Planning our days is the main thing that contributes to our days feeling great alhamdulillah. And when I fall off planning (and I still, regularly somewhat do), the funk feels funkier ‘cos now, I know better. I guess it comes down to that saying that goes ‘fail to plan and you plan to fail’ – couldn’t be more true for me.
Planning has also made me more aware of the value of time in general (I’m a beginner here) as well as the meaning of Suratul ‘Asr (The Chapter of Time in the Qur’an), and its overall theme of time – and wanting to cultivate good within it.
How I Began Planning
I began with planning very simply. I even avoided mummy blogs that were, what felt to me at the time, very advanced in their planning – planning with spreadsheets, etc. I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed or behind. I wanted to embrace where I was, and start with baby steps from there.
So I began with five rugged boxes that I drew out on an A5 page within a lined notebook; and I’d title each of the five boxes with the five working days. And to begin, I wrote the ‘main’ thing we were doing that day in each day’s box. So if there was an outing to a park, that’d be in the box, or if we were doing a craft at home that day, that’d be in the box.
Slowly, my boxes began to include more detail, like wash time on some days, what we’d be eating on other days. I’d pencil in getting ready in the morning, and book time, and bedtime routine, too.
Next, The Five Box Weekly Plan would include most of our activities for the week, and then, when I noticed that I was writing out the same things every week as my plan started to get more detailed, I decided to move onto a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet had the days of the week across the top, and the timings down the side – and the cells were filled in with what we’d be doing and when (brekkie at 7am-ish, etc). This worked well because copying and pasting across the week then became an option, alhamdulillah (time-saver!)
My Personal Planning Benefits: Intentionality, Productivity, Values Alignment
With a plan for the day, I feel so much more intentional and ready to get on with the day, and less caught up in thinking ‘ooh, what chore should I do today? What are the fundamentals for us today? What should we eat?’ I wake up knowing what’s on the agenda, thus waking up with a more a get-up-and-go vibe.
Where I’m at in my journey, planning is not about getting everything on the list done; but, overall, getting more done, being more focused and intentional, feeling like I’m living my values and being more likely to have a really good day; because I’ve taken the time to craft it.
At the moment, sometimes, I plan for the day (10mins-ish the night before) and other times, I plan for the week (takes me about an hour in total). Currently, I’m doing daily planning more.
Planning in Helping to Accelerate Progress And Move Things Around
I’m amazed at how much easier it is to move things around and how much help Allah sends us with a good plan, too.
The other day, we were driving home, and the usual route home had roadworks; so I took some different turnings. One of those roads disallowed the turning I needed and so it would now take me longer to get home. I had planned to pop to our local Tesco around a certain time after I parked up home, but because I couldn’t take the turning I needed, I just continued on and decided to go to a different supermarket instead…one that was easier to do a shop at because of parking. If I hadn’t roughly planned in the time to do that quick Tesco stop off, I would’ve perhaps just skipped the whole groceries trip, and thought ‘that’s long, I’m slightly delayed now, allow it!’ But with a plan, it’s easier to redirect.
Planning can make us quicker to remember that anything that happens out of circumstance that changes things around for us is a redirection – and it’s from Allah. So, if it’s from Allah, for me, Allah always decreeing in my favour is more at the front of my mind.
I feel like planning is tying our camel, as per the hadith, and so the second part of the hadith (putting your trust in Allah) – accepting whatever comes up – becomes easier.
When I fall Off My Planning Game: Getting Back On It With A Small List Method
There are times when I fall off planning, and when I do, I find it harder to get back on it again. What I find helps to lessen the time it takes to course correct and get back on it is whether I’m willing to build a little ‘bridge’ back to my more detailed planning game.
Sometimes, I’d get disenchanted with falling off planning, and then I’d have days where I wasn’t fully showing up to the day, and captaining the Mama ship, and feeling not great, too. But now I’ve found (through the pain/discomfort of experience) that what works is if I jot down a quick to-do list for the next day…just a list of a few things I wanna do the next day type of thing (like Qur’an, book time, park, washes, spag bol). Then, I find, the next day is better than the funked out/disenchanted non-planning phase.
And then the progress (and momentum) that surfaced from the list can then be used to get back on the more detailed planning game quicker insha’Allah. So taking the path of least resistance back to detail.
The list method above also helps me on days when, for whatever reason, I haven’t planned the day before, or the week before.
Planning In Salah Times
Planning in some of the salah times – the ones that come in whilst I’m looking after the kids – is helpful, too (I don’t do this always). I may have to move around the timing of the salah but when I jot it down, I’m much more likely to kick that Shaitaan’s behind quicker by roughly knowing when I’m gonna pray, as opposed to just deciding when the time comes in and thinking ‘should I pray now? should I serve the kids lunch first?’ etc.
