"I have so much to do" is something I can easily catch myself saying over and over until I annoy everyone around me (or maybe just my husband).
But the statement, in itself, is true. I do have so much to do! Or to me it feels like I do. For reference, I am a work at home mom to an almost one year old. I work about 8-10 hours from home each week for a small bed and breakfast, and then I work on my own projects which include a podcast and this blog. Add in cleaning, cooking, and actually enjoying time with my little girl (or at least making sure she's not climbing the walls), and community/ church/ family commitments, and yes, the to do list piles up.
On my good weeks, though, I don't fall into the mindset of busy, even if I literally am what most would define as busy.
You see, we've made busy into a crown that we wear to prove to others that we are enough. I don't think it's just me who feels this way- I think it's a cultural problem. Busy means we're doing something real with our lives. It means we're good enough. We're contributing, we're worthy.
I'm kind of sick of busy. When I let myself be "busy," I actually get nothing real done. I feel like I'm spinning my wheels just to prove something, and without any real purpose in mind.
What minimalism has done most for me, even more than the physical clearing out of things, has helped me evaluate my schedule and how I actually live out my days.
Instead of letting my weeks get busy, I'm trying my best to plan and create intentional weeks.
Do I tackle a lot of things in these weeks? Well, I hope so. But at the end of the day (or the week) my main goal is that my week has been purposeful. And honestly, my goal over getting things done is that I would center myself when I start to feel that busy, anxious, spiraling out of control feeling. My goal is more that I would create calm days even over getting a lot done.
It's easy to creep back into the mindset that checking off my to do list makes me a more worthy person. That's definitely a lie. But, lists to help me, and checking them off makes me feel accomplished and a sense of calm if I'm in the right, purposeful, intentional mindset.
So how do we get there as women who have a lot on their plate?
Here's how I'm tackling it.
Before I was able to start planning an intentional week, I took a few first steps. The following are the steps I recommend taking before you plan out your week intentionally. They will set you up so you can actually make that happen.
1. I Got a planner that works with the way my brain works and I set a time to sit down and plan.
I've tried all. the. planners. Really pretty ones, bullet journaling, digital planning. It's been a long time coming, but at the moment, I'm really loving The Passion Planner. I like the minimal design (because frills just cloud my brain), and I like that you can see the entire week at once, but there is space for lists, and space to create intentional goals.
I'm not saying you need the passion planner. Not one bit. In fact, I think you should get the planner that works best for you. If that's putting things into your phone, great! If it's a random, inexpensive planner from Target- perfect!
If you have a lot going on, though, the one thing I do suggest is that you have a weekly layout in your planner. At least, this helps me, because when I was bullet journaling and only looking at the week one day at a time, things slipped my brain very easily.
Once you have your planner, pick a general day and time to plan your week. It's okay if you change it from week to week, but know you have a standing appointment with your planner. Don't break this commitment to yourself.
2. Each week, I check my monthly calendar and fill in appointments or commitments.
This is the obvious one, and I won't talk about it much because it really doesn't need explaining. It's just an important step to make sure you are intentional about not forgetting important things!
3. I set up time blocks
The first two steps were really just technical ones- this is where the intentional planning starts to come in. If you want to get a lot done, but want to still have an intentional week where you are actually enjoying your life and not constantly working? Time blocking is everything. This deserves it's own blog, but here's my favorite resource ever on time blocking. I'm going to let the resource do the teaching because I won't do it as gracefully.
In a nutshell, though: Time blocking is basically planning your day not by specific times of the day, but by blocks of time. So there are certain things you commit to within those time blocks rather than saying "I'm going to clean the kitchen at 10am, start working at 10:30, and make lunch at noon." It makes the day so much less overwhelming, and it makes it so that you don't get behind on things all day. Let's face it, having little kids makes the day so unpredictable, at least time wise, so this is a must for moms with little kids. Watch the video for all the info you need!
