Whenever we go away on a trip, we prepare. We arrange for time off work, book a flight or, if it’s a road trip, we might get the car tuned up. We do laundry, we pack, we dig out our passports (or heaven forbid – we have to get new ones!), maybe check into travel insurance or visit the bank to get out some foreign currency. We may also arrange for someone to check the mail, feed the cat, and water the plants. Simply put, we plan ahead, because we know that advanced preparation will result in fewer hassles, less anxiety and amore enjoyable time. Why then, for our day-to-day lives, are we not always quite on top of our planning game?
Why do we need to plan?
The few minutes it takes to make a daily plan can save several hours each week. By thinking ahead, strategizing and collaborating, we are far more efficient; this applies to every area of our lives – both at home and at work. For example, the night before a presentation, I pick out my clothes for the next day. It takes 2 minutes, but it’s entirely valuable as it avoids any last-minute wardrobe emergencies; you know…finding a stain, tear or missing button and then the morning spirals into chaos, which is never a good way to start the day.
Further, managing time and planning ahead has psychological benefits. We’re calmer and more focused when we’ve mapped out our day and tackled our ‘to-do’ list like a boss. Just think about those evenings when you’ve gone to bed with emails caught up, the bills paid, dishes done and lunches made for the next day. Not only do we have reduced stress, we’ve earned that extra time the following morning to enjoy! Planning ahead is an invaluable life hack; to reach our goals, perform well and find success, we can’t just ‘go with the flow’ and see where the wind blows us, we have to take control, and get organized.
Sometimes we may feel too busy and tired to work on time management skills or to plan out our day, but that’s exactly the time when it’s most essential! It’s a technique that gets results, every time. I get how busy life is. I have a fulfilling (yet demanding) career, recently completed my master’s degree, volunteer in my community, do my best to remain active, and I have two young children as well as a brand-new baby. It’s because of careful planning that I can find balance and fulfilment, enjoy time with my family, and every now and then squeeze in a great workout or an outdoor adventure! Our personal goals shouldn’t get cast aside because we failed to plan properly, they should be part of that list every day.
There are terrific time management tips to better plan ahead that I draw from; here are a few:
- Take time the night before to establish your plan for the following day.
- Use a to-do list. Writing down goals and activities makes it much easier to stay on track.
- Factor in possible setbacks, interruptions and delays; we can’t always have smooth-sailing days.
- Don’t forget to include time for taking care of yourself and doing things that bring you joy.
- If the list is too overwhelming, start over with smaller, more manageable activities or ask for help.
- Don’t over-plan; leave some time slots blank for…whatever. If we get too scheduled or rigid, we take the fun and spontaneity out of life.
- Reflect back on each day – what worked, what was positive, and what we’re grateful for.
We’ve learned a lot about time-management in this blog series, such as the value of time blocking, the importance of saying no and also how to better prioritize our tasks. Making small adjustments or improvements to these will reap real benefits and free up that oh-so-precious time that seems so elusive. If we want our days to be better, more enriching or just more chilled out, we need a plan. Just like that vacation we carefully prepared for, our everyday lives can also be more gratifying with a simple, thought-out plan.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry