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How to Plan in Survival Mode

Aug 30, 2021

This post is by Cindy Chen.


Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12, NIV

There are seasons that call for less planning. When we first bring home a baby. When our world is upended by illness or grief. When we're at home indefinitely because of stay-at-home orders. 

Having no concrete schedule does not mean we’re better off making zero plans. We are still entrusted with our days, even if they seem to be redundant or purposeless. 

That beautiful planner I picked out--where I plotted my goals, scheduled birthday parties, and blocked off a long-awaited vacation--has lain dormant, useless when the days all run into each other.

I’ve struggled with the daily routine (or lack thereof) these many weeks that we’ve been home from school and work, and nearly all our activities have come to a screeching halt. 

It’s easy to ask, “Why even bother, when plans have gone out the window?”

But in seasons of survival, planning involves a different perspective. We need to plan for the practical, relational, and big picture with a new lens of intentionality. 

Plan for the practical - Some plans are simply for maintenance. What will we eat today? How can the kids and I share the devices to get our work done today? When will I take a shower?  Don’t belittle yourself for having to plan something that seems like such a no-brainer. Some seasons leave us seemingly without a brain!

If your goal for the day is just to put away that mountain of laundry, it is a service to your family and worth planning to accomplish. The rules for survival mode are different than for maintenance mode.  

Plan for the relational - Now that I’m not rubbing shoulders with my friends at church and at school pickups, the social framework of life has fallen apart. I’ve had to set reminders on my phone to call my friends when it’s not so late at night.. 

These days I’m not driving one of my kids to her lessons once a week (round trip over an hour), and I realize I need to carve out time with just her--we miss that commute time together. It's not safe to assume that since my husband and I are physically around each other more, we don't still need to look each other in the eye and be present to one another.

Plan for the big picture - A very helpful question I ask myself when I am just trying to survive is, “What will I be glad tomorrow that I did today?” Sometimes it’s decluttering the dining room table, other times it’s pulling meat out of the freezer for tomorrow’s dinner. It’s amazing how a few minutes of effort today will improve tomorrow. What has to be done this week or this month? How can I take a step toward that today?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 NIV

God’s plan is not on hold even though our activities have been put on pause. 

Rather, this week may be wide open so that He can do something wonderful, that would not have otherwise been possible in days full of carpool and homework, practice and commuting.

What is God asking me to do today? Who does He bring to mind? When or how can I respond?

When we’re struggling, those first minutes of the day are all the more valuable for setting our focus and prioritizing. We can take courage in the truth that we are looking to the One who gives us help, gives us strength, and gives us wisdom when we ask Him.


Cindy Chen lives outside of Atlanta, GA, with her husband of 15 years, their four children, from toddler to middle-schooler, and a small menagerie of pets and chickens. Cindy occasionally writes about things that matter--and things that don't--on her blog, Verities and Vanities ( http://veritiesandvanities.com ), and is taking the jump to begin to homeschool her children full time. She serves on several teams at her local church, including the communications team, children's ministry team, and women's ministry team. There is nothing she enjoys more than when great theological truths of the Word are applied with grace and invigorate the seemingly insignificant daily moments.

Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash


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