Before I move on to the next step: I love time blocking so much because I have blocks of time where I'm working and blocks of time where I'm being an intentional mother. That doesn't mean I don't add in a load of laundry to that intentional mom time, but this has helped me so much in focusing on the right thing at the right time.
4. I Created Systems around the things I do repeatedly every week.
Creating systems around important things that you do weekly, like meal planning (check out my resource for this), grocery shopping, and cleaning. If you have certain days/ times set where you accomplish these things, you'll be more intentional with actually getting them done, and not having them loom over your head as just another thing on your list.
For me: meal planning is typically on Sunday, grocery shopping is on Monday, and though I clean throughout the week as needed, my larger cleaning day is typically on Thursday or Friday, depending on the week.
Alright, now we can get to the actual planning part.
Here is the process I use to plan out an intentional week vs. survive through a "busy" week.
Step One: Brain Dump!
This has been the critical step for me! I was struggling HARD at figuring out how to schedule in all that I wanted to get done in a week. One day, I took one post it note and labled it personal and another and labled it work. On those post it notes, I listed out everything I wanted to do that week in each separate category and stuck those in my planner. I then started to assign blocks of time to these things.
Not everything gets a block of time right away, but these post its stay in the planner and I reference them when I have work time, or I'm about to run some errands and I need to see what is important for the week.
Because of brain dumping, in a way I plan my week as I go. Honestly, at the beginning of the week, I can't wrap my mind around planning every single day completely. When will I run to Michaels for art supplies for Gemma's party decor? Not really sure about this during my Sunday planning time, but because the brain dump is in my planner, I'll reference it when I'm ready to plan out some time for errands.
Step Two: Prioritize the brain dump
Even before adding tasks/ errands into blocks of time into my planner, I look over the brain dump and prioritize. I put squares around things that need to get done towards the first half of the week, question marks on things I need to research, and circle things that are important for later in the week. The other stuff is extra.
This is the random "code" I've made to prioritize my brain dump, but you can obviously do this in any way that makes sense to you!
Step Three: Set up your week if you haven't already and migrate tasks, especially for the beginning of the week.
The setup can come before or after the brain dump. It's just a technical part of the planning where I outline my time blocks and add in any important appointments for the week (I mentioned this at the beginning of the process).
The migration of tasks should come last. This is where you can add in the tasks as little to do lists within time blocks that are relevant to the type of tasks added.
I typically make detailed task lists for the beginning of the week right away, and then I add as I go throughout the week for the end of the week based on what needs to still be done.
Step Four: Re-evaluate the plan daily
This is how I truly create intentional days full of focused work time and present time with my family. If I don't do so well on this in a particular week, it's easy to see that no matter how much planning I did during the beginning of the week, my brain gets scattered and I feel "busy" instead of calm and intentional.
I am the type of person that needs a plan. So I keep my planner with me as I work. I check up on things and change thing daily. I mark off tasks as I finish them. This is probably the most important step if you want this plan to actually help you be intentional with your days.
This is the simple process I use in my paper planner to set up my week. I also have systems in place where I use project managers like Trello to help me keep track of things. However, my planner is what I use the most, and without it, my days would definitely feel "busy" and hamster-wheelish.
One thing I do every day that creates intentional days even more than planning is follow a morning routine. This allows me to get the most important things done (like prayer and self care) every day and starts off my day right.
I'm hosting a morning routine challenge that starts this Sunday- if this sounds intriguing to you, check it out!
Above all else, though, I give myself grace. If I don't get everything done, or if I lose track of the plan on a particularly full week? I have to let it go. I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed and angry with myself when I get behind, so I have to breathe and remember that the most important thing in life is not a tidy, checked off to do list. Though lists and plans make me more intentional with my days, I cannot be a happy, calm, present person if I hold myself to the unrealistic standard of always getting everything checked off.
I hope this simple process helps you plan for an intentional, productive, week and say goodbye to the "busy" mindset.
Get this post in checklist form, with a brain dump template that you can use week after week to plan intentionally!