Monday, January 6, 2014

Planning to plan...why I love/hate new calendars

Blank calendars, like new marathon training plans, are so exciting and filled with possibility.

They're also a little terrifying.

When I open a new calendar and see all those lovely, uniform boxes, so clear and clean and full of promise, I get a little giddy.

(It's possible I have an overactive gene or something that makes me love office supplies as much as I do...blank calendars included.)

30 Rock Wedding
At least I know I'm not alone.

Filling those open boxes with my life plans is exciting. Hand in hand with the excitement, though, is anxiety. I love planning, but I don't love when life gets in the way of my plans. As I'm carefully writing in boxes, I know that life's messes, its joys and sorrows, its disappointments and everyday pleasures are going to flow in to fill those days, weeks, and months. Life always happens whether or not I plan it, no matter what I write in the box.

This January, planning my calendar feels more complicated than usual:

  • Although I'm not running an actual marathon this year (so no long training runs to schedule), I have the joy of expecting a new baby this summer- an entirely different kind of marathon. I'm quickly learning that pregnancy with three small balls of energy running around (aka my children) is not for the faint of heart. Babies are amazing blessings, but they don't care what the calendar says. They arrive when they mean to, they eat when they want to, and sometimes they sleep at times that work for their parents. (Often, not!)
  • This is the second half of our first year of homeschooling. While we're not being especially rigid about SuperSam's homeschool kindergarten schedule, there are certain goals and things we hope to accomplish by year's end.
  • We have some household projects we'd like to complete, too- getting the office/utility/laundry/treadmill space better set up and rearranging the girls' room to accommodate another child- so I need to allow time for those things.
  • Add in some music lessons (the ones I teach and the ones SuperSam takes), rehearsals for our various musical groups, church activities and feast days, and play dates with friends, and things start to look a bit full.
  • Finally, I have some new writing projects this year (more about those later) which will take dedicated time.

Suddenly, my brand-new, formerly-blank calendar looks more intimidating than exciting.

Does this happen to you, too? Am I the only crazy person who loves to make lists and plan things out, but then feels stressed about her own plans? I usually try to compensate for the anxiety by making more lists. (After SuperSam was born, I once made a list organized by quadrants in a misguided attempt to feel in control of something.)

The thing is, being too controlling about time and the calendar only produces stress over what I can't control (which is a lot, as it turns out). Making lists and filling in boxes gives me the illusion that I am in charge of what happens, but it's not true. I need to be flexible about those plans to leave room for life's surprises.

On the other hand, being too laid-back sometimes means that opportunities and moments pass by me. If I don't plan our time at all, I find myself wondering where all of it went (and why we didn't manage to do the things we meant to do).

Most people are either Planners or Go-With-The-Flow Types, and most of us probably know which one describes us. Sometimes, though, I feel like these two categories are battling it out inside me.

This January, in an attempt to balance these impulses (control all the things! No, don't plan anything so you won't screw it up!), I'm trying a new strategy as I make my calendar. It's four steps...would you like to see them?

  1. Choose one main goal for this month.
  2. Each day, try to do one small thing toward that goal.
  3. Ask each family member for one experience they want to have or one thing they'd like to do/accomplish this month and make space for those.
  4. Leave plenty of room for the unexpected.

Other than school, music, and church, things will be pretty free. I'll end up with a lot of unstructured time this month, but that's on purpose. I crave routine, and coming off the unstructured weeks we have had in December, it's easy for me to get overzealous and fill in every blank space with activity. When I overplan in January, I often burn out by February.

I'm focusing this month on taking things slowly and remembering to breathe.

What's your planning strategy? Are you a calendar-loving listmaker or a go-with-the-flow soul?
The cover page of Amanda's 2014 planner- lovely!

If you don't have a calendar yet for this year, Amanda from Planning on It has a great free printable planner (with vertical days! excellent!) available on her blog. Go check it out if you get a minute- it looks beautiful (and all the Church's feast days are already written down for you).