my kids at the playground.
I needed a place to record all the amazing ideas I was getting without committing to getting them done at a specific time. I needed a space to see how they could all fit together. I needed a place to see my growth—to celebrate what I’m learning, accomplishing and becoming—and to remind myself about self-care.
I needed a place to take my vision of what I wanted my life to be and break it down into actionable, bite-sized, weekly pieces so that I wouldn’t find myself standing in the kitchen with time to make progress and no idea where to start.
Since I couldn’t find a planner that could do everything I wanted it to, I designed my own. It started as a simple notebook where I created the pages I needed as I needed them, and it is now a product that I offer to others.
Armed with my planner, command central, and a few planning routines, I am now able to live in the moment with my family and intentionally create a beautiful, engaged life for all of us.
And this is possible for you, too! You can use any notebook or planner that you already have. You just need someplace to record things.
Now here are the planning sessions that I use to plan my year most effectively:
- Create my “Vision for the Year”. First, I begin with a review of the previous year and an assessment of where I am now. Then I create a list of my values, gifts, talents, and needed self-care as they relate to who I am right now. Next, I dream big and imagine what my life could look like in a year. The final phase is creating specific goals, habits, and projects that will take me where I want to go.
- Quarterly Planning. I use four pages to break the year into quarters and I use this as my sandbox to brainstorm ideas. I take my goals and spread them throughout the year, 2-3 per quarter. I add in our family traditions, project ideas, travel ideas, activities, etc. If I hear an idea I want to try, I write it in a relevant quarter. I do this big-picture thinking to create a meaningful, balanced life in the course of a year. I add to and change this as the year progresses—this isn’t a place to commit, but to visualize and dream.
- Monthly Planning. At the beginning of each month, I plan out my focus, projects, and goals (from my vision and quarterly planning); brain dump nagging tasks; and note self-care activities that will be most impactful for me during this season. As the month progresses, I take time to celebrate by recording things I discovered, tasks I accomplished, adventures I had, books I read, and other things I did with or for my family.
- Weekly Planning . Each Sunday night, in my planner, I write scheduled appointments for the week and day-specific to-dos. I write my focus for the month, daily habits I want to track, and my meal plan for the week. My favorite part is choosing my three priorities (big three) for the week to focus on—one for me, one for my family, and one for my business or another project. Then I go through and write the next action steps in my context-based to-do list as well as any other tasks that need to happen this week. When free moments pop up, I’m ready to use them productively!
- Daily Planning. Each day, I review the next actions for my big three for the week and decide which ones I’ll focus on that day, in addition to that day’s specific to-dos and appointments. At night, I try to do one thing to make the next day easier.
- Quarterly Reviews. Every three months I sit down and review my life and determine what’s going well and what needs to change. This is also a time to evaluate my vision and goal for the year, and determine what is relevant and what I want to work on for the upcoming quarter. I also do a life assessment to see where I need to give more attention to this quarter. Taking time to zoom out each quarter allows me to plan my months, weeks and days most effectively.
This might seem like a lot—and it is—but it’s worth it! I developed these habits and systems slowly over time. But now it is simply a matter of opening up my planner and getting to work. By using this system, it is possible for every mother to experience a clear mind while building a strong family and moving forward on important goals.
QUESTION: What is one thing that you have always wanted to try that could be part of your vision for next year?
CHALLENGE: Choose one of these planning sessions to try out this month. Start with the one that solves a problem you are having right now or gets you the most excited. Baby steps add up!
Edited by Sharon Brown and Kimberly Price
Image from Unsplash via PicMonkey