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Can your planner help you get back on track?

I’m feeling cautiously optimistic. It’s starting to be a little more sunny, a little warmer, and the end of lockdown home-schooling is on the horizon. January has been one long slog, and it’s had me asking: Can a planner get you back on track? 

The struggle of juggling mom-life and with running a business is real, and I’ve struggled. For me, this comes in the form of negative thoughts, a lack of motivation, tiredness, guilt, and a hefty dose of imposter syndrome. Can you relate? So this time round, my planner setup has been much more focused on how I’m feeling, rather than what I’m doing; let’s face it – I’m an introvert who works from home during a lockdown, I don’t have any plans. That doesn’t mean my planner can’t be a valuable tool to get me through the week.

So my question for you is, if like me, you need a bit of a boost, how can your planner help? 

Your planner can remind you of what’s important.

I like to add quotes on vellum, journal cards or dashboards throughout my planner to stop and make me think occasionally. I also like to have a task card set up with my ‘Get on Track’ list; a list of things that will always give me a boost when I’m in a slump.

Your planner can help you to maintain good habits. 

Have you tried habit tracking in your planner? Weekly or monthly habit tracking can help you identify small changes you could make to your day that will add up to have a really positive impact. More than anything, they give you a dose of realism; it’s easy to spot how well you’re doing when it’s all there in front of you. I like weekly habit tracking, but I only remember to do it if it’s alongside my main weekly pages. At the start of the week, I reflect on what I need to do better, and pick a few habits to stick to for a week to help. Lately it’s been a daily house tidy at dinner time, sticking to my meal plans, making time for a planner session, and taking some time to relax. If that’s not a cry for help from a lockdown parent, I don’t know what is!

Your planner can give you a sense of balance.

It’s not a new concept, or even my concept, but I like building in a wheel of life in my planner to help me work out how much balance I have in my life. I’m terrible for going into a crazed ‘project mode when I get a burst of inspiration; I work until I’m burned out, but the satisfaction of completing a project makes me feel like it’s a good way to work. The wheel of life reminds me that there are other areas of life to work on, and success is only success when it’s across all areas, rather than to the detriment of some. Having this type of reminder in my planner at the start of every month reminds me to stop and think what I’m doing.  

Your planner can help you empty your head and give yourself a sense of calm. 

We’re all busy. Even with no plans, we’re busy. Many of us have that non-stop chatter of ‘Oh, I need to…’ and ‘I mustn’t forget to…’ and ‘I wonder if…’ that will rattle around our heads. This will often be the cause of not sleeping well, having a general feeling of anxiety or overwhelm, or just being generally preoccupied while you’d rather be enjoying something different. Luckily it’s easily fixed. We’re not meant to be carrying around all of these thoughts; all they do is bubble up when it’s not the time to deal with them, and cause a whiff of anxiety when it seems like you almost forgot about doing that thing you’ve been meaning to do. Our brains are best when it comes to acting on these, or problem solving, not great at giving us reminders. All that’s needed here is to have a space to empty it all out on paper, either to be sorted though straight away, or somewhere where you can return to it when you’ve had more sleep and more coffee. My favourite thing for this is a brain dump insert – somewhere to gather all of my random bits and pieces ready for me to tackle when I have time. 

Your planner can remind you what you enjoy doing and what to do next.

One characteristic of being in a slump is the inability to enjoy stuff. This is the same sort of thing whether it’s a temporary lifestyle-induced dip in mood, or something more biochemical in nature. It’s hard to think of things that might help, or that you might enjoy when you’re at the bottom of a slump, but your planner can have pages to remind you of things that you can get excited about. This may be pictures of places you’d like to go, holiday plans, wish lists, TV show lists, reading lists, or just a list of those little pleasures that are easily overlooked when you’re tired and burnt out. My personal favourite? Giving my cat a kiss on the top of her head because she smells like gingerbread. Heaven. 

Your planner can give you an excuse to do something creative.

I’m a grab-and-go kind of planner. At the moment, I try and snatch some time each day to see what I was trying to do at the start of the week, and write down my important tasks for the day. But, each week, I really enjoy getting my stickers and coloured pens out and setting up each week, or even better, the month. It’s nice to be able to do something slow and creative. There’s something therapeutic about writing and just taking time to plan. 

Your planner can help you to build a gratitude practice.

A gratitude habit, ideally a daily one, could make a massive improvement in your mood over time. It’s something I’ll revisit in a later post since it’s been the topic of such a lot of glowing psychological research lately. There are many gratitude planners available; I’m sure I’ve owned a few over the years… but having a space for this in your daily or weekly planning is so useful. You’re more likely to complete it if it’s right there when you’re using your planner.  

Your planner can do the thinking for you when you can’t.

Imagine yourself at your best ever point; maybe it’s going back a few years, maybe it’s even in the future. What would that version of you say you like to do each day, week or month? What sort of things would they like to be doing to keep themselves going in the right direction? This is the sort of thing I like to put on a task card. At times when it’s a struggle to get out of bed, or when you’re craving a fresh start at the start of a new month, it’s the sort of thing that can just give you a gentle nudge. 

So if your planner is just filled with dates, deadlines and tasks, and you’re feeling like you just need something a little different, what’s missing

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