Brand New Planner — Now What?

You have a beautiful, clean, new day planner. You’re ready to get your time organized. What do you do now?

First, think through your areas of responsibility. What do you have going on? Where is most of your time spent? Where should parts of your time be spent? Grab a blank sheet of paper and write them down. For example, Work, School (Class 1, Class 2, Class 3), Family (Date Night, Game Night, Housecleaning, Dinner with parents), Church (Sunday School, Bible Study), Health (Workout, Nap, Devotions), etc. These are the big chunks that you need on the page and don’t want to miss. These include both scheduled commitments and priorities.

Second, start writing down your set commitments (i.e., work schedule, school schedule, regular meetings or events). Because these things are at certain times, you need them on the calendar first. You will be working around these times for everything else.

When you are done, double-check your list from the first step to make sure you covered every area. Pull out school calendars, team schedules, whatever you need to cover all the bases.

Third, fill in time for your priorities. If you have school work, you’ll need to schedule time to do assignments, not just attend class. Map out your week, doing the hard things earlier — both in the day and in the week — so you are fresh and have plenty of time if you need more than you thought. If you attend a book club, block out time before each meeting to have the book read in time.  If you have chores that need to be done regularly and take a good chunk of time (30+ minutes), put it on the calendar. Make sure you include enough time but not too much. Your estimates need to be reasonable. Again, double-check your list to make sure you have everything included.

This is a great time to see how much you have committed to and how much time you actually have available. You have laid out your time and what you need to do with it. Do you have any margin around all that? You need room to breathe. You need room to be. You will also need time to take care of the little tasks that accumulate. Take a look again and see if you need to make any changes.

Now you have the framework for a useful calendar. You have the time-sensitive events and your priorities assigned to different parts of the day and week and month.

At this point, the key is to review often and keep to your schedule. Adjust when needed, but don’t ignore it. You’ve made the plan, now work the plan.

Action Plan Refresh

The school year is starting! This time of year is also when you may have made plans for how things will run on the new schedule. You may have goals for a new school year. Although we have touched on action plans already this year, today I’d like to spend a few minutes more on the steps involved — hopefully making it even easier to do.

Now, first of all, a good action plan is based on a clear goal. You will be set up for success when you start by knowing exactly what you plan to achieve and have a deadline. If you don’t know specifically where you are going, it will be hard to get there. So if you need to clarify how you are stating your goal, now is the time to do it.

Once your goal is defined, you can spend a few minutes brainstorming.

  • What steps will help you get to your goal? What actions will help? What supplies are needed? What has to be done to start? What will it take to finish? Do you need any resources to support your effort (i.e., books, training, input from experts)? Write down any and all ideas you have. Try to think through all the aspects and requirements during this time, and get it all down on paper (or screen).
  • Next, take a minute to look at all you have noted. Evaluate which ideas will work the best and do the most. Pick out the cream of the crop until you have enough chosen to accomplish your goal but not more than you need to do. Your action plan should have what you need but not have distractions or wasted effort.
  • With this list, you can break the work into manageable pieces (or bites of the elephant) and set your timeline. A timeline can be either dedicating a set amount of time per week, with at least one waypoint to check progress; or it will be lining up steps one, two, three, etc. Sometimes it will be a combination of both.For instance, you may dedicate time each week to completing a Bible study book (and check halfway through to make sure you are halfway through the work). Or if you are making a quilt, your action plan will be a series of steps (choose pattern, buy fabric, cut, piece, etc.) in addition to time dedicated. Your timeline will depend on your goal.

The only step left is to schedule your timeline. Block out slots for the weekly time you plan to spend on your goal. Set a target date on your calendar for each step in your project. The schedule for your action plan may need to move as other things come up, but you have something to aim at and milestones to keep you on track.

If you would like an infographic summarizing these action plan steps, see below.

Action Plan sm

My hope is that this helps your success! Working through the steps to create an action plan will make it smoother and quicker each time. Breaking down what is needed makes the project more manageable. If you run into any snags or have any questions, please contact me and I am happy to help. Onward and upward!