The Foolproof Formula That Will Help You Make & Keep Your Plans

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It is only Tuesday (somehow, because life is cruel), but the past few weeks (this one included) have been pretty hellish. While simultaneously dealing with the beginning of an 18-credit semester and trying to adjust to new work schedules around my erratic class schedule, all of the “things” in my life have decided to implode.

It is seriously Mary Versus The Machine right now. My stuff is breaking, my work is piling up, my school and work schedules for the next few weeks feel unclear, and I’m trying to figure out how I’ll find the time to manage it all.

However, true to form, I’ve begun planning. Instead of just jumping in on planning my schedule, and figuring how and when I’ll accomplish all I’ll need to, I’ve decided that the best way to truly start is to plan my plan. Having a step-by-step outline of how I’ll figure out how to quickly and effectively solve each little “problem” in my life right now means that all I’ll need to do when I move from Problem A to Problem B is plug new information into my “Solve Dat Shit” formula, and figure it out from there.

1. Write down every single problem and task.

I prefer to write down my problems separately, but together. Meaning, I have one Master List with all of the stuff I need to do (because lest we forget the great To-Do List), and then list each problem individually with enough space to add some additional notes. Example: my current To-Do list reads: work on homework for Thursday classes and begin homework for next week (gotta get a head start, sigh), study for next week’s test, call doctor and make new appointment, get oil changed, write and plan October work schedule. After writing each task, I go in the space underneath and write some additional notes, like “Thursday homework = political communication test. PLS STUDY”, or “call and make appointment to get oil changed within the next week” (because I get v cheap oil changes at the place where I bought my car, but the catch is that you need to have an appointment to get it done).

2. Write down every single possible solution to each problem, then narrow down to the ones that are most realistic and accessible to you.

You have options, and you should know that. There are different ways to go about solving each problem and accomplishing each task in your life, and understanding what all the ways are can help you to make the most informed decision on what will be the most effective and efficient way for you to get it all done. I usually think about different study methods, and which ones will work best for whatever upcoming test or exam I have, or I think about if there will be a day I’m already close by to the place my car needs to go to get serviced, so I can try to plan for my appointment to be on that day to make it more convenient and save me some time. Once you’ve seen all the options in front of you, it is easy to start solving and putting aside the “what” questions you had about solving your problems, before moving on to the “when”. Pick the options that can be most easily integrated into the already set-in-stone parts of your week, like scheduled doctor’s appointments, classes, or work hours that aren’t flexible. Then move on to the scheduling.

3. Make a few mock schedules, then create a finalized timeline for your plan of action.

Once you have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to do, you can begin piecing together when you’ll get it all done. For me, this sometimes comes in the way of making “mock schedules” to see what my days will look like if I decide to accomplish certain tasks at certain times, and comparing them to see which one makes the most sense for me. (Example: I can get my oil changed on Wednesday morning before class, or I can get it done Thursday afternoon after class; which one makes the most sense with the rest of my schedule? Or, should I leave early so I can drop my library books off on the way to work, or should I do it tomorrow on my day off and leave the house only for that purpose?) Little questions like that help me figure out a timeline that makes the most sense and is the most convenient with my other life-tasks.

I like to see how I can arrange my errands and tasks around my work schedule in a way that leaves me with the most extra time in the week for accomplishing additional tasks (or relaxing, if I decide to allow myself some time to do that).

4. Start doing the stuff.

This is the part where you let Jesus take the wheel and hope you planned well enough that everything goes smoothly. Side note: It probably won’t go smoothly. You might have to adjust your plan. I almost always have to. Planning is great, but plans are sometimes pretty useless. Don’t get discouraged, just adjust your original plan a lil’ bit each time things don’t work out, and keep going.

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

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