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How to Plan Without a Planner!

Aug 23, 2021

This post is by Kem Roper.

I admire people who are planners. You know, the type who tote their journals like Bibles, spend hours scripting their life in calligraphy, then decorate it with washi tape?

But how do they get anything done? I wonder as I grab my daughter’s spiral notebook to jot something down. This notebook has become my “to do” list, my calculator, my phone book, and my doodle pad--not because I chose it--and definitely not because it’s cute--but because it was there! And because I had neither the time nor the energy to go in search of the lovely hard bound planner (a gift from a friend) that now languishes in the bottom of my desk drawer…or is it in my purse?

Anyway, the idea that my completely unpredictable life should fit into the 2x2 inch squares of a flowery journal, strikes me as ridiculous! In fact, I can guarantee you one sure way that I will NOT get something done is if I write it in a daily planner. Something inside of me just rebels against the concept of controlling something as uncontrollable as a day. How do I know who’s going to call, who’s going to get sick, who’s going to interrupt my day with news or an opportunity? Even the Bible says we can plan all we want, but we’ll never know for sure how things will go:

“Many are the plans of a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”  (Proverbs 19:21).

Yet, all the planners out there insist I can. In fact, I can hear them shouting: “At 8am you must be brushing your teeth or else you’re a failure!”

Well, I must be a failure, then, because brushing my teeth may be the only thing I get done by 8am. After that, who knows? The boss will call, my husband will text, or my teenagers will plop on the bed to vent and the rest is history! And by “the rest” I mean “the rest” of my day! Maybe some people can walk lock step from one item on their list to the next, but that’s not my world.

So, am I really making a case for not planning? No. I’m just saying that real life has to factor into our planning. If you’re like me, the “to do” list may need to be more of a series of suggestions than a list of commands. Here are 3 ways that I plan without a planner:

  1.     Don’t compare. If I measure my success by the way my spiral notebook looks next to my friend’s elegant journal, I’ll come up short every time, but if my spiral notebook helps me meet my obligations, I win!
  2.     Plan without borders—I give myself a range of time to get tasks done rather than locking myself in to today. Why not have a list of things to get done this week instead? Then each day you can identify which 2-3 tasks are most feasible based on the expected and unexpected things that come up.  Also, the best way for me to stay on task is to have reminders written in more than one place. In a journal? Sure. On a post-it note? Yep. On the calendar in my phone—with notifications--absolutely!
  3.       Use lists not boxes. I know I said I don’t like to plan, but that’s not entirely true. I just don’t want planning to be more important than living! I don’t want to measure my success by how many items I checked off the list or by how cleverly I was able to control every hour of the day. First of all, I’m not that powerful, and secondly, that’s way too much pressure! By giving myself a little grace and time to get things done—even if it’s Friday at 4:59pm—I end the week with a sense of accomplishment that my time was well spent.

Kem Roper is the host of a brand new Facebook live talk show--“HeyGirl!”--which airs Saturdays at 5p CST @K.Roper. A freelance writer and blogger, Kem’s passion for writing compelled her to pursue graduate degrees in English and she currently works as Writing Center Director at AAMU in Huntsville, AL. Wife and mother of two, Kem thanks God every day for her husband, Everett, and her teenage daughters Eryn and Edyn. 

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash


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