Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

I am a crazy person when it comes to schedules.  So much that my boyfriend refers to me as “The Calendar Queen”.  This nickname isn’t unjustified, as at any given time I have at least 3 calendars I’m managing, plus some spreadsheets, and some to do lists on pretty much every recording platform imaginable.  It is the only way that I feel on top of my activities and properly prepared to accomplish everything that I have going on in my life.

I work a full time job as an Engineer (…a little different than dance, I know).  Then I teach dance for two difference companies locally in D.C., totaling 6 classes per week.  Add in strength training, yoga/stretching, a social life, travel, a long distance relationship, and an attempt at a healthy sleep schedule and you can say things get a bit… overwhelming.

I love living a busy life; it is definitely my norm.  I function best when I have a full plate.  However, nothing on that plate is going to get accomplished unless I know exactly what is on there and develop a plan of attack.

Everyone has their different approaches to organization, whether it be pen and paper, computer software, apps (if you have great ones- send them my way- I’ve been looking to streamline!), etc.  But I think one thing we can all agree upon is that “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

It sounds harsh, and yes, sometimes you can just fly by the seat of your pants.  But in most cases, well constructed plans put into motion will set you down the path to success.

Despite all my attempts at staying organized with my current technique (a customized blend of google drive and calendar, iPhone note, Amazon Echo, multicolored sticky notes, and even writing with dry erase markers on my windows), I’ve been feeling a bit lost.  I feel very discouraged when I can’t see the bigger picture and as counter intuitive as it is, when there is too much to do, I just want to shut down and do nothing.

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But instead of doing that, I’m going back to basics and using the good old fashion KISS method (“Keep it simple, stupid”… in an endearing way, of course).  I want to share with you my favorite three (simple) strategies that always help me get back on track and keep my head in the game.  Hopefully they can help you out too!

Strategy # 1: Schedule Everything

Seems like a LOT of work, especially when I’m already complaining about how much I have to do.  But by scheduling everything you will find out how to make the most use out of your days.

Things to schedule that you might not already schedule:

  • Sleep. Are you setting a cut off time at night when everything gets put away and you head to bed?  Instead of flexing your bedtime until after you get your things done, you should flex the list of things according to what you can get done before bed.  When you are well rested you can use your time more efficiently and you’ll be in a better mood (aka no more feeling irritable and/or overwhelmed!)
  • Social.  This includes social media, checking personal emails, phone calls, texts, etc.  Allow yourself to do these things but if you are super busy, limiting them to only one or two time slots during the day can drastically improve your productivity (we all know how easy it is to lose track of time on Instagram, YouTube, or in text chains!)  And as an added bonus- schedule these over an hour before bedtime. That way you aren’t all visually or emotionally charged when it is time to wind down to sleep.
  • Personal.  I like to take time to do a little pampering because- dammit!- I deserve it!  Small things like painting my nails, taking baths, meditating, naps, etc., make me feel better and should not be forgotten, especially when i’m stressed and need a pick me up.  So don’t feel bad about these things– DO THEM!  Just schedule them in.

Strategy # 2: Set 3 Most Important Tasks

This one is HUGE and really ties into strategy #1.  A lot of times we feel stressed and overwhelmed because we are looking too far down the line.  Of course we feel overwhelmed at a To Do List that is 90 things long!  But if we break it down, and see that there are only 3 things that MUST be done today, that seems a lot more approachable.

I have to give my boyfriend (that wise guy at credit for this one, as this is one he reminds me of daily.  “So what are your Top 3 for today?” he’ll ask me.  And sometimes I know he isn’t even listening to the answer.  But he isn’t asking me for HIM to know, he is asking me for ME to know, so I can stay focused, on track, and much less pouty.

So I encourage you to write out your Top 3 tasks each and every day.  If you want to write them in the morning when you wake up- great. Or maybe you want to set them the night before so you can sleep on it.  Awesome as well.  Regardless, only having three tasks will not only help you prioritize, but it will guarantee accomplishment.

Here’s the way I look at it: there are 24 hours in a day and I’ve been making a conscious effort to devote 8 of those to sleep.  So that is 16 hours to get shit done.  Monday through Friday half of those hours are traded in for a paycheck, so we will say 8 hours to get everything else done each day.  That seems like a long time, doesn’t it?  I know for certain that my three tasks can be accomplished within this window (even with classes, meals, and everything else), and I feel better knowing these three things slowly check away at that 90 item list.

Strategy # 3: Set Small goals

This one is very important for motivation.  Personally, I’m a big “why” person, and don’t take very kindly to a “because I said so” response.  I need REASONS for doing things.  And even better than reasons are rewards!  So lay out both for yourself.  Break things down by the week, or even the day.  “My goal is to accomplish my Top 3 and get 8 hours of sleep”.  See how many times you can accomplish that in a week… in a month.  Make check boxes and see how proud you are when you get to tick them off.  And then see how much better you FEEL with 8 hours of sleep under your belt and your “why” will be very apparent.

Breaking things out by the week can be helpful too.  If you want to lose 15lbs, that can be intimidating.  Why don’t you just aim for 1 lb a week, and then lay out ways to get there?  Take things one step at a time, as

Milestones and goal dates are great motivators.  A vacation, event, birthday, month mark, etc., are awesome examples.  Set that as your goal date, and then break up the path to get there into smaller, more approachable increments.  All of a sudden your smaller milestone dates will be almost as exciting and motivating as the actual goal and the entire process will be rewarding!

Do you have any fail-proof tactics that you like to use to stay focused, organized, and on task?  Comment below and share what moves you!  And don’t forget to sign up for the email list so you don’t miss a BodyBOLD beat!

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