In yesterday’s post, I talked about the “activity circus” — which featured a lot of moving parts. I actually like the metaphor of a circus for a busy household in general.
When people say that life is a circus, they sometimes mean it’s chaotic. But if you’ve watched a circus, you know that’s not accurate. A three-ring circus is incredibly well orchestrated. No one gets shot out of a cannon at the wrong time. Everyone goes where they are supposed to go in proper sequence. There are generally even contingency plans for if something goes wrong — the clown can do another trick to hold the audience’s attention while something gets fixed in another ring.
I like to think that my Friday planning allows me to be the ringmaster of the circus of my life. Complexity isn’t the enemy. Chaos is. Things can be complex without being chaotic — and that is always the goal.
I will confess that sometimes my Friday planning becomes more like Thursday planning. Sometimes I like to get a jump start on things! At some point on Thursday I open the planner page for the next week. I have a Whitney English planner that has a spread for each week. The right page is just lines, and the left page has each day of the week. I put my priorities/main tasks for the upcoming week on the right side of the page. This page is bifurcated down the middle, so I can put my professional goals on the left half of this right-side page, and my personal goals on the right half of this right-side page.
I spend a little time thinking through what these will be. For both professional and personal priorities, sometimes things are already on my calendar (I keep a separate At-a-Glance weekly pocket calendar where I put time specific things). Some things are repeats (each week I do four or so blog posts, I write a weekly newsletter, and I create five new episodes of Before Breakfast). Some are steps toward bigger goals (working on a book proposal). Some things are preparing for something bigger a week or two ahead (say, practicing for a speech I’m giving the next week).
There isn’t a ton of space on this page — I mean, it’s like 6×9 more or less — and that’s fine. I’m trying to be selective in what I assign myself for each week, because I almost always end the week with everything crossed off. Like if I suspect I won’t do it, I will probably not put it on the list for the week. The goal is to make this weekly priority list a contract with myself.
(Over the course of the week, I migrate tasks over to the daily spots on the left page as I assign them to myself for each day).
Anyway, I start this process on Thursday because I like to be able to mull it over in the back of my mind. So then I take some time on Friday to confirm what I’ve put on the page and think about if there’s anything else that needs to be added, or if I should edit the list before the week starts (and consciously move something to a later week).
Because the planner week goes Monday-Sunday, this means I am thinking about the following weekend on Thursday/Friday. This tends to be a loose plan (because we’re talking about a weekend that’s 9 days away!), but it’s good to know what’s coming up, and where available space might be, if I’d like to dream up adventures.
Then, on Thursday, I send an email to my husband and often to my older children with the weekend plan for the immediate weekend (the one starting the next day). This is a tightened up version of what I planned the previous week. If there are open spots we might email back and forth about any additional ideas. The kids are supposed to let me know if they are making plans with friends (and I tend to leave enough open space that if a kid decides to do something last minute this can work – and they can sometimes get rides with friends too).
Then, on Friday I spend some time creating the family schedule for the next week. This takes more time than creating my own work schedule, as more things are time-specific. I create a document that says, Monday to Friday, what activities (or any school changes) people have, and who needs to drive who where and when. At this point, week to week, most activities are set BUT there may be one-off changes, like me seeing last week that the technology club parent + student meeting was at the same time as the alto sax lesson. This meant I could text the teacher on Friday to move the lesson scheduled for Wednesday — it’s much better if you need to move or cancel something to do it multiple days ahead of time. The other issue is with parent travel – my husband is supposed to tell me ahead of time if he is absent for times when he would normally be driving, so I can reconfigure the schedule. If I am gone, or if someone has a doctor’s appointment, or if there is a school half day, then obviously that has to be taken into account as well.
Anyway, I create this Monday-Friday document and send it to my husband and nanny. I’ve lately taken to printing it as well so it can sit on the kitchen counter and older children (or my mother-in-law, who’s been visiting) can review it.
I generally like planning my own time. I don’t mind planning weekends. I’m a little less excited about planning the family activity schedule, but I’ve usually got it down to a 30-minute process, and that 30 minutes is what makes this place feel (usually) more like a well-run circus vs. something chaotic. So I generally think it’s worth doing.
What’s your planning looking like these days?
Photo: Blank spread in the Whitney English planner. Note — I use a separate calendar, so I don’t put anything in my planner until the week before. Sadly, this week is not as completely open as it looks on this page…