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Developing the "Think Ahead" Skill--It's a REAL Job! Series #5

Planning Ahead
Image by Hey Paul

As I've mentioned before, I'm not naturally organized. Naturally, I'm a last minute kinda girl. A Procrastinator of the Highest Order. A half-way, half-hearted, "let's hope this just works out" sort of woman.

But as I found--especially when I got married and even more with each child added to our family--this approach simply doesn't work long-term. The fact of the matter is that in order to be a successful manager of any kind, one needs to develop planning skills.

Generally speaking, highly successful CEO's do not run highly successful organizations flying by the seat of their pants. They just don't.

As home managers, we too must realize that in order to operate our homes successfully we must become planners. No matter how it goes against our grain or stretches our capabilities, it's simply a skill we must obtain.

There is so much that could be said about the art and science of planning, but I'd say it's primarily about developing a "think-ahead" mindset.

Since this blog is written from the heart of someone who had no clue, I'm going to gear this post to someone like myself. For those of you who were planning your life from inside the womb--just read along for fun, OK?

So. Let's start with the basics. For the totally uninitiated.

1. Write your job description.

If you haven't done this already, here is a post about the hows and whys of writing your job description. A job description answers the questions "What am I here for?" "What are my priorities?" "What is God asking me to do with my time?" This valuable tool will act as your planning filter as you break down your time into weeks, days, and hours. Anything that isn't part of your job description doesn't need to be on your plan.

2. Have a WEEKLY planning session.

Set aside the same 30 minutes each week for a planning session. It might take you more than 30 minutes at first, but once you get the knack it won't take so long.

Here are the basics to cover during your weekly planning session:
  • What will we eat? For ten good reasons not to plan a menu, read here.
  • Where do we need to go? (Errands, appointments, playdates, etc.)
  • What do I need to do? These are definitely items you need to make sure line up with your job description. Be reasonable about what you think you can accomplish in one week. Then cut it down. Those of us who don't have a clue are notorious for underestimating how long things are going to take.
Now take all these things and divide them up into your next six days. Leave one day pretty much free. God instituted a day of rest for a good reason!

3. Have a DAILY planning session.

This is where the rubber really meets the road for us totally clueless planners. Without a daily check-in to fine-tune our plans, we probably won't be very effective. The daily planning session should be about 15 minutes long, max. It's purpose is to reacquaint you with your plan for the day, and to give you the opportunity to reevaluate your plan. You might realize once you reach Wednesday that the plan you made last Saturday is no longer adequate. Perhaps you had a sick child, or you overplanned, or something else came up. This is the time to tweak.

Here are the basics to cover during your daily planning session:
  • Note what you're making for dinner. Do you need to put prep steps into your day?
  • Remind yourself of appointments. What time do you need to leave the house and what do you need to take?
  • Note which items on your list are your priorities with circles or stars or whatever works for you. As your day goes on, if you need further tweaking, you will remember to focus on the things that matter most.
  • Sort your tasks and appointments into loose time slots. It works best for me to be pretty flexible here. I decide what I'll do in the morning and in the afternoon, but I don't have fifteen minute time slots.
Here are some additional resources I recommend for planning:
  • The Homeschool Mom's weekly planner and menu planning sheet (One of the sheets I currently use for my weekly planning session.)
  • Simple Mom's Daily Docket (I use this currently for my daily planning.)
  • Graceworks Purpose Planners (I'm actually in the process of switching some of my planning sheets over to this beautiful system. It's more expensive, but so beautiful!)
  • Shopping for Time (I highly, highly recommend this book as a more thorough introduction to planning and time management. What I love about it is that it's focused on God's plans for you and how the Gospel should be part of your planning.)
I'm tellin' ya, girls--if you aren't a planner already, these things will revolutionize your life! I know they did mine. Developing a "think-ahead" mindset has definitely worked for me.


Erin said...

Oh, Brianna, I LOVE those planner sheets! Thank you so much for sharing! I've seen so many planner sheets but none ever seem quite right for my lifestyle (doing my devotions, homeschool plans, blog notes, etc), but these seem to fit the bill perfectly! Your tips for how to do a weekly and daily planning session are spot on, as well. :-)

Wendi said...

I love my Graceworks planner pages - I currently use the Daily Planner pages and the Simplicity Planning pages - they are so pretty!

Anonymous said...

I am LOVING this series!! I need to add your "It's a REAL Job" series button to my blog so I can come back again and again! Thank you for this!

Kirsty said...

I love this, thank you! I will definitely be back!

Audra Krell said...

I tend to fly and fall by the seat of my pants. Now that I have two teens, it finally seems time for more organization. These are great how to tips and helpful reminders.

Your Frugal Friend, Niki said...

I love the Simple Mom Daily docket and use it every day!


What a neat series you have you!

Ginger said...

Planning, scheduling, and prepping ahead are always a good foundation. Now, if we could only stick to them... ha!

Hoosier Homemade said...

Awesome post! We all need this no matter how organized we are.
Thanks for sharing!

Taylor at Household Management 101 said...

This is soooo true! Thinking ahead is really the best way to save yourself time and your own sanity. You know the saying, those that fail to plan, plan to fail. So true in life.

Specifically, in regard to cleaning, I have found a weekly plan and a daily plan that I do every day whenever possible, really seems to help keep things together. That way I don't have to make a new plan for cleaning each week, just follow the same schedule.

Amy said...

I'm printing this schedule and menu planner out right now!!!! Thanks!!!

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