Where to begin?
Well, with a list, or a plan, of course!
If you’re a planner girl, with your paper, colour coded pens carefully selected for the type of paper of your favourite planner, some stickers and time carved out weekly to update that planner … March 2020 probably threw you for a loop! If your plans were carefully stored in an app, you might have had a lot of reminders for events in late March that were actually cancelled. Maybe, although I have no experience with this, if you’re a last minute, spontaneous person, you were able to roll with pandemic chaos in a different way?
Having a solid confidence in God’s plan, and knowing He was not surprised by any of the announcements, changes & chaos we faced in March, was one thing. Putting into practice having faith, and being flexible, was challenging. The loss of routine, the school bells that organized our days, the rhythms of getting to activities … How did we plan when nothing was certain?
It turned out, all the things I’ve learned about planning, are still true in a pandemic. All our days are uncertain, even those before March 2020! The act of planning doesn’t make things certain. Planning shows you the options, and a preferred way to use the time in your days, but offers no guarantees in itself. Planning is only an illusion of control, but does give you a framework!
An old proverb is Man Plans, God Laughs. And while the God that created a platypus must have a sense of humour, I don’t think He’s poking fun of our plans! Instead, Proverbs 16:9 ERV tells us, “People can plan what they want to do, but it is the Lord who guides their steps.”.
Using that guidance, we can arrange our days in practical ways that fit into the calendar, beginning with our priorities.
Knowing your priorities guides the first things that fill your plans. While our individual priorities will be very different, and may include time for Bible study, prayer, academic learning for ourselves or other family members, work out of the home, working at home, personal health, fitness, travel, sports, church services, cooking, extended family time, or so many other things, they are the first things that should fill the calendar pages. If you’ve never taken a few minutes to write down your priorities, just pause now if you can, and jot them down! Priorities are what matter most, they require your focus and attention, and they keep your family moving on the path you’re meant to be on. Commitments you’ve made are priorities. Appointments booked become priorities. Don’t book in more than you can really do!
Some priorities never change your whole life, and others will shift with seasons in life. Potty training is a short term priority, thank goodness, but does require our focus and attention for a time!
The next thing is to allow margin. You need space and time for the unexpected. Time to help a friend, to care for a sick child, to catch a nap for yourself, to take advantage of a gorgeous day. If your day is booked full from the moment you wake till you fall asleep, you have no space for any surprises, good or bad. Margins are a little grace for your days. Don’t fill them. In meal planning, for me, this looks like a night for leftovers, only planning 4-5 dinners a week, leaving some space for something from the freezer, take out, leftovers etc. Margin allows you to react and respond.
There’s also the flexibility part, it’s not my favourite, I much prefer to get it written down in pen, and then act on the plan! The flexible parts are the stuff between the priorities and the margins. These are the things that aren’t set in stone, they’re the ones you can drop or postpone. They’re easily moved to another day. I do put a lot of housework in this category … the laundry can be folded tomorrow … or the next day! I honestly don’t recommend this strategy, I’m working on shifting a little more housework to the priority section. God may have laughed, just a little bit, when He gave me twins with opposite personalities, that has taught me a great deal about flexibility in plans!
The act of planning shows you the options, as you write down one plan, you’ve eliminated other plans, and if something unexpected happens you may already know the alternate options. And we’ve all had to take the alternate option on several plans since March! While everything seems different, so much is the same. Alberta fall is unpredictable. God’s good. My kids make me exhausted and happy.