As an avid planner user, and a planner creator, I can't help but give myself a hard time when I start to spot blank space in my planner. Admittedly it happens to me only during the stressful seasons in life. When times get stressful or hella busy, we tend to rely on our hustle more than our habits.
So here we are, drowning in our unwritten task lists - simply trying to keep our heads above water.
It's almost like that fight or flight instinct we come with is missing a very important component - a plan. Stressful times are not always predictable, but if we know overwhelming days are ahead, we need to chisel in a little planning time so we can keep our heads on straight when the storm comes rolling in.
Whether it's health, relationships or our jobs - we all encounter stresses. No one is immune to the little hiccups that life presents. Both managing and alleviating stress is vital for our emotional wellness, so it's important we tune into any tensions.
For me, I can spot the overwhelm as it's happening The blank space begins to appear. My typical full page plans start to dwindle to half pages. And then half pages start to dwindle to quarter pages. Now, I'm the kind of planner that writes every single thing down, so if you ever catch a planner page with 5 - 6 tasks - I'm either sick with the flu or feeling overwhelmed.
Knowing in advance about your blank space patterns may help you keep your pages fuller, and - as a result - your stress lower.
When life gets hectic we tend to get into go-go-go mode. You know the one. We're trying to think faster, move faster and multi-task like a champion. If you're like me - the "noise in your head" turns itself right on up. We start to feel overwhelmed when we're inundated with work and feeling defeated. Isn't it typically during times of high stress that we lose our keys, spill our coffee, or look for our phone before realizing we're talking on it? I know for me that these are the times I find my remote in my fridge and my shoes in the pantry. All of that overwhelm can quickly turn us scatter-brained! When we get into this can't-stop-won't-stop-scatter-brained mode, our planners simply don't make the cut.
The ironic thing is that taking a moment to pause and plan could provide quite a but of relief during stressful times. But, clarity may not be our forte when under too much pressure.
So, when in high stress, let's take a pause and hold our planners tight. They could very well be the life-rafts that we're looking for.
Relieve Overwhelm with a Braindump.
In or out of your planner. Heck, grab a legal pad or a sheet of printer paper if you have to - but write everything down. Take a few minutes and without much thought, write down everything that's on your mind. Those tasks you need done, the chores you haven't done, the friend you haven't called back or that birthday gift you need to send. Transfer all of that stuff that's causing chaos in your brain onto a sheet of paper and for a moment, feel a sense of calm.
Having a Plan makes you more Productive.
Take that brain dump and start to organize your thoughts. Put each task into a category and prioritize appropriately. Now get to work! Use the "snowball" approach, and start with the biggest priorities first. Getting those big tasks done will give you a sense of accomplishment - and accomplishment helps to relieve feelings of overwhelm. Remember not to multi-task if you can help it. Taking on a single task at a time allows our focus to be more tuned-in to what we are doing, allowing us to be more effective and efficient.
Plan your Time, Protect your Time.
Once you've begun working on your priority list, you may find it helpful to time block. Use your planner to find blocks of time for the bigger projects. This will ensure you allot the appropriate amount of time you need to get things done. We tend to under-estimate the time it takes to complete a task, so allow yourself appropriate buffers. Now, once your done blocking time for projects and tasks, be sure to protect a block of time for yourself. Give yourself a short technology free walk, a cat nap or 5 minutes to meditate - a clear mind will help you get back to work with a little extra pep in your step and space in your head.
We have to be reminded, that we plan for a reason. We plan because it helps us to feel more productive and more effective. We plan to find balance in our lives for our to-do lists, and for ourselves. We plan so that we can be sure we don't get so caught up in the day to day whirlwind that we forget to take care of our bodies and our minds.
So the next time you find yourself becoming a stranger to your planner, battling some overwhelm - pick up that planner and channel your inner TSwift.
"Nice to meet you, where you been.
I can show you incredible things"
Every stressful season gives you an opportunity for grace and greatness. And your planner can help you every step of the way.