I am no planner addict. Not anymore that is. I used to write every little thing that came into my head down in tomorrow’s box before I went to settle down for sleep. I thought this would help me ‘de-stress’ and not worry about my now unpredictable memory failing me again.
Seeing a 4cm box packed full of my tiniest writing was stressful. No matter how many times I told myself they were reminders NOT ‘to do’s, piling them up like that did nothing for my sanity.
*Bear in mind that I am addressing this issue from the my point of view so if you have no chronic illnesses my suggestions will definitely have to be adjusted so you can fit more in…*
I have a personal sized Filofax organizer and when my situation was as I described above, I was using a week-on-two-pages diary. I now use a week-on-one-page diary as I feel the smaller daily gaps reflect the size of my day more accurately and I am less likely to see lots of depressing blank space then have the urge to fill it with more activities I’m not up to doing. Plus it’s half the size and therefore cheaper. Every little helps, you know.
Choose a limit and stick to it. Mine is two activities/to-dos a day. Of course if my health improves/worsens I’ll adjust accordingly! If you’re like me and basically rely on ‘enforced’ rest in order to remain slightly functional having been put off daily ‘naps’ by an inability to sleep in the day and the knowledge that any sleep you do get will probably be non-restorative then a ‘relaxing’ activity is advisable. I don’t like to stop until I’ve finished my list- resulting in collapse or serious payback later on. If something along the lines of ‘Try Twining’s White Tea’ or ‘Listen To Your New Audio Book’ is on my list then I’m more likely to settle. This is because, by putting these things on an equal level to working or tidying I am reminding myself that, if anything, rest activities are more important to me right now than algebra or Shakespeare. The main downfall of almost every planning technique I’ve come across in the past is the lack of reminders to rest. You become so focused on reducing stress and being perfectly organized that, when it comes down to it and not everything goes quite to plan, you end up filled with more stress than ever; rushing around trying to figure out what went wrong and why you’re so ‘useless’.
Keeping things within easy reach can be a real help. I have a puzzle book, reading books and eye masks in my bedside cabinet. This means you can rest, safe in the knowledge that whatever you need is right there (the puzzle book is for those days where my mind is wurring but if I stand up my legs collapse.)
Something lots of people do to make their planner feel like less of a chore is add pretty papers and dividers. I have not done this because firstly I don’t have the time/energy and secondly I think it would confuse things. “So… Is this a functional diary or a crafting hobby?” If you see what I mean. I do, however, put the odd sheet of lilac notepaper here and there between the diary pages with (usually nicely written) reminders or helpful lists. For example; I know the start of February tends to give me a shock so early January I wrote down my simple aims for the year above a little encouraging note telling me not to stress over it- that way I know I haven’t forgotten what I wanted to do or ‘wasted’ a month. I put this in between the last week of Jan/first of Feb.
Really for me the key to planning is not overdoing the ‘to do’ lists. I sometimes write out a big one on scrap paper, cross out the unimportant items then spread the rest out over a week or so- rather than trying to squeeze them into one exhausting day. Different things always work for different people. Try a few out and see what you discover…