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How to plan during uncertainty

Four tips to save you time, energy and stress in 2020

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Let’s be honest, your original plans for 2020 are garbage. They’re worthless. Modern living is full of uncertainty, but 2020…folks, we’ve entered a new era. This is the era of uncertainty and the one thing that seems certain is change.

Planning is good when you do just enough to see a clear path to where you want to go, and then act. It helps to build confidence that your idea is possible.

A little bit of planning at the start of any new project can save you a lot of time down the road. You’ll know what order things need to happen and what to do next. You’ll know what to stay focused on and what matters most. 

Most importantly, planning quiets your fears. Fear festers in uncertainty and planning helps to reduce uncertainty by showing you what’s possible.

But planning during uncertain times is hard. Planning takes time, time away from doing. And re-planning takes even more time, time you don’t have to waste (especially if you’re now a full-time parent). So here are four tips to help you make better plans during uncertain times.

Accept that which you cannot control

Obsessive planners tend to also be type A control freaks (no, just me?). We over-plan because we’re trying too hard to control the future, which is impossible.

Acceptance, on the other hand, frees you from the anxiety you experience when you realize you have very little control over anything. Learning to be okay with uncertainty is a skill that requires practice. Personally, I practice mindfulness in part to work out my acceptance muscles. 

I practice the art of focusing on the present, in stillness and calm, not reacting (usually with anger or rage) to what is occurring around me. This is not easy, but it helps me tremendously. 

I’m then left with the bandwidth to focus on that which I can control: my reactions, my actions, my behaviors, my habits. 

Determine what is essential and protect it

If you have a strong purpose in life, if you’ve done the work to know yourself and what matters most, then this step is easy. For me, in this season of my life, I’m focused on the health and overall wellbeing of myself and my family. And I’m fiercely protective over it.

But most people skip this step. We know our health is important, but so is paying the bills, our careers, our relationships, our responsibilities. When everything is important, nothing matters.

If you don’t know the single most essential thing in your life, start by building a shortlist of 3-5 important things. Then combine them in pairs and go through each set asking yourself if you could only have one of these things in your life, which is most important. For example:

  • My home or my family?
  • My career or my family?
  • My health or my family?
  • My career or my home?
  • My health or my home?
  • My health or my career?

Eventually, you will gain clarity. Clarity is the best you can hope for. Certainty doesn’t exist, be okay with that. Accept it.

Then set up boundaries to protect it, fiercely. This is the only thing you can control so be vigilant about it.

Plan just enough and keep it simple

If you’re working on a project with a lot of moving parts, you still need a way to keep track of everything even if you know your plans will change. The key is to plan just enough and to keep it simple.

I use a very simple, affordable and flexible tool called The Roadmap. It’s a Google Sheet template that reminds me of what I should be focused on each season, and prompts me to consider the most important areas of my life or project that I should be working towards.

The key is to focus on the milestones and not get into the weeds too early. I’ve used tools like Trello and Asana for project management in the past, but as a recovering obsessive planner I found the temptation to get too granular, too quickly, too much. 

When you plan too much, and then your plans change, you waste even more time re-planning. Don’t fall in that trap. Plan just enough. Keep it simple.

Add in the detail one week at a time

Once a week I plan out the week ahead in detail. This is when you can really go for it. I think the default approach is to do this Monday morning, or if you consider yourself a productivity guru, maybe Sunday night. But the best time is really Friday before you shut off for the weekend.

I like Fridays because all of your tasks and next steps are fresh in your mind. Once you write it all down, it’s out of your head and you’re free to enjoy your weekend. Most importantly, all the best shows are on Sunday nights. Why waste that precious time planning out your week 🙂

The best tool for planning during uncertain times
Get The Roadmap now

The Roadmap was designed to help client and content-based small business owners keep track of all the moving parts in a simple and easy to use way that doesn’t waste your time or encourage over-planning. But it’s adaptable for any small project.

Personally, I keep two. One for my business, Ways & Meaning which creates strategy tools for better living, and another to manage my family and personal life. If you’re a working mother overburdened with a heavy mental load, this is for you 🙂

When you purchase The Roadmap, you’ll get:

  • A 7-tab Google Sheet template with instructions for use, an example of how it can be used for client-based business owners, an example for content-based business owners, and an example of how I use it in my personal life for managing my family, plus 3 x blank tabs, one for each example tab
  • Access to your plan anywhere with anyone (sharable in real-time with your colleagues or family members)
  • A special feature to remind you of your focus for the season and one key metric to guide you (and not overwhelm you)
  • Encouragement to plan ‘just enough’ and avoid over planning
  • Access to two blog articles that explain in detail how you can use The Roadmap as a part of your overall planning system in work and life
  • Now, only $23

GET THE ROADMAP NOW

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