Thoughts on Planning

Thoughts on Planning.jpg

I’m feeling a need to do some reflecting on the practice of planning.

I am a member and/or current devotee of three main personal growth programs.  First, The Life Coach School’s Self Coaching Scholars program (owned by Brooke Castillo) which has a monthly mindset focus.  Secondly, the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, a year long cohort program to help teachers maximize their time to find peace and be more efficient.  I’ve completed the year but it is so dense and amazing I have rejoined the Graduate program to eek out more value.  Last, I also closely follow Phit N Phat, a weight loss coaching program whose Queen Corinne trained with The Life Coach School, so the philosophies are similar.  While these programs may vary in topic, there is a strong thread connecting them:  effective, intentional PLANNING.

I hate to think of all the years I wasted pursuing a willy nilly approach.  And really, I actively pursued it.  In fact, in college I was a good planner, kind of natural.  The problem was that I also overdid it.  I overpacked my days and I got shit DONE.  I was in a go-go-go mode from about 18-25 years old.  Folks, no one should be burned out at 25.  So I turned to voluntary simplicity readings and study.  And I started cancelling things.  And scheduling less.  And slowing, and flowing.  And often, not planning anything.  And some of that was a gift – until sometimes it wasn’t.  Because in teaching, you can’t really just wing it.  And I tried.  (My poor students.)  I even left the classroom, thinking in a coaching role I could be less regimented with time during my workday.  It was somewhat true, but I also felt I was doing nothing many days.

Once I had kids, I started to really realize I had to make some changes.  I HATED planning meals, planning activities (especially on the weekends), planning basically anything.  And what that got me was being on childcare duty all the time, because my husband DID make plans, and have ideas of what he wanted to accomplish in a weekend, and since I didn’t, he went ahead and did his thing.  And I didn’t like that.  I was also rushing, frantic, and unprepared most of the time at work and at home.  I had to make a change.

It started about a year ago, first with the 40HTW Club.  I was also part of a mandatory coaching program that all probationary educators go through at work, so there was a huge focus on planning there.  We grouped our tasks by time periods (before school, mid day, after school, evening) instead of making strict appointments for each task.  We identified the main task to be done in order to do it first to feel the pride and reduced stress around having that done.  And that started to work!

In the spring, I found Phit N Phat and started planning what I would eat the next day and evaluate how well I’d stuck to the current day’s plan.  And I started to lose weight!

I was starting to like planning again!  It was getting me results, reducing my stress . . . then came September.

I joined Self Coaching Scholars six months ago and the whole focus of one month – September – was to plan out an “impossible” task per Brooke’s scheduling and planning system.  Basically, in this system you break down the whole task, you schedule every component into a set time, and you don’t allow yourself to exceed the time scheduled.  So I did this.  I scheduled the whole ambitious task for the month, and right away realized I hadn’t planned enough time in each slot, and also who-knows-what happened with the kids and I started to miss slots (ANATHEMA to the approach because really, that’s not honoring myself and my word) and got hopelessly behind and did NOT accomplish my planned goal.  So instead of having the desired effect, which was that we would build a ton of confidence and buy in for the planning system, it had the opposite effect for me, which was to confirm for me what I had been (mis)thinking for years – that planning is hard, that it is impossible to follow a plan, and that if you have kids you can forget even trying to have a plan.

I kind of threw up my hands on all personal planning, but did stick to the work stuff.  Thank God, because one day in October or November, I had nothing to do.  Unheard of.  I was caught up.  I was planned ahead.  And I knew I had to revisit planning once more for myself and my outside-of-work dreams.

Well, a few months later, I am realizing I perhaps overdid it in September.  I think I tried to do WAY too much, and didn’t acknowledge my limitations.  I have a new “impossible” goal, and I want to keep making progress toward it, even if in baby steps.  So I’m studying Brooke’s approach further.  She advocates:  scheduling your free time FIRST.  So one thing where I was mistaken in September was that I scheduled the whole month solid – not only did I choose that “impossible” task but it was our first month back in school!  What was I thinking?!  Ok, so now, there will be no scheduling of anything after bedtime.  It just won’t get done.  Or in the morning before school.  And, I don’t want to work all weekend on regimented stuff.  So that will be protected too.

