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I recently decided that I’d like to take up tennis. I invested in all the gear, new racquet, frilly dress and bright white Reeboks. Guess what? All the gear in the world won’t make me good at tennis. It’s the same with a diary, having a fabulously stylish planning implement is one thing, using it to best effect is another. So, if you want to take control of your day rather than it taking control of you here are a few planning tips to keep on top of things:

Start off by making one master list of everything you can think of you want to do. It’ll probably be long and as depressing as piles, but at least it’s in one place rather than spread around your house. I promise having everything together will help you to feel more in control. The trick now, is not to be overwhelmed by its enormity, but to transform it into manageable bite sized chunks that fit into your daily diary.

Here’s how you do it. At the end of each day, with your mega list and diary in hand, sit down and plan the next day. I prefer to do this in the evening. If your house is anything like mine you never know what chaos will kick off in the morning to prevent you from planning. The hamster could escape, washing machine flood or Laura contract flue, and that’s all before I’ve got out of bed!

Spend 12 minutes every evening planning. Limit yourself to 12 and you’ll become more disciplined about knowing how long 12 is. In reality most of us have a very poor sense of time. How many times have you said you’re going to do something for just five minutes? An hour later you’re still engrossed? Think emails and Facebook ladies!!!

12 minutes and counting, sit with your mega list and diary open at tomorrow. As you contemplate the empty page, and wonder wistfully what it might be like to have an empty day, take a deep sigh and start filling it up! Take tasks from your mega list that you’d like to complete tomorrow. Please be realistic. There are only 24 hours in the day and if you know that 23 of them are already accounted for, just put an hours worth of tasks down! If your Mega list is as long as the British isles, try spreading out some of your tasks. Do you really have to do everythingby close of play tomorrow? One of the greatest causes of ‘Mum Stress’ is giving ourselves unrealistic targets to achieve.

Are there some tasks you could write in your diary for next Thursday? If you have a bundle of dry cleaning and 2 gifts to buy, but no intention of going into town tomorrow write them in on Saturday when you plan to shop. Spread things out a bit. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day. Long lists that never get completed are frustrating. Leave what you can’t do on the mega list so it doesn’t upset you during the whole of tomorrow.

When you’ve completed your daily list, look and see what you’ve included for yourself. If surprise, surprise, it’s nothing take out your pen and ink in some time for you during the week, whether it’s going to the gym, reading a book or having a glass of wine with your other half, make a date. If all the tasks you put on your list fall in to the hum drum, no fun or taxi service category, think about spicing up your day with something for you.

With your list complete, decide what order you need to tackle it in. What are the most important things to be done? Tackle these first. Try not to fall into the trap of giving the ironing a higher priority than your children, you or your husband. Yes, I k now the ironing needs to be done, but think carefully about how you prioritise. What if you put going to the gym above the ironing? I know you haven’t got time, but go on, try it once and see how fabulous you feel. If you do your daily planning well, you’ll be able to timetable a little slot for the ironing, even if it is while you watch Holby City on Tuesday with a glass of Chardonnay.

The more you plan the more in control you’ll begin to feel, and the truth is if you don’t take control of your day, your day will take control of you, and we all know what that feels like. So, take your day by the horns get planning, get things done. You never know you might even find time for those tennis lessons, or whatever it is you’ve been dreaming of doing if only you had the time.

Allison Mitchell, author of Time Management For Manic Mums, The Manic Mums Guide to Magnificent Parenting and Making It Women Entrepreneurs Reveal Their Secrets of Success.

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August 08, 2009 by Emma Fletcher

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