How to Plan for Non Planners
Over the last few years I’ve had so many people asking me how I can manage to do everything that I do.
Between running three businesses with my husband, having two small kids, running a full-time non-profit for our community, and having a solid marriage and a life, it almost seems impossible to create special birthday parties for the kids or holiday experiences that create memories for a lifetime.
What I do is really no secret.
The truth is, I don’t get to do everything. An email reply might get missed, a healthy meal I wanted to make gets replaced with pizza, or a work project will go painfully wrong, regardless of my good intentions.
What we can do is try our best and in the end, there are a lot of things that we are able to accomplish and it all starts with your mindset. This is a concept that I have been working on heavily for myself for a couple of years now and still work on every day.
Here’s the first step: Focus your mind on what you truly want.
Forget about the things you don’t want or about what others seemingly might have. That will not help you focus on what you need to do. Keeping your focus on what you want and what you want to achieve will generate stronger results than if you attempt achieving your goals with one eye focused elsewhere.
For me, planning is crucial. If it’s not part of the plan or it’s something that is not planned out, it won’t get done.
For example, we do a lot around the holiday season. Christmas is a big deal in our house, as I’m sure it may be for many of you. Which is why the holiday season is so crazy for people. We do so many more things, including shopping for a long list of family and friends, planning get-togethers, arranging for photos with Santa, and a slew of other extras for the month of December.
Maybe you celebrate another holiday in December that is super important to you or have some other project that has several moving parts. Whatever that might be, planning early, for something that requires a lot of your time, is key to achieving all of the items on your to-do list.
When we bought our RV in the fall of 2021, I immediately saw all of the planning opportunities and my excitement started to boil. Between kitchen cabinets, the kids’ room, hook up tubes and accessories, cleaning stations, and not to mention the slew of adventures and memories we’ll be creating.
Exciting for me, and hopefully helpful for all of you.
Now, how do you plan? If you’re not a planner, getting into the habit of making a plan can be difficult. Not to mention actually following through with the plan you have created.
Our universe has created a multitude of options for all sorts of planning types. Choosing your tools to guide you along the way is key, particularly if you’re not normally planning. Whether its the classic paper and pencil, or using a newer digital tool, choose one that you are most likely to stick with.
If you’re always on your phone and never opt to write anything down, then getting a binder or planner is simply wasting your money. Stick to some online options, even your Notes app on your phone to jot things down.
STEP 1 – Create your Binder/Planner/Digital Tool
This is the part where you get yourself organized from the beginning. Starting here will give you no room to fail or miss out. Particularly if you’re not a planner, having the visual cue will offer reminders so you refer back to your plan and always have it on hand.
Decide on your planning tool. Are you a pen & paper person? Do you prefer using a digital tool? Decide on this first and get your tool ready.
You can start with some plain lined or graph paper or just regular sheets. Or find a planner that you can print on your home or office printer and assemble into a 3-Ring binder. This is my option of choice, so I can always see the binder on the kitchen counter, dining room table or other location that I simply can’t miss seeing it.
If you’re into the digital realm, Trello is an awesome platform for organizing tasks and project management. If you’re not familiar with Trello, it’s a super easy to use project management tool that is free for a basic account (which is really all you need!).
Once you get your binder going, take out a piece of paper, or open up a word processing document on your phone, tablet or computer and move on to the next step… The Brain Dump.
STEP 2 – The Brain Dump
This part is absolutely crucial to planning. On your paper or word doc, write out everything on your mind about your project. EV-ER-Y-THING. The goal here is to get it all out of your head and in a tangible place where you can read it. There doesn’t need to be any order or structure to this process, just get it out of your head and write it down.
Once you’ve got it all out, go through the list and put aside the things that, although nice, just simply won’t make the cut for getting done. Is it too expensive? Will you not have enough time for it? Be as realistic as possible, give yourself slack and make sure you keep the crucial details in place to get things going.
The idea here is to write out everything you want to do, but maintain a realistic mindset, so that you can organize it properly into categories. Each category will have its time and place in your plan, depending on your project and how you will be able to work on it.
Step 3: Organize your tasks/steps into categories, create a timeline and budget
All projects are different, so we’ll take the new RV as an example here. The categories I have split my tasks into are each room, plus a few extras like exterior requirements, outdoor campsite set up, and car items.
Breaking it down by room, I can create my plan, lists, and action items for each room. I don’t have a hard timeline for this project, so we order things and work on each area as we can.
Here’s another example. Let’s say we are planning for the holidays. Each category is a specific event or task for the month. So categories are Travel, Gifts, House Updates, Card List, etc.
Categorizing the steps in your plan will break the project into more manageable sections. Plans can tend to overwhelm when you see everything you have to do. Take it one category at a time, and make it easier on you to plan it out and get the project done.
Next to the tasks in each category, add your timeline and budget. How many days/weeks/months do you have to get this done and what will it cost? Giving yourself realistic values here will give you a better idea of how long your project will take and what the costs might be.
Almost always, timelines and budgets change, but giving yourself a realistic set up ahead of time will help you stay focused on each step.
In a simple form, you’re done planning! There can be many other areas to consider in your plan, and some planners have months of plan work for various projects. But we are doing this in a home environment and especially for those of you who don’t normally plan anything.
Let’s keep this simple. And the most important takeaway:
Accept that you cannot do it all.
While you certainly can accomplish many things and try to achieve most of your goals, if you give yourself way too much to do then you always feel disappointed that you didn’t get to complete something.
Your planning effort is here to help the process, not make things more difficult. Be realistic and intentional when you create your plans. And if you ever fall off course, remember to revisit your tools to help you get back on track.