The question I am most often asked when I speak on planning and organization is: “What do you do when it all falls apart?” Another way of asking this is, “I try and try and it never seems to work.”
These are broad questions, and there are so many possible reasons for a chasm to grow between the beautiful on-paper schedule and reality. Adequately assessing the reasons for this growing chasm takes time and specific questions. In this article, I hope to walk readers through a detailed evaluation of the possible reasons your plans might not be working out and what you can do about it.
I have found in my own life that I can become quickly overwhelmed when plans begin to fall apart and, at that moment, I have two choices. I can either fall further down and allow the day or week to close in around me, or I can take the time to sit and evaluate where the issues are and begin making a plan to adjust or change.
Real Life Evaluation
Here are some things that help me walk through my typical day and evaluate adjustments needed for the plan and real life to coordinate harmoniously.
Take a moment to reflect and list the items that make for a productive and accomplished day. This could include housework, meals, homeschooling, work, relationship activities, etc. At the end of the day, if nothing else gets done but these items, would you feel accomplished? To the right of this column, be sure to add an approximate amount of time that is required to complete each item.
Next, list the most common interruptions that prevent your “accomplished” list from being completed. This could include children’s attitudes, your attitude, sleeping in too late, sickness, social media, neighbors, husband’s work schedule, unhealthy relationships, doctor appointments, specific commitments, etc. To the right of this list, write yes or no if this is something that you have the power to change.
Before going any further, take a moment and calculate if you have enough time in the day to finish your accomplished list. If the answer is yes, then proceed. If the answer is no, then let’s begin here by adjusting expectations. Take time to reflect and discuss with your spouse the priorities for your family and begin to whittle down this list in order to accomplish it within the timeframe of a day.
This exercise is also very helpful when doing it for an entire week at a time. I have included a worksheet in the Well Planned Day Family Homeschool Planner called the Teacher Schedule that allows for you to have a bird’s eye view of an entire week and see clearly if you have enough time. With a manageable list to work with, let’s begin to work through interruptions.
Change What You Can: Next, write out each item you have the power to change. Below this, brainstorm and note ways you can implement change in each area. This could be implementing self-discipline, better training with your children, turning off technology, limiting or cancelling community or church involvement, etc.
Navigate the Unchangeable: For items that you have no control over, brainstorm and write out how you can navigate these situations. Navigating the areas of life that are outside of your control often comes down to relying on the direction of the Holy Spirit in the moment. I have found that practicing the fruits of the Spirit have been the most important tool in dealing with and responding in these moments.
Plan of Action
Upon reviewing all that you have written down, this now becomes your new priority. Whether that is scaling back on activities, honing in on training children with negative attitudes, or practicing more self-discipline. This could also be the point where you begin a new “accomplished” list based on what you truly can or cannot do.
Once you have all the data in front of you and have had time to reflect on the necessary changes that need to be made, the ball is now in your court. If we truly want to see positive results, we will wake each day with thoughtfulness to what we need to accomplish, what pitfalls we might run into, and strategies to work through and around these pitfalls.
In all things, we can plan and plan. We can strategize and read every self-help book and fill out every worksheet available and at the end of the day, the Lord is always and ultimately in control. Be sure to start each day with this awareness and acknowledgement. Seek him for wisdom on what he wants you to accomplish and how to use the pitfalls as instruments of learning in order to become more like him.
If you find it difficult to even begin developing your “accomplished” list, keep a journal of where you spend your time. This should serve as a beginning to understand what you are currently spending most of your time on. Remember to track your activities for three to five days to get a good understanding of your time.
Grace and peace.