“If you are anxious you are living in the future, If you are at peace you are living in the present.” Lao Tsu

Living in the future by trying to remember and keep future tasks and events in your mind uses a tremendous amount of energy. You can feel the subtle anxiety in your body as you worry about forgetting or missing an important appointment, or picking up a child from an unscheduled practice. Trying to keep everything in your head is like keeping plates twirling in the air. It is exhausting.

Using lists and planners daily allows you to stay in the present and feel peaceful and confident. Being at peace inside is being in balance. Taking things out of your head and putting them into form, such as writing or typing a task to do, is a step of creation. Ideas don’t come into being until they take a form. That form can be electronic or pen and paper, but the act of seeing it in print gives it a different reality that you can refer to and depend on. Planning physically gets you out of the feeling of not seeming to get anything done. You move through your day effortlessly for one priority to another.

Here are 6 Tips to make planning and lists work better for you.

 ONE: Find a System That Works for You and You Enjoy Using.

One that inspires you with color or great quotes and pictures. It can be a plain notebook that fits in you pocket, but it needs to have a calendar so you can see and schedule easily. Make it simple or complex according to your needs. Use your phone, pad or paper.  It is an extension of you, your assistant, dare I say, “Friend”?

 TWO: Keep Your Tools Accessible.

Old fashioned grocery lists on the refrigerator door have worked for years. Putting lists in your phone is also handy. Keep them easy to access and work with minimal frustration.

THREE: Use One Calendar/Planner for Everything.

I know the experts say that for good reason, but I use two. One in my planner at my desk, and one in my phone for when I’m out and about. The key is to sync them daily. Color coding family members, event types, and separating work from personal items improves visibility. Color coding is easy on the phone calendar apps. Highlighters come in handy.

FOUR: Prioritize Activities and Tasks.

Stephen Covey used to say, “Don’t let the things that matter least get in the way of the things that matter most.”

    • CREATE A LIST for NEXT MONTH If you know there are events or tasks the will need to be accomplished in the next month, create a list and attach it to that month’s page. It will come in handy when you start to schedule the month. Don’t forget the little maintenance items, like cleaning the furnace filter.
    • MAP OUT YOUR WEEK LOOSELY in your planner, and THEN EACH DAY. Planning your day at the end of your workday, before bed the night before, or first thing in the morning allows you to create your day. If it is in the morning, sip on a big cup of hot lemon water to lubricate and cleanse your body and get you going. Works better than coffee. Start by writing three gratitude statements. “I am grateful for…” Make them meaningful. This little task will change you and your life. Don’t believe me? Try it for a week and see for yourself.
    • LIST UP TO FOUR PRIORITIES for the day.These are your “A” tasks. “A” tasks must be done today, “B” tasks can be put off until tomorrow, “C” tasks are nice but not essential right now. Sub-prioritize each category, A1, A2, A3. give yourself plenty of wiggle room and plan for the unexpected, it might be a wonderful surprise. Let your plan be your guide, not your taskmaster.
    • SCHEDULE THE TIME BLOCK you will address the task, and make it “sacred”. That means saying “No”, letting calls go to voicemail, and turning off your email and social media alerts. Seriously. You can schedule a time you will check on those “intrusions” that are other people’s priorities. Then you can be present with them when you do connect.The principle is to control your time and not let others control it for you.
    • HAVE YOUNG CHILDREN? I know how that is, I had two in school and three under three at home at one point. They were my priority, but I still found time to meet some of my tasks and goals, too. You just have to make your plan more flexible and work it around their needs. Children do better with routine, planned naps, play, etc.
    • SCHEDULE IN BREAKS to eat, drink water, and move. The brain uses lots of energy so it needs fuel. Stand up and walk around every hour if you are sitting. Your productivity will increase dramatically.

FIVE: Celebrate the completion of a Task No Matter How Small.

This principle keeps you moving ahead and self-validates your ability to get things done. Some people mark out the accomplishments with a bright color highlighter. Seeing a page full of color of completed tasks is a celebration that lifts your spirit. Bright colored check marks work, too.

SIX: “Be Complete” at the End of the Day.

Maybe you completed every task that day and celebrated. Hurrah! But, suppose you didn’t. Don’t beat yourself up. With no judgement about yourself, look at why it didn’t get done. There is probably a very good reason, and you can be okay with it and move on. That is “Being Complete”. It allows you to move on to tomorrow happy and confident. Take a moment to be grateful for the small miracles that happened that day. They were there, if you looked for them.


I invite you to share your thoughts on the Shift Into Balance Facebook Page and LinkedIn.