8 Tips for Getting Out of Planning Mode
I’m a dreamer and a slow processor; it takes me a while to “warm up” creatively most days. Ideas have to percolate in the back of my mind for a while before the vision becomes clear and I can take action. But I’m also a hopeless planner—I live by my notebooks, Evernote, and my bullet journal, always jotting down changes to the schedule, upcoming events, things to remember, and lists upon lists upon lists. I tend to fall into the trap of always planning and not actually accomplishing anything beyond the everyday basics.
Are you an internal processor like me? Do you have trouble getting out of your own head and taking action? If so, perhaps these tips that I’ve collected for myself might be helpful to you too.
If it can be done in five minutes or less, just do it. Don’t put it off, don’t write it on your list. Just do it, and those annoying little tasks won’t pile up over time and become easier and easier to put off until whenever you have a big chunk of time to do them all at once. It’s not likely to happen, and you’ll just stay overwhelmed. Start small, and you’ll find it will clear more time for the really important things.
Write it all down in a “brain dump”. Anything that you need to remember, upcoming events, ideas, etc…dump it all in your planner or on a piece of paper, something in which you can collect all those thoughts. Then, sort it all out into actionable steps and schedule them so that you can get them done. Then, do it! Don’t sit around looking at your planner all the time or constantly reorganizing your thoughts. (This is where I get most stuck.) Put your planner away, trust it to hold your plans, and then get up and do the next right thing.
Mind Maps: What They are and How to Use Them by Modern Mrs. Darcy
Minimize decision fatigue. This is something I’ve really been working on lately. I’m paring down my already pretty small wardrobe to only what I really love so that I don’t have to try three different outfits every morning before deciding what to wear. Menu planning, grocery shopping, bill paying, physical and digital clutter, all these things can be reduced and automated to make your life smoother and cut down on your overwhelm. The fewer decisions you have to make on little things, the more mental energy you have to spend on what really matters.
Create habits and routines. This goes hand in hand with the above tip. When you create a habit, you spend less mental energy deciding what to do because it’s already set up for you. Morning and evening routines, tacking tasks onto others, scheduling time every day for the same chores, whatever it is, it’s worth the work to set it up.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Know your limits. If you can only handle two or three evenings out a week or one extracurricular activity per child or no weekend activities at all because your week is so full, then plan accordingly. Set those “personal policies” and own them! (Make sure your family is in agreement before enacting any that bring any big changes to the status quo.) Right now, I have limited energy and my little guy still naps every afternoon, so it helps me keep our activities only in the mornings. If we go out and do something in the morning, it’s usually better to not schedule something in the evening too. I’ve found that working within those limits keeps us happier and less exhausted.
Use timers, alarms, and other “helps” to your advantage. I love the new screen time feature on my iphone! It’s great to set limits on apps I use often (ahem, Instagram) and keeps me focused on using my time on them intentionally instead of getting caught mindlessly scrolling. I also love to use a reminder to shut things down and start getting ready for bed at a certain time so I get to sleep early, although I’m still working on getting up when my morning alarm goes off!
Don’t multitask. In a world that is becoming increasingly distracted and connected to everything all the time, it’s easy to feel productive but really only end up being pulled in ten different directions and accomplishing little of value. Focus on one thing at a time, and if something comes to your mind in the middle of it, write it down so you can come back to it when you’ve finished. Even little tasks are done more efficiently when you can put your whole mind to it.
Plan your planning. This last one sounds a little funny, but it really helps when I feel overwhelmed by all the things I want to accomplish but need time to think through it all. Taking an hour or two to work through planning a project, or scheduling the next month, or setting goals for the year, or just reorienting myself after a busy week or two really keeps me from getting overwhelmed and stressed and then stalling out on things I know I need or want to do. So make a “planning date” with your significant other or alone, get away to a coffee shop or clear some space at home and enjoy the process.
Sally Clarkson talks about this in her book, Own Your Life
I love having a great list or a neatly scheduled week, but let’s face it, life is messy and it’s easy to get sidetracked or feel like we’re never on top of things. But we can move past the planning to actually accomplishing our goals with a little intention and hard work. In the words of my toddler, “Let’s do it!”
Hope you have a productive week!