Three Tricks to Planning
Working moms don’t have time to waste. You need a plan! But planning is not always intuitive. Sometimes it feels like it’s just another chore! In order for planning to be useful, it needs to be natural. And that means you need to create the systems that will allow you to plan as part of your daily life.
There’s a few tricks to planning as busy working moms. Here are my three favorite ways to turn planning from just another to-do into a cannot-live-without essential.
Use Technology to your Advantage
These days, we have so many options. It’s a far cry from the Palm Pilots and personal devices of the 80s and 90s. We have desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and combination devices! And they can all sync up, meaning that you can go from your computer to your tablet to your phone and seamlessly view the same content.
Technology is a game changer for working moms on the go.
One of my favorite technological tricks is to use digital alarms. Since I almost always have my phone on me or nearby, I set a variety of alarms to help me stay on track. Each alarm is labeled, so when it goes off, I can be instantly reminded of what I wanted to do. And since they can be scheduled to repeat, I can set it and trust that I’ll be alerted, ongoing.
Alarms work well for daily habits.
Use them to remind yourself to drink more water, move more (ie. Time for a walk, do 20 jumps, etc), or take vitamins. Even if you simply dismiss without doing anything, you’ll be more aware of the time passing in your day – so dinner time won’t necessarily arrive without you noticing!
Another one of my favorite technological tricks is to use the hands free options.
Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, or Microsoft Cortana all work the same way. Use a catch phrase to turn it on, and your device will “listen”, interpret and do your instructions. You can tell it to look up something for you when it crosses your mind and your hands are busy. Or to set a reminder for yourself later to make a phone call, clean up or organize something, etc. You can even use it to add to your grocery list or task list while you’re in the middle of cleaning out the fridge, for example.
Similar to using the technological assistants, use voice-to-text technology to create “notes to self”. Brain dumps are awesome ways to clear your mind. But when I’m tired, I don’t necessarily want to write it out. So I can use voice-to-text technology and say it out loud. My device will write it all out for me. Or if I have to get out a “conversation” with someone out of my head, I can say it out loud and the voice-to-text software will write it out for me. Then I can go back and edit it, and determine whether or not to send it via email, or just delete it. Either way, it’s out and I feel better.
Make Planning Visual
With so much to take our attention, often it’s out-of-sight, out-of-mind. Planning can be harder when you don’t see it. So make your planning visual. There are more than a few tools you can use to help you keep your planning front and center.
One way to keep your planning visual is to create a Family Command Center. This is usually a calendar, pens or markers, a spot for mail, a spot for all those reminders and important papers (ie, school forms), and something to leave reminders on. If you keep it updated, everyone in your family can know at a glance what’s going on at any time. Plus, seeing the visual reminders will make sure that you pay your bills on time, send in those permission slips and get that birthday card – before the date!
Having all the tools in one spot also helps you save time.
You won’t have to hunt for the bills to be paid – they’re all there with the mail. Your kids know to put their school forms right where you can see them. And if you keep pen, envelopes, stamps and other supplies there, you won’t miss any special event. Make your family centre work for you, so keep the frequently used tools there. (Maybe even tether them, so they don’t walk off!)
Another way to make planning more visual is to use charts and checklists.
I created my own cleaning checklists to help me remember my daily, weekly and monthly housekeeping tasks. I’m also creating a chore chart for my kids, so everyone can pitch in. Maybe you need just a daily routine chart for your get-out-the-door mornings. Or you can use just a before-bed cleanup checklist. Whatever you use, keep it in a spot where you (or the person using it) can see it. That way they’ll use it!
A third visual planning trick is to use a menu! If “What’s for dinner” is a daily decision hassle, take the fuss out of the question. Plan ahead with a meal plan, and create a monthly or weekly menu. Post it where everyone in the family can see it. And if you’re really ambitious, you can even teach your family to help out by checking the menu and beginning dinner prep, instead of asking you what’s for dinner!
Build your planning into your routines
Pausing to plan can sometimes feel like a waste of time. But when you don’t do it regularly, it is a waste of time. You have to start from scratch every time you sit down to plan! Make planning useful by building it into your routines.
I plan on a daily, weekly, monthly, seasonally and yearly basis.
Twice daily, I’m reviewing my weekly plans to remind myself about my menu, my to-dos, my appointments and anything that might be coming up soon. I look over my daily plan every morning, and I create the next day’s plan every evening.
Weekly, usually on Sunday afternoons, I’ll review my monthly plans and create my weekly plans. This is where my day-to-day life is managed.
Monthly, usually on the last weekend of the month, I’m checking over my seasonal plans and yearly goals, and making sure that I have the important events on my radar. I’ll look ahead for special events like birthdays or anniversaries, and the notes I’ve made about making appointments for doctors, dentists, or oil changes.
Seasonally, I’ll take a few days (like on a long weekend) and I will plan out our weekly activities, since they change with the seasons. It’s baseball in the spring and choir in the fall. I’m also checking for vacation plans, and updating my business project plans.
Yearly is when I plan vacations, put in our school schedules and mark all those special dates. I mark potential dates for birthday parties and note when I should be planning major shopping trips (such as back to school or Christmas shopping!) I also put in my seasonal and monthly planning dates, so that I make the time for them in my planning!
Yes, you have to plan to plan! It won’t happen if you don’t put it on the calendar.
What are your favorite planning tricks?