I first want you to know, I’m totally against the idea of romanticising busy schedules. I see planning as a resource to manage all my projects and tasks so that I can have plenty of down-time to properly enjoy my lifestyle.
But there will always be those weeks where you just can’t escape it, and you know you’ll need to really 1) have a kick-ass planning system and 2) make some sacrifices during this time, until life goes back to normal.
We are closing in on the end of the year, to a time where days continue to get busier and busier! Whether it’s wrapping up the school term before the holiday break; taking on extra work shifts over the festivities; or holiday prepping, it’s all added on to our usual responsibilities! In light of this, I think it’s the perfect time to write a little about how I tackle overwhelming weeks with checklists and my plan of attack.
In just over 7 weeks I will be travelling home to Romania for Christmas til mid January. As over-the-moon and excited as I am, it also means that the next 7 weeks requires some intense and committed planning for me to be able to go overseas without a care in the world.
In this time I have to continue posting regularly on Organising my Chaos; create content and have them scheduled until February; create my second blog Watermelonzest with planned posts, and launch an online stationery store Fulje de Foi, all while managing my personal plans before travelling.
Planning out so many projects over so many weeks is harder than simply sitting with a planner and dedicating tasks to days. First I needed to do a little pre-planning to gather my thoughts and break down each task.
I love paper planning but checklists tend to live in the electronic world for me. I like having access wherever I am, easily making adjustments to it, and removing or adding to the list as necessary. Though I still print off a copy for important projects to have as a visual reminder at my desk.
Create specific, yet simple, checklists in categories
First I created 4 separate checklist sheets dedicated to each project individually. OMC, WZ, FdF and personal, where I wrote down everything I need to get done so that I can glance through and cross each job off as I go.
Though I kept each item simple, it’s detailed enough where I’m able to look at the next to-do and start immediately without further breaking it down. Instead of writing “write 12 blog posts” I wrote each blog topic I had pre-planned in my editorial calendar for the next 3 months (pre- during- and post-trip). Once my lists were complete, I color-coded each category for future planning and reference.
Put it all on one calendar for the “big picture”
I bought these undated monthly layouts from Kmart (rose gold and marble *sigh) but if you don’t have access to some, try these free printables instead. I use multiple planners so I can separate my personal plans from work and online commitments, but during a busy time I prefer to see all my plans and work grouped together on one calendar for an all-inclusive plan.
This will be taped to my wall above my desk for easy access and as constant visual reminder.
I used coordinating colored dots (Lily Pink Prints) within the calendar and started to add the tasks that had already been allocated specific dates.
This mostly revolved around blog posts and personal appointments. There are many things that rely on initial steps going to plan before I can set a date, so I listed them down in the ‘notes’ column until I have a fixed date.
Some of the items included on the calendar are “goals”, and though they’re still color-coded so I know which category I’m devoting time to, they are represented in a different way to those set-in-stone plans (dots for committed, arrows for goals).
The reason this works well for me is because I can look at each day as a challenge. Think of it as those daily workout challenges. Each day I’ve highlighted a off task is like it’s own achievement, even though it’s just a small part of a bigger task/goal.
And if you don’t complete it, it’s not the end of the world, because you’ve spaced out your workload in a way that you’re not doing it all in the last minute.
Yay for Frixion pens that allow plans to be easily erased and re-scheduled!
Once my monthly layouts are complete, I can sit with my daily planner, the Day Designer, and refer tasks scheduled for that day. I then expand on what I need to do to complete and cross it off my master list. It’s not necessary to have a daily planner, but if you’d like to try it, Day Designer have a free printable on their site.
By far, the most challenging thing for me, is to pace myself with the workload I take on each day. I’m convinced that I can complete 20 to-dos by lunch time and can get quite frustrated when my tummy is grumbling and I’m only on #3 down the list. Don’t fall into the same trap as me and allocate realistic times to your schedule. Remember to give yourself some creative flexibility and be prepared for unexpected things to happen and mess your plans up completely!
This is why your top 3 priorities are one of the greatest features of this planner (but can implemented into whichever planning system you have). As long as those 3 things are done then I feel accomplished for the day, and I’m on top of my schedule regardless of what else happens.
I’ve even scheduled in days that I will be writing drafts for future posts, with the idea that every day I will be working towards making each project a little easier to complete (even if it’s not the task of the day). This takes the pressure off me on days that don’t go to plan!
- Waking up earlier gives you ‘extra’ hours in the day. The morning tends to be the time we are least disturbed by other people and their demands. The early hours are also often our most productive hours before the day tires us out..
- Sit with your planner before bed or early in the morning and plan out your day with a clear idea of your priorities.
- Create a morning routine to promote good feelings for yourself and your environment, to start off your morning right.
- Minimise distractions, keep focused and no procrastinating! Power through so you can properly enjoy your down-time!
- Speaking of….. in our busiest weeks we often forget to take care of ourselves as we put everything and everyone else first. This is the fastest way to burn out, and to really forget to enjoy the journey and the process. Take time out to do what makes your soul happy, it will increase your productivity and your general wellbeing.
What are some of your strategies for coping with the demands of a busy schedule?