Family life

The joys of planning

Are you constantly overwhelmed? Are your days and your weeks never long enough? The trick is to plan ahead.

In today’s consumer society, it seems like there is always something new! A contract, a course, an activity, a little trip...

It is risky business and we can’t always say yes to everything or satisfy each and every one of our whims. Back to basics: our weeks are filling up quickly enough with our spouse, children, house, work and our own well-being (that should be in priority more often…). You probably understood that choosing is essential when you are planning. But how can we be sure that we made the right choices? Bad choices always make it difficult to follow-up on a detailed schedule.

Before planning anything, being certain of the merits of our choices is crucial. These choices must be in line with our life plan, our goals and our professional and personal aspirations.

Why should we set goals?

A lot of people attribute their success to the fact that they have learned to set goals. If we are not the leaders of our lives, other people will be. The only way to achieve a goal is to walk towards our destination. To go somewhere, we must know where we want to go. Among our failing clients who have the required skills, 90% of the failure is due to the unwillingness to properly prepare for a challenge.

In order to clarify your goals, ask yourself these coach questions:
  • What would you like to see when you reach your goal?
  • What behaviour must change?
  • In how long?
  • How is this challenge part of your life plan?

Now, let’s get going. An action plan is a tool that I use in coaching to reach the goals set by my clients. It is important for the following reasons:

  • The best objectives are only beautiful ideas until they are put into action.
  • Knowing what strategy we will use becomes as important as the goal itself.
  • This action plan outlines the steps to perform in order to obtain a result.
In order to clarify your action plan, ask yourself these coach questions:
  • What means will help you reach your goal?
  • What do you have to do first?

Once your goal and action plan are clear, it is time to start planning.

Specifically, what are the best tools?

Ideally, it is better to focus on the content rather than the container. It will be easier to adapt to a new way of life. Do you already use an agenda, a calendar, a family planner, your computer or a PDA? All those tools have the potential to help you plan efficiently and in an enjoyable manner. The idea is to use them well. To do so, here are a few criteria to keep in mind when planning

  • Set monthly objectives in relation to your action plan and place specific actions every week in it;
  • Break down the tasks per day (ideally in blocks of 30 minutes or less). This is something that will save a lot of time to the worker: before reading your emails and listening to your messages, write a short task that you must do when you arrive at work. It will be something that is already done in your daily planning;
  • Place fixed blocks for shopping, phone calls, household chores… It will help you clear your head and you will avoid lacking the time for those essential tasks;
  • A free block is essential for last minute requests or to perform a task that could not be performed because of something unexpected;
  • Include personal objectives, they are as important (if not more) as your professional planning. Writing down in your agenda to call an old friend gives you the time to finally do it!

How are you feeling as you are placing things in your planner? As soon as you feel uncomfortable, stop and ask yourself the following question: how can I turn this task into something that brings me pleasure? A task that we don’t like is usually the one that we postpone…and after that, you can forget about the sense of accomplishment and peace of mind.

Planning can save a lot of time but it can become hard to bear. Find your balance according to your personality. Make room for spontaneity and don’t blame yourself if you don’t follow your schedule now and again. Treat yourself!

Claudie Arsenault

Claudie Arsenault is a professional coach in balancing work and family, author of Conciliation travail-famille : Y trouver son compte et son bonheur and founder of Coopérative du Cercle des supermamans. Coaching is there to help people achieve their goals quickly and efficiently. Claudie was trained  by the school Coaching de gestion (management coaching) and is accredited by the International Coach Federation. Her unique niche is what sets her apart. She helps parents manage their return to work, improve their work-life balance, rethink their career path after the arrival of children, develop or start their business while maintaining a balance. Being a mother of three, she knows a thing or two about work-life balance! Helping parents find a balance between their professional and personal lives is a real passion for her. To find out more, visit her website (in French only).

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