3 Planning Systems To Stop Overwhelm In Its Tracks
Has this ever happened to you? You realize your closet is a mess, so you hop on the internet or turn on HGTV and look for advice on how to get it organized.
Soon, you’ve "Marie Kondo-ed" the heck out of it and your closet looks gorgeous! But then, 6 months later, it’s a complete disaster again.
This is because most organizational strategies or techniques out there lack the repeatable systems needed to keep things in order.
Sure. Planning and organization techniques are GREAT for short-term wins, but they do not prevent overwhelm. In contrast, planning systems are what actually help us stop overwhelm and chaos BEFORE it creeps in.
And in this post, I’m going to break down the three continuous processes or planning systems you need to stop feeling so stressed.
These aren’t one-and-done planning tips or techniques, but rather repeatable systems you use on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, to keep yourself out of overwhelm and to keep you from having to constantly go back and reorganize the same thing over and over again.
Planning System #1: A Centralized List
The first planning system is one that I talk about inside of my TOP Framework and teach in my TOP Program, and it is having a centralized list or a central location.
Your centralized list is where all of the new things coming at you are stored. This could include new tasks, new ideas...basically, anything that you might consider putting on a to-do list — whether it's for today or three months down the road.
You need to have ONE central place where you store all of the things that are competing for your time.
Now, this sounds obvious, but I will tell you that 99% of the women that I start working with realize they have at least five different places where they store this kind of information.
This could look like having notebooks at your desk, in your car, and on your bedside table while also using post-it notes in the kitchen and yet another notepad in your purse.
And if you’re perpetually jotting down all the things that are competing for your time in multiple locations, whether you realize it or not, your brain’s left feeling like it's got this responsibility to have to remember all of those and where you wrote them down.
Then, when you sit down to actually make plans, you feel anxious because your thoughts are literally all over the place and you perpetually feel like there’s something you’re missing.
But when you have one central place to put all the things that are competing for your time, you learn how to prioritize it, and this eliminates the anxiety and stress around wondering if you’re forgetting something.
This is why having a central list for your competing to-dos is so vital.
Planning System #2: Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, and Annual Planning
I talk about these levels of planning a lot, so I won’t go too deeply into the nuts and bolts of each one and why they prevent overwhelm.
But I firmly believe that when you learn how to embrace weekly planning (followed by monthly, quarterly, and annual planning), you will feel less stressed and find greater work-life harmony.
This kind of planning reduces overwhelm because it shifts you from a place of being reactive to a place of being proactive — where you can go to bed at night knowing what your plan is for tomorrow and how to handle any curveballs that come your way.
Because when you can crawl into bed at the end of every day feeling confident you've got a plan in place, you can avoid the stress of waking up not knowing how you’re going to get everything done — which inevitably leads you to make bad choices that cause even more overwhelm.
Having this planning system in place frees you from the stress because you have a repeatable process for how to handle things.
Planning System #3: A Pop-Up Task Process
This third planning system really goes hand in hand with the previous two and deals with what to do when you have things coming up during your week that aren’t a part of your weekly plan, but still need to be addressed in a timely way.
This is where my pop-up task process comes in!
I start every week with a weekly plan in place that includes all my appointments and commitments for the week. It also includes a draft of what days I'm going to be working on tasks and what time I think I'm going to be working on them.
Then, over the course of the week, things come up — emails, phone calls, etc. And new things come at me that require my time. These are what I call pop-up tasks.
The first thing I do when a pop-up task comes my way is to consider whether it needs to be addressed this week or if it can wait.
Whether you realize it or not, your first impulse when a new task comes your way unexpectedly is to take care of it as quickly as possible. But, what I want you to do is take a step back, look at your weekly plans, and assess if this new task is important enough to fit into your current week.
Is there an impending due date? If you don’t do the task this week, will the opportunity be gone?
These are the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself as you consider your pop-up task. And if the answer is yes AND it’s important enough to fit in, it’s time to adjust your weekly plans.
However, there are lots of times that my initial response to a pop-up task may be to fit it, but when I step back and look at things, I realize it can wait and that it’s not super urgent — or at least not urgent enough to rearrange my weekly plans.
In that case, the pop-up task goes onto the centralized list that I will reference with next week’s weekly planning.
Having this simple system in place allows me the peace of mind to know that I have a plan for dealing with the unexpected and gives me reassurance that, if I’m allowing these new opportunities to come into my weekly plans, I’m doing it thoughtfully and intentionally.