It is no secret that I’m a planner by nature. I know that about myself and those closest to me know it too. Planning ahead is a gift of mine and one that well equips me for the life I have. God knew I would need to be uniquely me to life this only unique life I have.
While being able to plan ahead is a gift, it is also a skill that can be learned and practiced. For those who have goals they want to reach, planning ahead is a skill that needs to be added to the life tool box. As someone who enjoys (and is good at) planning ahead, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that may be helpful.
Weekly review and preview: Take an hour or so each week (Fridays or Sundays seem to work well) to glance back and plan ahead. Look at the week that just ended and see if there are any tasks or projects that didn’t get done. What needs to be prioritized for the week ahead? What can be delegated to someone else or outsourced? What do you just need to let go? Look at your week ahead and place those roll-over items into your schedule. Where do you need help in the upcoming week? Do you have any conflicts that need to be cleared up? What are the priority items? Keeping in mind your already scheduled activities, write your action items for each day of the upcoming week. Finalize a menu plan that works with your daily activities (I plan crockpot meals on busy days/evenings).
Monthly review and preview: Take a couple of hours during the last week of each month to look at what you accomplished in the past month and develop your action plan and family calendar for the month ahead. What major things did you NOT get done during the past month (things like taxes, landscaping or home improvement project, date night, family fun day, visit to family)? What events do you already have on your schedule for the upcoming month? Have you set aside your weekly day for rest and play (Sabbath)? What do you need to do this month to reach your goals (professionally or with work)? As you look at your month ahead, make sure your personal, professional, or family events are scheduled (meetings, sports, worship and Bible study). Make a list of things that need to be scheduled (doctor or personal care appointments, date nights, girls night out, golfing with the guys) and pick a day to make those contacts. Look at what you need to do during the month ahead to move you forward on reaching your goals; add time into your schedule or add the tasks to one of the weeks in the month. If you have multiple calendars (digital, family wall calendar, personal planner), make sure all your calendars are synced and that family members know what they need to know about upcoming events.
Quarterly review and preview: Every 3 months (either by the calendar or by the change in seasons), take a day (or at least a 1/2 a day) and do some bigger picture planning. What went well over the last few months? What was missing or didn’t feel right? How do you want the next few months to feel? What changes do you need to make personally or in your family to make positive changes? How are you doing on your goals or intentions or priorities? Use this review time to mostly look ahead and consider major events coming up, changes in family schedules (like sports seasons coming up, school changes, moves or job changes), and big projects and priorities. If you know you want to do a major home project, looking ahead and scheduling that time to work on it is important so that you don’t end up with a million other little things that get on your to do list and then you never get to your project. The same goes for travel and family fun. The sooner you block out time on your calendar, the more likely it is that you will actually get to take the trip or enjoy the family fun day. Often what goes on the calendar first is what stays. If you are looking at work projects, or your work involves planning things for others to participate in, the sooner you get those project and event dates to your people, the more likely those events will have priority on their schedules too. Quarterly planning is time to take a higher level, bird’s eye view of your schedule, your plans, and your overall life.
Practically, how this works for me:
- Friday afternoons: look ahead to the next week, finalize and sync calendars (my digital, my paper, and my family wall calendar), write time sensitive tasks on that specific day, write weekly tasks on the day that works best.
- 1/2 a day during the last week of the month: spread out calendars and schedules on the dining room table and make sure everything is up to date, move karate nights (he typically goes only 3 out of 5 days a week) to avoid conflicts with other activities, make note of times I need help with transportation to kid activities due to Bill’s race schedule or work conflicts, schedule date night, schedule family fun day, write necessary tasks or goal work on the weeks that work best (as a general to do for that week), schedule blocks of time for tasks that are time sensitive (like reports, paying bills, reading assignments for my coaching class, website update work).
- Quarterly planning retreat: I’ve been going away to do this work because I need the time away AND I can think better when I am away from my normal environment. During this time I look at work projects and consider when is the best month for that work OR I think through what needs to happen in the upcoming months considering the projects that are upcoming. I also look at family activity schedules and plan family overnight trips or racetrack visits (these go on my and Bill’s calendar now, but not on the family calendar until the month before). I look at my goals and where I am with each one and consider changes that may be necessary to the goal or to my plan for reaching the goal. Sometimes things don’t work out as I hope and these quarterly reviews give me the opportunity to make shifts and adjustments moving forward.
It may seem overwhelming (or overkill?) to think about all this. Again, it works for me and what I need to do in my life. If it all seems too much, is there one planning ahead idea you might try? What do you do that works for you as you plan ahead to reach your goals? I’d love to hear your thoughts!