“Can you drop her off a little later tomorrow?”
“Ok!” I said.
This was the conversation that took place between myself and the person that would be watching my daughter. That’s all it took. One question, one answer. Simple. I created my plan for the next day, taking into account the later drop-off, and continued on with my evening.
That wouldn’t have always been the case with me though.
My early systems
My system for planning has evolved a great deal over the years. From my earliest memories of it, back in high school and college, I hand-wrote everything onto sticky notes. Monday through Sunday each had their own, detailed, thought-out plan.
But alas, when things inevitably changed in my schedule, it would send a ripple of destruction across my desk.
For instance, if something moved from a Monday to a Friday, my whole system fell apart. Because instead of just revising those two notes, I would have to change them all: things from Friday move to Thursday, things from Tuesday move over to Monday.
I’ve surely blocked out many of my experiences with revising and rewriting. Of the hand cramps withstood. Of the calluses hard-won.
Eventually, I started using digital sticky notes on my laptop.
Ones that could be pulled up and changed as needed, without requiring a full redo. But that too was imperfect: my entire week would be planned out ahead of time and, once again, if something changed on a Tuesday, much time would be needed to sort and adjust my schedule.
My system was becoming more accessible (ie. digital), but still wasn’t flexible.
Adding rows and columns
From digital notes, I moved to an Excel spreadsheet. In much the same fashion though, I’d find myself annoyed whenever a plan would change. Even if it was a plan that benefitted me!
All because it meant more work, more hassle, in having to update my many rows and columns. Instead of feeling gratitude for whatever invite I had received, I’d feel frustration. How dare they invite me to that fun event!
Don’t they know what kind of headache they’ve caused me?
Clearly, this version was bug-riddled as well.
It wasn’t until my honeymoon, many years later, that I adopted the system I now use. While traveling, I didn’t have my laptop and so couldn’t update my schedule. Which wasn’t a big deal, but I wanted to stay on top of our itinerary.
To see and do all the grand things we wanted to see and do.
And so a change was needed.
Instead of relying on my laptop and Excel, I pulled up a Google Doc on my phone. And instead of creating a detailed, minute-by-minute plan, I kept it light, only jotting down the main things we wanted to do each day.
A better system
This new method of planning was much easier. For one thing, I could access it from my phone, meaning that I would no longer be tied to a laptop. Furthermore, it was lightweight. If an activity needed to be moved to another day, I could simply change it.
There were no timetables that required adjusting. I could just cut and paste to the new day, making any minor adjustments needed. Thus, saving a great deal of time and frustration.
Where previous systems were somewhat accessible yet rigid, this new method was highly accessible and entirely flexible.
What I do today
Though a little more nuanced now, I still use a version of that system today.
On Sunday, I plan out a loose structure for the week, taking into account any meetings, appointments, or mandatory action-items. Then I create a detailed plan for the following day. One with specific start and stop times.
Thus allowing me two things:
- The ability to know exactly what I will be doing tomorrow
- An option to zoom out and see what else I have going on throughout the week
Let’s assume that today is Tuesday evening. I would have two things on my Google Doc. First, I would have my detailed plan for Wednesday. Something like this:
- Wake up 6
- Dressed 610-650
- Drop off daughter 650-820
- And so on and so forth
Then further down on the doc would be something like:
- Weigh in
- Meeting with so and so
- Bring out trash cans
- Dinner with so and so
- Water lily plant
- And so on and so forth
The example continued
As Wednesday would come to a close, I’d pull up my Google Doc and create my detailed plan for Thursday. When Thursday arrived, I’d check the plan throughout the day and make any adjustments, ensuring that I got everything done (or moved things I wouldn’t have time for).
As Thursday winded down, I’d create my detailed plan for Friday, and so on and so forth.
Then, on Sunday evening once again, I’d list out my big items for the week and create my detailed plan for Monday.
The two things your systems needs
It’s that simple.
Now, if you’re thinking to yourself, umm… that’s not very simple, Corey… You should have seen the mess I was dealing with prior to Google Docs.
Furthermore, you don’t need to copy my system verbatim.
The reason I share it with you is so that you can see how I do things. Let it sink in, let it give you ideas for your own system. You don’t need to do it exactly like me, but to be intentional with your time, I do recommend having some sort of system.
One that ensures two things:
- And flexibility
Moving forward with accessibility and flexibility
You may have the best system, but if you can only access it when you’re home, it’s not useful. It may be accessible, but if you’re entirely rigid with it, you won’t benefit like you could.
So moving forward, make sure that your system for planning is both highly accessible and entirely flexible.
Have the option to look at your schedule anytime, anywhere. Have the ability to adjust it simply and without fuss. Create a system around these two concepts and you will have something powerful. You will have the means to direct your time and be open to whatever new, grand things may come along.