Do you want to start using a planner to make sense of your time management, but you feel intimidated by the actual process of planning? Or perhaps you were an organizational rockstar at one point, but it feels like your wherewithal has flown the coop?
You’re not alone.
Most women have (or currently do) struggle with those same feelings. Even the ladies at Team Evergreen are intimately acquainted with them!
These feelings of inadequacy can pop up every time we transition into a new season of life, such as:
- having a baby
- leaning into a new style of homeschooling
- recovering from a crisis
- seasons of illness
- new work hours
- coming home after a long trip
Change is a reality that we regularly have to grapple with.
With change comes new dynamics. With new dynamics comes the need for new skills.
The good news is that using a planner can help you gain your sea legs a whole lot faster.
Start Making Sense of Your Time By Recording How You Spend It
This is a lifestyle crafting hack that the ladies at Team Evergreen fall back on regularly.
If you don’t feel confident with the plans you’re making, don’t keep fudging. There’s no shame in taking a step back and deciding to rework your strategy altogether.
The best way to use your planner in these re-orientation seasons is to track how you are spending your time. This is a world-class time management strategy that is recommended by top productivity experts because it works.
You can be as intensive or as relaxed as you want with this exercise.
Many people who know they’re wasting loads of time will require themselves to account for every half hour they spend for several days. This helps them to see patterns of responsibility avoidance, external distraction triggers, and areas of their lives where they need better boundaries.
Others just casually sit down in the evening and fill in their timeblockers with a general flow of how the day went. This helps them to identify recurring events, brainstorm proactive rhythms, optimize their timeblocks, and troubleshoot scheduling conflicts.
This practice is gold for life transitions:
Having a baby. After taking time exclusively for healing and baby snuggles, many mamas who use the Evergreen Planner like to start tracking their baby’s nursing and sleeping habits with the timeblocker. This helps them to see how their baby’s needs interplays with the rest of their household and their work, and helps them to begin designing gentle rhythms. Focusing on the joy of caring for a new life while grappling with the challenges of time management can help you build positive associations with these new problem-solving responsibilities.
Leaning into a new style of homeschooling. This has been an especially relevant topic with the pandemic having so many students suddenly homebound. Even before the pandemic, home educating families are very familiar with steep learning curve coming with every new school year. It can take so much pressure off of you as an educational facilitator to stop expecting yourself to have a perfect school plan that is guaranteed to last you for the rest of the semester. Instead, try using your planner to simply track what you have been doing for school each day. You can have a short list of daily targets that you keep nearby so you can evaluate your progress and make adjustments throughout the day. Otherwise, just keep your eyes open for the learning experiences your students are having, and make a record of them. (Observing the child is actually a key practice in Montessori circles!) This will give you so much rich data for making small but powerful adjustments to support their learning journeys. Having a strong record will be a serious confidence-booster for you, too!
Recovering from a crisis. When unexpected emergencies hit, it’s natural for your rhythms to fall away as you launch into survival mode. But after the storm has passed and you’ve taken some time to just breathe, your planner can help you start getting some things on track again. Sometimes, emergencies significantly change us or our dynamics. Instead of just trying to go back to the way everything worked before, try restarting just one or two key things that still make sense in this season in order to regain a sense of stability (e.g. set meal times, naptime, bedtime rhythms, getting up early, etc.) With everything else, let your expectations be gentle. From there, you can begin to build out new rhythms anchored in those one or two key habits you’ve rebooted.
- Moving. This can feel like throwing your life into a blender and then still trying to navigate it with 2/3rds of your worldly possessions in cardboard boxes. (Actually, that’s exactly what moving is.) It takes time to unpack and organize your new house, build muscle memory in your new kitchen, figure out new cleaning routines, and identify the best new day for running errands. Shelby has a ridiculously copious amount of experience with moving, and she’s found her stride in quickly re-establishing a strong morning rhythm and then using the afternoons to rapidly improve the state of the house. Once things are 80% functional, taking a few weeks to try on new rhythms and then reflect on what’s working and what’s not has helped her minimize the disruptive aspects of moving.
- Seasons of illness. Time management during or after seasons of illness is very challenging. (And that challenge is compounded when illness is chronic.) Unreliable sleep, learning new supplement / nutrition / medicine routines, time draining appointments and research sprints, and the negative effects that illness can have on your motivation can all flow together to erode your best rhythms and habits. However, regaining a sense of control and personal responsibility is vital for the future health of the home. The planner is excellent not only for tracking health regimes and building in margin for healing—it also gives you a platform for getting laser focused on the non-negotiable priorities that will improve everything else. Once you’ve streamlined those priorities, you can begin infusing new life into your days by trying new things and then reflecting on the results.
- New work hours. Because work is a non-negotiable for at least one parent, work schedules often provides a sort of template for the rest of the household. When work hours change or a deadline grows closer, it tends to significantly affect all of our other rhythms. (Not to mention the impact that a global pandemic can have on everything.) Using your planner to chart out new work schedules and then record how everything else interacts with the changes can be an incredible exercise. This helps you map out all of the new territory, and inspires you to be creative with the time you do have.
- Coming home after a long trip. Being away from home can do a number on your family’s sense of “normal.” As fun as adventures are, getting back into the swing of things afterwards can be areal challenge! It can help to focus on re-establishing a strong morning rhythm, and then to use the afternoons to get things back in order. Rebooting one or two key rhythms from your pre-trip schedule can do so much to recover a sense of stability as well. But to really get your mind back into “normal life” gear, take some time to write down all of the things that are coming up next in your week, your month, and your quarter. This will rapidly reorient your mind around future realities, and help you re-engage your proactive muscles.