Don't we all want to find success in planning? To set goals, arrange a schedule, and manage tasks which always - yes always - end in triumph? Yet, no matter how hard we try, it just never happens.
In reflecting on how I might communicate that today, I asked ChatGPT what a good tag-line might be for this article. I don't usually use GPT, I was turned onto the unique site last year when going through a workshop which was intended to help expand my business (just before my business went to sleep for most of the year! Ironic, I know). But I digress... ChatGPT wasted no time in tapping out a top-ten list I couldn't help but be impressed with (shhh, don't tell Ashley, she is very anti-AI, and I don't blame her!) Some favorites were:
"From Vision to Action: Mastering the Art of Planning"
"Blueprint for Success: Navigating the Planning Process"
"Plan Your Way to Triumph: Unleashing the Power of Strategic Thinking"
"Charting Your Course: The Ultimate Guide to Thoughtful Planning"
"Planning for Success: Transforming Ideas into Reality"
"Beyond the To-Do List: Strategies for Purposeful Planning"
Hmmm, I don't know about you, but these quotes make me feel READY for action! Ready to succeed. Ready to jump into whatever comes after -end quote- which will surely equip me for long-terms success in my planning ambitions. However, after so many years of experience, I know there is a catch.
In re-reading my books a few weeks ago to prepare for re-launch, I found a new appreciation for the angle God led me through in writing them - they are not so-much a 'boxed' plan of how to do homeschool, but rather, an outline of a concept and a cheer to encourage readers to take each next step. I wondered, at times, if perhaps this approach was too weak, yet, I realize, it is actually the strongest course one can take... and not just for homeschooling, but also for many other avenues in life - especially planning.
In March I will celebrate 50 years of walking about this planet. (well, actually, I spent the first 6 months rolling, crawling and being carried about it!!) 32 of those years have been in the blessed capacity of homemaker. I never had a full appreciation for "planning" as a youngster - it was all just matter of fact: do your homework, study for tests, show up to work on time, and so on. Life is pretty much planned for us by the adults in our sphere. Then, we become the adult in our sphere and suddenly, we have to make all the plans, meet all the check points, and pass all of life's tests.
As a young mom and wife I slowly realized the importance of tracking and planning for the smooth running of our household. From the big obvious things like doctor's appointments, sports, lessons and family time to the smaller yet equally important tasks of meals (prep and regular meal times), bedtimes, bath schedules, shopping excursions, house cleaning, yard tasks, and so-on. FlyLady helped me find my groove - it took time - she also sparked in me an avid desire to be a planner. To this day, my happy place is jotting down notes which help put life and/or things in order!
Yet, like my homeschool advice in the This Homeschool Life series, even planning is more of an over-arching guide each person has their own fill-in-the-blanks for. I always felt like I was doing it wrong. My plans never stuck. ChatGPT's great bi-liners and so many "How-to" books out there KNOW THIS. They will inspire us, even sell us a ton of in-the-box tools guaranteeing planning success, but at the end of the day, making a good plan stick is near impossible. Or at least it can feel that way.
In recent years I have come to understand and wholly accept how planning is more than just this great Biblical advice:
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9 ~
Holding things loosely so God can work without bumping up against our stubbornness is just the beginning... it is also embracing seasons. It is knowing that life changes - constantly.
Ages and stages of our kids
Sickness and health
Job struggles and successes
.... the list could go on. Each change has both short term and long term impacts and before we know it, our "plans", our schedule, changes as well. Nothing is wrong with us when this happens - change is the most normal thing about life! I never could understand that though. In our up and down life: in and out of ministry, struggling and succeeding in finances and school, struggling and succeeding in relationship... I was certain my plans and schedules were never lasting because it was just me - I was getting it wrong.
Actually, I was getting it right.
Because each change, struggle, and success also brought with it a bending and movement in our plans which allowed me to grow, accommodate, and even change when necessary. Holding all things open handed before the God of all blueprints, strategies, and charted courses, helped me embrace the role of first mate rather then demanding to be captain.
It took practice though.
ChatGPT isn't wrong when it uses strong phrases like "Strategic Thinking" and "Thoughtful/Purposeful Planning". To put things in God's hands does not mean we do not take action ourselves... to think strategically or be thoughtful and purposeful about the process... it simply means we trust God with the outcome and we lean into him for the process.
As we practice the art of planning in the face of life's seasons, we can ask good (strategic, thoughtful, purposeful) questions like:
What does my day actually look like right now?
Recognize the ebbs and flows. Acknowledge demands on your time, realistically. Know your family (and your) needs... and be willing to take new actions when any of these points go through change.
What would help my day flow better?
Do you need to let-go of certain things in order to flow better with the stream of your day? Are there areas you can reasonably redirect the flow? Sometimes we hold to hard to what was, like grabbing a hold of a branch jutting into the water, assuming it will save us when it is only forcing a stronger flow around and through us. There may be better ways to navigate the stream (or raging river) of life. It may require laying rocks... other times it is more beneficial to knock them down.
Would a planner or checklist or organization system help me stay on task?
These tools don't work for everyone... while others can't live without them (I'm an 'other'!) Whether you try a simple spiral notebook you can can use to jot quick lists and plans in (that is how I got my start) or full-blow planners either purchased or downloaded, find a system that works for YOU. Having a good planning system won't solve all of life's woes, but sometimes finding a tool or system which can help you focus your energies productively, will help you feel more successful in your endeavors.
For a quick worksheet to vet out your daily flow, visit the "Resources" page here on the site and grab a FREE copy of my Daily Schedule Worksheet which was featured in "Lessons". I always jump to using this helpful printable when I have a lot going on or, I simply need a birds-eye-view of what our weekly schedule is doing so I can plan strategically.
It is OK if it takes time and practice to find your groove.... and it is equally OK if, after you find that groove, you need to find it again! Time spent developing routine, drawing up plans, and finding direction will not go to waste, even if everything changes. The discipline will remain and the shadows of what worked will continue to follow you in new plans, routines and directions. Above all, be sure to hold every single plan with open hands, let God guide direction and outcome. When you do, planning practice will always be 'perfect'!
Speaking of planning... My newsletter is also planning to relaunch with EXCLUSIVE content and behind-the-scenes info as well as early scoops on coming projects across our platforms. Be sure to sign-up in the subscription box on our side-bar!
A final note: January is universally known as a planning month. Give yourself permission to press pause, evaluate what is working - what isn't working in your current schedule and plans-of-action. Set some realistic goals for the year in areas of life such as faith, personal, relational, and household. Lift it all to the Lord in prayer and then weigh anchor to get underway!
Blessings in all your planning journeys!