And of course, there is no wrong answer if we’re praying on time, but for me, knowing when, helps me pray at a better time because I’ve decided it beforehand. Even if that’s sometimes later within the allocated time slot because we were out in the park or something, I know when salah is planned for when I get in insha’Allah.
The Days We Turn Up Without A Plan
There are days where I do just turn up to the day with no plan – but that can cause me some pain unless there’s a legitimate reason or it’s intentional…and now that I’ve tasted the planning side of things, it feels like I’m just wasting time when I do that! At the same time, I’ve found that ‘cos i’m not 100% there with pre-planning the days, when I don’t allow for those funk days and get all perfectionistic if I don’t plan a day – rather than riding the wave or going for a bulleted to-do list – I slow down the overall progress of my planning game.
The days where I don’t plan, I think the best thing to do is to aim for my staples: outdoors and books, and my motherhood days du’a ‘Ya Allah, please put barakah in my sleep and miracles in my days’. Ameen to dat!
Also, there are days or periods we do just need to be and intentionally not planning those is a-okay for me.
When Support Is Lower
Another time I plan is when my hubs goes away; and when I don’t, I pay for it! Before he leaves, I usually have a day off before and I go for a coffee and write down intentions for the week. Because support is lower; I make a solid focus intention for the week and write it down: self-compassion, fun with the kids, self-care (reading and watching/listening to nourishing content) and rest will be prioritised. Speaking to close girlfriends; chores can be let go a bit more (alhamdulillah we’ve been blessed to have a weekly cleaner for a few months now so that’s not an issue any more).
But before that, I would think ‘the dishes get done when they get done’ typa thing so that if, at the end of the day, I feel exhausted, and my mind whispers ‘oh look but you got dishes and other bits and pieces’, I know it’s okay to let it go (and strangely what happens is that as I’ve given myself permission to let it go, I feel more inclined to get it done anyway).
Basically, ‘cos I’ve made that decision before, I’m not negotiating with myself in a potentially exhausted state. Along with the intention and focus, I also write down a loose plan for the week; not as detailed as usual days. Whispering up to my Lord for ease and help always helps, too.
So, how can we board the planning train with life at home with littles?
Actionable Steps In Implementing The Tip
1) If you’re a beginner, think about starting small (think simplicity!); so as to make the likelihood of consistency higher. Also, start where you are. Perhaps a list or a weekly A5 five rugged boxes plan.
In my daily lists, I’ll often write down a few things, and at times, I’ll star the must-do’s/most important, and I’ll do a dash bullet for the others…so I know what’s more important.
2) Important vs. urgent. Schedule in the important, too. For me, it’s Qur’an, salah, personal development time (reading, deen etc). The urgent always ends gets up getting done…but the important (like, for me, writing this is important but not urgent) may very well be put off and procrastinated if it isn’t solidly committed too.
3) Weekly planning – I used to refer to my weekly planning as ‘giving the week a backbone’…it holds the week up, you know, supports it to success, insha’Allah.
At the end of the week or weekend, make some time (mine takes about an hour) to think about what you want to do each week…and write it down. I’ll also jot down what we’re going to snack on and eat for meals here often…I put rough timings in for things, too (though on the day, we can, and do, change it up; we flexible!).
4) Daily planning. Take about 10 to 15 mins the night before, and just jot down what you want your life with your kids to look like tomorrow, insha’Allah. For me, I will write down, fajr, dua for waking up and Qur’an. I’m also write down any Home Ed tasks we’re doing. You will find some love hearts next to meet ups with friends/Mummy friends <3. Reading time and intentional breaks are also intentionally jotted down. Washes and bedtime routine. All that jazz. Like with the detailed weekly plan, rough timings are included in the daily plan, too
5) Write down an intention. This is a new practise which I like and sometimes do: Yesterday, in my list plan, I wrote ‘Intention: Allah, calm, kind’…as in, I wanted to do everything for the sake of Allah, from decluttering and organising some storage spaces that I did, to my page of daily Qu’ran.
Calm and kind referred to the type of interactions I wanted to have with my children. It helped, you know…because, I started with that…and it manifested in my behaviour. We got off course, but we got back on it quickly, alhamdulillah. And as I glanced back at the list plan two or three times, I saw the intention there and it seeped in again.
6) Salah ‘planning’, I’ve noticed being in a state of wudu helps in praying at a better, earlier time. If we have wudu, and start with a gentle intention to pray in the earlier time of the time slot, we can improve. I have not got this completely down but when I do better, it’s the intention, the sometimes jotting down of the time I’ll pray, and keeping in a state of wudu that help.
And dazzit! I hope some of these tips help. And I wish you glorious days with your lovelies – ameen!