Should you bother planning in the uncertainty of 2021?
How are you settling into 2021? We are just one week in and we've already witnessed some deeply disturbing news. These are challenging times to live through.
I've done all the things I like to do at the beginning of a new year, and it felt different. Like many of you, I've been struggling to focus on what is really important to me. There are some valid explanations for why we lack focus in our lives. We are consuming massive amounts of media and have more information to process than is manageable for most of us. And we are living with a lot of uncertainty and fear.
For me, planning is essential to living an intentional life. Some people are wired to plan, and others will feel their anxiety mounting when they read through this email. Here's what I've done to plan in a year of uncertainty and what I've concluded.
One of my rituals at the beginning of the year is to do a vision board. I've been doing it for over a decade. In the pre-covid days, I would gather with a group with a couple of friends. We spend an afternoon talking about life and some of the things we are considering as we flip through the stack of shared magazines on the table. At the end of the session, we reveal our finished vision boards and talk about our hopes for the year. At least that was how we did it up to 2019.
I decided to go solo on my vision board. Zoom doesn't always work for me. I like the creative process of sitting with words and images that are drawing me. And I have enough magazines around the house to use. As always, I learned a lot about what I want through the process. The challenge is to have a vision for a year when we have no idea how it will unfold. I ended up leaving lots of space on my board. I focused more on who I want to be rather than what I want to achieve.
Conclusion: Creating a vision board during a pandemic helped me understand what's important now. It reminded me that there is still room to dream about the future.
A NEW PLANNER
And, of course, I have a new planner. To be completely transparent, I have two new planners. I have the one I usually use, and then a friend was so excited about her planner that I decided to give it a try. It's a 3-month planner, so I haven't invested in a whole year if I don't like it.
Side note: I can talk about planners all day long. I'll put a list at the bottom of this email of what I am using right now. And a few other options.
Planning isn't about being boxed in for me. It's about taking control of my time. Every year I sit with a fresh agenda and start filling out the things I know will happen. I prefer analog for this process, but digital works. I start by entering the known events:
full moon/new moon
income tax deadlines
I am always surprised at how full the calendar is already. I then add in the things I feel are non-negotiable practices for me. I like picking strawberries and making jam in June. I need a day to make salsa in September. This year I've blocked out a few days for birding during the Spring migration. I always block off days for fall hikes with a good friend in October. This year I've signed up for an 8-month outdoor program. It means I've booked one Sunday a month. I've added my own work projects.
Looking at my calendar now, I can be realistic about how much I can do in the next 12 months. I also know that these are plans and not written in stone (except the income tax deadline).
Conclusion: As much as life has changed for us this year, many things have not been altered. We may need to celebrate them or approach them differently. Looking at the whole year and getting a sense of the rhythms and seasons ahead grounds me. Some things may change, but I feel realistic about how much capacity I actually have.
I don't make resolutions, but I have set goals for the year. I think I am always optimistic about what I can do each year, and at the same time, I feel like having goals gives me direction.
For example, I've decided I want to make better choices regarding my health. For January, I am focusing on eliminating sugar from my diet. It's tough! I went for over five years without refined sugar, and this past year, I've let it creep back into my diet. I'm craving sweets again. Butter tarts are addictive for me.
My sister and I are in sugar withdrawal together. We've been texting each other when the cravings happen. It helps me to know that I am not alone in this land without chocolate. I also know that neither one of us will want to be the first to give in, which can be a good motivator. The people in our lives are significant when it comes to making a change. At least I won't have social gatherings to navigate this month.
Conclusion: Having goals helps give me something positive to put my energy toward during this season when it seems like we can't move forward. When I am making choices about spending my time, having a goal helps me prioritize. And when life feels out of control, knowing certain things can be managed in my life helps me. And having someone for goal accountability and encouragement is essential to goal success.
So, where do I sit with intentional living and planning? I think you need to decide what works for you if you can live your best life without vision boards, goals, planners and supportive relationships good for you!
I think if you want to make a change, chances are you'll be successful if you have a clear vision of what you want, create a goal to measure what success would look like, make time for what matters in your schedule and have some good people cheering you on. Putting it in writing can help.
📚 Reading: I am almost finished reading Jann Arden's book, If I Knew Then. It's OK. I would suggest getting it from your local library if you are interested and save your money. I hate giving a book a bad review because I am writing a book and I know how much work goes into it. I expected more from this book. If you disagree, let me know. I'm open to your opinion!
📺 Watching: I just watched Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself. I can't say much about it other than it will leave you speechless. I was crying by the end. It is on iTunes. And worth renting! The trailer doesn't tell you much but you can watch an interview about the show here.
Travellers Notebook: I don't have a link for this. I purchased my TN for my first trip to Cambodia. I liked it so much I kept using it. It's leather cover with inserts and there are tons of spin-offs of the original on Etsy. Here's a link to my favourite stationery store so you can have a look at the product. Many local paper shops stock them.
Full Focus Planner: This is the three-month planner I mentioned I purchased. There is so much I love about it including all the videos etc. to inspire you. I think it may end up being too much planner for even me! And it is expensive.
Passion Planner: I used this planner for many years. It's a great size and has everything you need to map out your year. I switched it up a few years ago but I can see myself using this planner again. I do have a referral link and you can get $5 off your first order. Click here.
Custom Planner: I have a friend who does custom. hand-bound journals and planners. Check out her website and reach out to her if you want something specific.