The techniques of planning

I sometimes get confused at how many different ways of time-management and planning there are. Each method of planning has it’s pros and cons. There is no “one right way”, and personally, I think we should use each method at different times, depending on what we’re planning for.

Bullet journalling for creativity

Bullet journalling is popular, and for good reason! This is a very pretty form of planning. I get mesmerized watching the videos about bullet journalling. I wish my handwriting was that neat!!

Bullet journalling is when you use blank pages, a variety of markers, pens, stickers, notes, and wasabi tape to create a unique planner and journal. Since you create your own page templates to use, bullet journals are fantastically flexible. However, they also require a ton of time to set up.

Pros for this planning technique:

Use bullet journals when you need motivation to track and maintain habits, or a place to let ideas freely flow. You can draw out your inspirational quotes, make pretty trackers that will encourage you to come back to them, and write out long term plans.

Cons for this planning technique:

They do not work well if you need to continually update your plans based on frequently changing situations. After all, erasing and rewriting (or white-out!) isn’t all that pretty. And if you need to make new pages frequently, you’ll be spending more time preparing to plan than actually planning, and that just wastes your time.

Brain dumps for clarity

Not many people use a good old-fashioned brain dump, it seems. We want to self-censor or organize as we go, and that can get in the way of a brain dump.

A brain dump is when you grab a notepad and a pen with good ink (or a good sharp pencil!) and you just write down everything that’s on your mind. Every project, every “I wish”, note to self, remind me to … goes on the paper. You write down all the household need-to-fix, the home décor or improvements you keep meaning to make. And you jot down the new recipes you want to try, or the people you want to invite over. And you record the appointments you need to make, the phone calls you’ve been putting off and the books you wish you had more time to read.

Pros for this planning technique:

Brain dumps help put down on paper all those little stray thoughts and mental notes that are cluttering up your brain. They’re in no particular order, with no priority or attachment made. They help to clear your mind and dredge up even those little things you’ve forgotten but didn’t want to.

Cons for this planning technique:

Brain Dumps are great for helping to ease anxiety and to organize your thoughts. After you’ve gotten it all out on paper, you can go through and make lists. But they aren’t great if you are going to be overwhelmed at all that’s on your mind and that you want to do. And they’re useless if the items you put down on your lists don’t make it into your plans!

Getting Things Done techniques

In the early 2000s, a businessman who coached executives wrote a book called “Getting Things Done”. David Allen’s technique is now a well-established time management and productivity resource, that anyone can adapt and use.

While there are several principles a busy mom can practice, three stand out as the most useful. One is the “categorized list,” another is “if you touch it, do something with it,” and the last is the “two minute rule”.

The Two Minute Rule:

David Allen suggested that when organizing something – whether that’s decluttering a desk, creating a to-do list, or planning a vacation – if it takes less than two minutes to do, do it right away.

If It takes less than 2 min to do, do it right away. –From "Getting Things Done" by David Allen Click To Tweet

This keeps little tasks from piling up, getting missed or being put off. It also creates a motivational wave, as you can check things off your list right away, and you feel the rush of successful accomplishment.

Don’t Put it Down:

He also suggested that if, in organizing something, you touch it, you should do something with it. That means you need to decide what to do with it.

Sometimes it’s the Two Minute Rule, and you can put it away, mark it off your list and it’s done. Other times, it needs to go on a categorized to-do list (more on that in a minute). Or maybe it’s something you can just toss, as no longer relevant.

And then there are the things you need to keep as reference or tools, so you put them in their right spots, for use later. No matter what, you aren’t just moving things around from one pile or list to another.

Categorize your To-Dos:

Finally, the third technique is to create categorized lists from all your organizational efforts. That means that you put things and tasks near the tools you’ll need to do them.

For example, you’ll put library books beside the mail you need to post, and the grocery list with them, for when you go out to do errands. And you’ll put your emails to send, online banking to do, and questions to look up on a list you keep near your computer, for the next time you sit down to do computer stuff.

That way, you’ll remember what you’re supposed to do, when you’re there to do it. No more coming into a room and forgetting what you were there for!

Loop scheduling for flexibility

Many of us cannot work on a schedule, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s the crazy busy family you’ve got that requires you have a lot of flexibility (and patience!). Or it’s a personality thing. Or something else just makes a tied-to-the-clock schedule chaos-inducing rather than a solution.

Loop scheduling takes the crazy making out of the scheduling. Rather than scheduling certain tasks for certain times, you put aside the time for a different set of tasks, and go through your list. So where some people would wash towels on Tuesdays, and the kids’ clothes on Wednesdays, loop scheduling simply says “laundry”, and you wash whatever is next on the list of things to wash.

Pomodoro for productivity

Pomodoro breaks down work projects into bite-sized tasks. It’s another super popular task- and time-management technique that busy moms can adapt.

Rather than trying to carve out large blocks of time in our already busy schedules for projects, this technique breaks down your time into short intervals, where you “hyper focus” on one project, and then take frequent breaks.

This works great when all you can find is 20 minutes to work on one thing (because that’s how long the cartoon is!). When you have young children at home, using a pomodoro technique can help you power through your tasks, because you can then set up your kids with activities, put timers on, and everyone can focus on their stuff.

And knowing there’s only so much time means you’re much more likely to focus on what you need to do, rather than getting lost scrolling Facebook.

This doesn’t work so well if you get regularly and frequently interrupted. But even the busiest mom can use this technique occasionally.

Planning doesn’t have to be difficult.

When you use the right tools and techniques, planning helps you get things done, rather than adding to your to-do list. If planning is more of a chore than an essential part of your life, there’s something not working right in your system. Take the time to find out what’s broken, and make the adjustments. Because when you have a plan, everything is easier!

What do you use to help you stay on track? 

Create your plan today!

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