It's the most wonderful time of the year- the time when kids are out of school more than they're in, when calendars and schedules crowd with shopping, errands and parties, and when work is pleasantly forgotten in favor of celebrating with family and friends.
Oh and one other thing looms large, it's just about time to retire your planner for this year and dive into a new one. If you're anything like me, the search for a new day planner begins about 3 months before your current one hits the last month. Some mom bosses have one they swear by and don't plan on switching from, and some are constantly on the search. But it never fails that finding a new planner becomes a hot topic in groups online ever December.
There are literally hundreds of day planners, calendars, agendas, goal trackers and schedules to choose from. And of course since we all walk around with mini computers in our purses and pockets, there's an app for that too!
I used to search and search for "the perfect planner" year after year - I started off with the Franklin Planner back in high school. In college I moved to a Day Timer. As an adult, I've used the Day Designer, the Simplified Planner, and various apps on and off... but something was still missing. Finally, I realized that it wasn't the planner's fault that I wasn't being productive or that I was feeling disorganized. I had to take a long, hard look at my lifestyle, and how I was organizing myself before I made the mistake of expecting a planner to keep me organized.
The hard truth is, an expensive planner is not going to make you suddenly organized. What it will do is drive you crazy and act as an expensive paperweight if you don't develop a system to use it effectively. Here are the 3 mistakes I was making that kept me feeling disorganized, and how I fixed them.
1. I was not being intentional about planning. I tended to write things down on the fly on whatever piece of paper I had laying around, and I almost always forgot something. My brain was just too packed and I wasn't giving myself the space, mentally or physically, to de-clutter.
The fix: Create time in your schedule to do the planning! I do this 4 ways- yearly during my goal-setting, planning & strategy sessions, monthly to review and update what's on deck for the month, and weekly. In order to be your most effective, you absolutely MUST set aside time to review your to-dos and your plan. I schedule everything: meal planning, chores, errands, family time, client work and time to work ON the business. Then daily, I take 5 minutes to review my schedule for that day and the next. Doing this helps me stay clear on what's ahead and keep moving forward.
2. I was putting things in too many different places. If I was at my laptop, I'd quickly add appointments to my Google calendar. If I'm in the car or on the go, it would go into my phone. And if I was planning ahead with my planner in front of me, then I'd write it in the book. Doing it this way meant everything got written down, but also meant double bookings and total schedule confusion.
The fix: Sync your calendars on the regular. Weekly, set aside 15-20 minutes to review and sync your calendars. I used to do this on Sundays, but I now like to do this on Friday evenings. I take all my post-its, my Google calendar on my phone, and my big planner (I use a Simplified Planner), find a good spot- usually my dining room table, and spread out. Then I write things from my phone and post-its into my planner, and note things in my planner into my phone. A unified schedule means nothing gets overlooked or double-booked.
3. I was trying too hard to keep everything in my head, writing stuff down, but not referencing it. Then I realized, the tools only work if you use them.
The fix: Relax about not knowing everything and review your schedule regularly! Now I take a few moments every day to look at what I've got coming up for the day, the week and the month, and make sure that I'm not overbooking myself, and that my tasks and activities are still aligned with my overall goals. This last step is the most important- it is so easy to get off track in the busy-ness of life as a mom-preneur. In the midst of wedding season, this one task helps me to stay focused and moving in a purposeful direction.
What's your biggest challenge when it comes to planning? Share your thoughts below.