I had an entirely different article on planning written for today to continue our journey into project management. Then school ended, summer vacation started and with three fiercely independent and wonderfully active kids at home … the wheels completely fell off my well oiled machine.
Completely fell off.
I had NO plan! Say WHAT??
My summer vacation vision included lazy days by the ocean or at the lake; evenings around campfires; warm summer breezes & picnics at the park; building my business & making things happen. I visualized everyone having a great time, deep belly laughs, lots of hugs and beautiful memories being made every day.
screech … (wheels falling off …)
Day 1 of summer vacation was full of tears and yelling, a ton of panic when I ‘lost’ a kid; the house was a total wreck, I wasn’t able to get near my laptop let alone do anything productive in my business. What went wrong?!?!
“fail to plan; plan to fail”
“measure twice; cut once”
“a goal without a plan is just a wish”
“someones lack of planning always becomes someone else’s emergency”
Any of these sounding familiar? Ringing any bells? Hitting a bit close to home … Well, my lack of planning definitely became my emergency! So, I’m writing a different post today because this is what I’m really going through and it’s all directly related to my lack of planning.
I Built a Plan!
I know I can make my vision a reality and I know what I need to do. I need a plan. I will need to execute the plan and adjust along the way and in the end I will make this summer one we will all remember!
So how did I start? Just like I would tackle any project! Here are the six steps and what I did.
1. Begin at the End
Sounds a bit counter-intuitive I know, trust me. You want to start where you wish to finish.
- What does the success look like?
- What do I want to feel?
- What do I want to have?
- When do I want this completed by (yes a real date)
Success for me looks like this.
It’s September 6th and I’m sending my kids out the door to begin yet another school year. We are excited for new schools and new friends, new backpacks and clothes. We’e had amazing lazy days at the lake and by the ocean, many evenings around campfires; warm summer breezes & picnics at the park. We spent time each day laughing deeply, hugging often and making beautiful memories. I have been able to consistently publish my weekly blog – big WIN! I’ve also kept up with client requests and my own product creation by ensuring that I’ve set aside 2-3 hours in my day where I can focus, free from life’s distractions.
2. Choose your Major Milestones (Big Rocks)
What are the MAJOR things you need to make this vision of your successful project a reality? Right now my major milestones revolve around time blocking my day, weekly plans and vacation details.
- 1. Work 2-3 hours a day (before 10am or after 7pm) 4-5 days a week.
- I can work early in the morning while the kids sleep in and move at a slower pace. Trying to work at 2pm in the afternoon just isn’t any fun for anyone!!
- Schedule blog posts & set aside writing time each week. Graphics also take time (if you’re like me and not very good at it) so ensure you include time this in your plan.
- Client time – For weeks I’m not on vacation I’ll be needing around 5-10 hours per week to ensure things still move forward in my clients business.
2. Weekly Plans
- Meal plans and online grocery shopping – Total lifesavers! Both allow me freedom to not to have to drag three kids through the grocery store in the middle of the day. Also a huge budget saver as you are less likely to impulse shop!
- Activity / play date plan – this is key to my happiness! I need to have an understanding of where everyone will be and what is expected of me (driving, additional kids in the house, etc).
3. Set vacation dates and communicate them to family, friends and work
3. Determine Duration of Tasks & Resources
How long will it take to develop or build each of the major items required? Who is going to build or develop each of these major items for your project?
- In order to work from 8-10am every day I need to help of my oldest daughter to babysit the younger kids.
- I need to clear 2 hours once per week to plan the weekly meals, snack, lunches etc and then create my online grocery order. The beauty of this is I can do it from my house in the evening when everyone is winding down. I can also check my pantry and fridge to see what is really missing and ensure I’m well stocked for the week ahead.
- I will need 2-4 hours to book the vacation rentals and make travel arrangements.
- My husband will need to go into the crawl space and get out all of the summer vacation gear (probably a 4-6 hour job as once we start moving things in the garage it usually ends up in an all out clean up and purge type of activity!)
Getting the picture? You need to get fairly granular in this step – the more details you have thought about the less likely something will catch you off guard.
Now, I want you to double the time you’ve just allotted. Trust me on this one.
Most of us will over estimate how much we can get done and underestimate how much time it will actually take. Doubling the time you think these tasks will require will allow for things to go sideways; allow some time for the things you will inevitably miss and give yourself some breathing room for LIFE to happen!
4. Build Your Timeline (AKA The Schedule!)
When you build your timeline start from the end and work to the beginning. This will tell you realistically when you need to start.
In my case, I should have started planning for this summer approximately 3 months ago. Oops! Project Management fail!
We can recover however, it just requires a bit of flexibility and creativity. Once you have your timeline built use these tips to help adjust things around and ‘optimize’ your time.
- If you end date is flexible; consider pushing the date a bit
- What can you delegate to your team members (or in my case your family)?
- What can you hire out (more resources = more bandwidth to complete tasks)?
- Overlap activities that can happen concurrently
5. Schedule “Float”
“Float” in a schedule is free time. With a true “project” I would recommend leaving yourself 1-2 weeks of ‘float’ in your schedule.
When building your schedule “on paper” make sure you are finishing your project ahead of the deadline, with time to spare. This will allow for the graphic / website designers wedding which “pops up” right in the middle of project and takes her on a 2 week vacation; a round of flu hitting your house and taking you out for a week; the unexpected yet never ending field trips, taxi rides and general errands that us moms seem to always have to fit in.
In my current example of planning my summer I am leaving at least 1 day, sometimes 2 days, a week of “float”. Days where I have nothing planned, no activities and we really will just roll with the mood and energy of our family. Maybe we use these days to tackle a project around the house and maybe we use these days to rest and relax, read and nap. We’ll see what everyone feels like when those days roll around!
6. Start NOW!
Once you’ve completed this exercise and find out you don’t really have to start until three weeks from Sunday … I urge you to START now!! You will thank me when you don’t have 18 hour days (and nights) the week before everything is due!
I am Day 3 into summer vacation writing this article and yes Day 1 and 2 were not fun. They did however, teach me a very valuable lesson. I started taking action yesterday and I’m continuing to take action today. I could have ignored the work and stayed stuck in the ‘everything is an emergency’ state for a few more days if I had done nothing. But why? I didn’t enjoy it. My husband & kids certainly aren’t having fun. Taking action now helps you feel in control, allows for small wins which improves your mindset and starts to turn the “fly wheel” of fun, achievement and growth!
Which sounds more appealing … small consistent action over the next few months where you can enjoy both work and life; or cramming 4 weeks of work into 1 week working 18 hours a day right up against the deadline trying to get it out the door? I know which path I would choose!
Successful planning leads to less time & money spent, less stress on people and – WAY MORE FUN!!