One confusion I have looking forward is that also in Brooke’s system is that you weekly do a brain dump of all the to-dos rattling around in there, and then you schedule time on your calendar to do it throughout the week.  And then you throw away the brain dump list.  Well, I did my first one and cleared out SEVEN PAGES of to-dos.  I can’t do that all in a week – so then what?  Do I put it all back in my brain?  So another part of my planning evolution is that I need to make it work for me, not blindly adhere to any guru’s approach.  So, I need to have a running to-do list bank for a while until I whittle it down/eliminate some stuff from it.  That’s ok.  I will do that.  I had one going that I hadn’t updated in a while and so it must be time to do that if I had seven pages worth in there!

I think my very biggest thought work and logistics item is where to actually find time to do anything beyond my 8-4 and co-run the household.  We have two young children, and three aging parents – and two of them live an hour away.  I have an autoimmune disorder that is under great control right now and sleep is paramount in maintaining that.  My personal goals feel so insignificant in comparison to this day to day pressure.  I am puzzled about where to find more time.  I may add an afternoon a week of after school care for my oldest who is at my school so I can have an hour to do some business work.  I may do a go-out session every weekend to get some focused work time on it.  So I have a few ideas, but they involve escaping my family, so I don’t feel great about that.  But I also think it could be preferable to what I’m doing now, which is trying to sneak time, diverting my attention from them, parking the kids in front of the TV, and really getting not much of anything done anyway in the end.

Also, I need to make the weekly scheduling process inviolable.  If I reference my brain, my bank of tasks and actually DO make a realistic weekly schedule, I WILL start to honor it, make progress, reduce the amount of pending items, and feel better overall.

I’ll keep you updated!  Thanks for reading my novel!  It helped to write it.


3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Planning

  1. Full time work, parenting and household, and parental caregiving is a lot to manage. Congratulate yourself!

    I had kept a running to-do list for years and when I was working the crazy job I completely let it go. My only list was the work one, and it had plenty of neverending and impossible tasks to rob me of confidence and energy every time I reviewed it.

    This summer I recovered from the crazy job and revived my home list and took care of long-neglected areas of house and garden.

    I now keep my work list in Excel and if I had 7 pages (!) of home tasks to do, I would put them in a spreadsheet. It can be very simple (task, due date), or more detailed. I prefer this to an app because I can sort it in various ways, I can make it look exactly like what I need, and I can enter things by lightspeed typing instead of pecking on a phone screen.

    My latest addition to the home list, scheduling repeating tasks on my online calendar with an email reminder, is working well… those subject-only emails serve double duty, as both a task reminder and a gentle nag to get off the phone and do something productive.

    I’d be interested in hearing what you learned in the 40HTWC about maximizing time and efficiency.


  2. I’ll have to do a post on the 40HTW Club! I’d like that too, it’d help me deepen my own understanding and also maybe serve as a kickstart post for the new business I have in mind which will serve full-time working teacher mamas.

    I do keep a running to-do list, in my case in Trello, which I really like using. I need to remember to actually reference and schedule tasks from this list instead of ONLY and JUST the ones that will keep my head above water. Don’t get me wrong, it’s better to be above water than under it, but I also want to be swimming forward. It helps that my father-in-law has a decision about a move, because now we can plan for it instead of just reacting. That’s what’s really hard for me – just to be stuck in “ready to be on solo parenting duty for untold amounts of time and at any minute” mode.

    Part of this whole process is learning how to balance the wisdom of what’s out there without adhering blindly to it and if I don’t or am not able to, not beat myself up but learn from it, learn how to make it work for my needs, and move forward. One thing I really like about Brooke is that she talks about the future self. When I HAVE my successful business serving teacher mamas, when it makes enough that I have the option to leave outside employment (which at this point, I am loving and finding really fulfilling, so don’t know that I’d actually take that option, but I hate not HAVING the option – we need both incomes to meet the obligations we’ve signed up for) – well anyway, when I’m at that point, I won’t care that it took me a year, or two years, or three. Or five, or ten. Well, I might care if it takes me ten, if it’s because I’m just poking along unnecessarily. So that’s why I’m trying to see where I can get some forward momentum in.

    I did get a lot done today on snow/cold day #2, a few items are crossed off or in the works. That’s always satisfying. 🙂


  3. Sounds like you are merging some great strategies.
    If you have Outlook, you can make recurring tasks. If you put a time on the subject line at the beginning of your task, you can sort by time without having to make appointments for things that are ToDos, but don’t need official appointment status. The subjects in Outlook sort alphanumerically, so you need leading zeros to make it sort right.
    006:00am Shower and Dress
    010:30am Reading Group 1
    012:20pm Lunch
    1:15pm Grade math papers


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