“Nobody has more hope and optimism than a planner that has planned out every hour of her day in pen.”

You have planned, written things down in pen, and are ready to check those boxes!

Super excited about what you have planned out, life comes along and smacks you aside the head.

Realizing that if your day continues like this you don’t have a fighting chance to follow your carefully laid out plan for the day, panic starts to make your heart race. Girl, I feel your pain.

Over the past decade, I have learned to roll with the punches of an unpredictable day and yet still remain productive.

I am a planner by nature. When it comes to productivity, there is NOTHING that makes me happier than a fully checked off checklist. When I got sick over a decade ago, my productivity was one of the things I missed deeply.

I was at a point where I couldn’t predict my days.

Whether it was because of having little kids, my health or a mix of both. Life needed to go on and I needed to figure out how to still be “me” (a productivity fanatic) within my new boundaries.

Here are my top 6 tips for being productive during an unpredictable day.

Mom trying to feed toddler while working on laptop

1. I learned to be flexible.

Oh goodness, is there anything a planner likes more than carrying out the plan laid out for that day?! But as Ross says in Friends when trying to move a couch in a tiny NYC stairwell, “PIVOT!” There are going to be times when you just have to go with it.

I had to re-evaluate my definition of productivity success.

I used to be unforgivingly efficient and productive. Nothing would bother me more than someone that didn’t meet a deadline with excellence. I just didn’t get it. If I had ten things on my to-do list I got them done. Even if that meant staying up until 3am. Now productivity success is based on a weekly view and sometimes even a month view depending on the project.

2. I learned to plan based on my ability for that day.

This could look like whatever is taking up time in your day. Do you have a baby that is nursing 40 hours a week? A toddler giving up naps? An elementary-aged child that is home? For someone with chronic illness, that could look like:  full energy, half energy and no energy as an energy meter.

Take time to block out the times of the day you are busy to see how much time you actually have and how much energy you will need. Don’t forget to block out time for cooking, cleaning, playing with the kids, online or homeschool, and running errands. It all adds up!

3. I learned that I can focus on two major areas of my life a day. No more than that.

Housekeeping, cooking, family, work, homeschool, wife, friend, volunteer…

For me I noticed that I can do two things well most days. When I was a homeschool mom that meant Monday – Friday I had one slot taken up by schooling with the kids. If I spent my other slot on cooking – our week and life would become a wreck. So I asked my husband for help. I planned out the meals and made the shopping list. He shopped for the food and batch cooked the meals for the week. Now that our boys are both teenagers, they take turns cooking as well.

mom is sitting on the floor cross legged with her face down in an overflowing basket of laundry
4. I learned to focus on the “big rocks first”.

Did y’all know that I worked at Franklin Covey “back in the day”?! Yes, girl. I. am. A. planner. Fanatic! I remember reading about the concept in Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I feel like I had a decent grasp on this concept and actually used it in my life consistently, but it really wasn’t until I had to completely change the way I went about my day that I truly had to take it to heart and be okay with having a few big rocks.

If you are not familiar with the story. A professor had a big glass jar on a table. He had rocks, pebbles and sand. When he poured the sand in first, then the pebbles and tried to fit the big rocks in last- he could not fit them all in. He then dumped everything out and this time, put the big rocks in first, then the pebbles, and last the sand. Everything fit! When you prioritize the big rocks first, you will be able to fit more in your jar (or life).

5. I learned to “let go” and delegate.

I don’t know if this is true for all people that love to plan, but I definitely have a certain (white knuckled) approach to how I like things done. I’m not saying that I am proud of the fact! In order for me to have the space on my daily responsibilities list so that I could pivot and go with the flow more often, I had to learn to let go and delegate. For me that meant lowering my cleanliness standards, handing over the cooking to my husband, delegate a lot of household chores to the kids as they grew, saying no to events, choosing only one volunteering opportunity, saying no to going out with friends, adjusting how often and how I ran errands.  Amazon and Target pick-up have certainly become my friends.

6. I create a daily “Top 3”.

For each day, I list my top three tasks. I work on them in that order. The most important task for that day, gets listed as number one and so on. Getting to tasks two and three are a bonus. I expect to only get the first one done. But if I have enough time, energy and resources to keep going after finishing task #1, I will move on to tasks #2 and #3. Keeping your to-do list this short may take some getting used to. At first, I couldn’t even comprehend how someone could expect to “only” get one thing done a day until I realized that in my current state of overwhelm I wasn’t actually getting anything done. (Yikes!)

Once I got used to looking at my Top 3 first and focusing on them in order, I noticed a few things.

  • I stopped chasing achievement. Many things on my old to-do lists were simply not necessary. Don’t believe me? I used to hand make all of our Christmas cards. Like the whole card. Paint, glitter, personally written poems. It was a whole thing.

  • I shifted my worth from my to-do list to who I was as a person.

  • On some days I was way more productive than I expected.

  • On my worst days, I still moved the needle forward on my to-do list and that helped me not get behind on life.

  • Your to-do list doesn’t make the world go ‘round and we will all be okay if we can’t list a million things that we got done that day.

Okay, your turn!

I love learning new tricks, tips and tweaking my systems. It is a true passion and hobby of mine. So tell me in the comments below!

How do you rock your day when your days vary and are unpredictable?